Art. BR: Technophagic, ad-hocratic and radicant

Giselle Beiguelman, PhD

Art History Professor, School of Architecture and Urbanism
University of São Paulo, Brazil

Technophagy is neither a trend nor a movement, but a personal conception elaborated to support remarkable operations regarding the Brazilian production of media art. Noteworthy is the emphasis laid on the combination of tradition and innovation, unusual arrangements of age-old and leading-edge know-how and the revalidation of high and low tech. In a nutshell, technophagy is the encounter of cutting-edge and garage science.

This thematic was the main concept explored in an exhibition I curated in 2012, the III 3M Digital Art Show, [1] exhibited at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, in São Paulo, one of the most important contemporary art centers in Latin America. The exhibition gathered 16 projects, all by Brazilian artists and faced the challenge to discuss digital art in the context of contemporary art and from the point of the Brazilian art history. The particularities of digital art production, from one side, the Brazilian Modernism, with emphasis in the Antrophagy movement and Glauber Rocha concepts about Cinema Novo (New Cinema) from the other side, were fundamental for the curatorial process. This article updates and combines two texts written by me for the exhibition catalog.

From the Antropophagic Manifest by Oswald de Andrade in 1928, [2] the Technophagy concept recuperates the fabulous statement “Tupi, or not Tupi, that’s question,” where Andrade “remixes” Shakespeare, rewriting his famous verse “To be or not to be,” with the memory of the extinct language (Tupi) spoken by the Tupinamba people, one of the main ethnic groups of Brazilian indigenous people. From Glauber Rocha, the methodology of reinventing technology uses, transforming precarity into a powerful aesthetic resource. As he says in the Aesthetics of Hunger [3] our originality is our hunger, and our greatest woe is that, because it is felt, this hunger is not understood.”

Such an approach outlines a form of art that operates through combining and remodeling equipment and producing devices able to provide unprecedented forms of creation that pave the way to micro-political actions aimed to the appropriation of technology.

However, these relations hardly merge into stable definitions. They are dynamic and mutant results of temporary and unexpected methodologies and strategies vis-á-vis the era of varying and transitory power – ad-hoc (here and now). Therefore, they pertain to the realm of ad-hocracy.

A script rather than an organization, a porous state of mind that permeates everything around it, a new and remixed recipe of knowledge, a new framework for the coexistence of disciplines, as stated by Bernardo Gutierrez ad-hocracy [4] lies in the vertex and the vortex of the creative processes of the artists gathered in the exhibition Technophagy: Cutting-edge and Garage Science. Presented in August and September 2012, at Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo, the show was the base of our presentation at ISEA2012.

All the artists who participated in the exhibiton are Brazilian. Argentinean-born Rafael Marchetti, partly brought up in Uruguay, has lived and worked in Brazil for a long time now.

In fact, they are all radicants, a concept that Nicolas Bourriaud imported from biology in order to characterize the aesthetics of globalization. Radicant “refers to an organism able of making its own roots grow and re-enroot as it advances forward,” such as ivy. Likewise, these artists produce their own roots in a forward-moving process. [5]

One can find both a little and a lot of Brazil in all this, because only Brazilianity sets us apart socially, economically and philosophically. Hereby, I explicitly remix Oswald de Andrade and the Anthropophagic Manifesto. Various interlocutors associate the latter to the idea of Technophagy, which is central in this exhibition. In a certain sense, such associations are pertinent. However, as regards the way in which these artists define their relation to Brazil, the idea of Technophagy comes closer to Mário de Andrade and his idea that we are three hundred, we are three hundred and fifty. The various visions of and relations to Brazil stated by the artists that participated in the III 3M Digital Art Show multiply exponentially the remarkable equation stated by one of our most multifaceted artists. These are visions and perceptions that vary at the same pace in which, upon almost every game, new coaches are assigned to our National Football Team, as one can see in the artists’ personal pages in the exhibition catalogue.

“Happiness is the quiz of nine,” as Oswald de Andrade used to teach us in 1928, in his well-known Anthropophagic Manifesto. It is a sort of hand-crafted method to verify a mathematical operation devised when calculators were not around, which consists in finding the remainder of the division of a given number into nine. It only takes adding the numbers and consider the highest multiple of nine contained in the given number.

In this case, the result of that rule popularly known as “nines out” is seven, the number of creation. After all, this is a joint exhibition by artists who devour technologies and media to crush them and give them back to the public as aesthetic proposals that allow for a plurality of readings of contemporaneity. Technophagic, ad-hocratic and radicant.

Like Dust in the Wind, 2008, Dirceu Maués, Pinhole Video, ©Dirceu Maués.

Paulistas’ Beach

Global Brazil, Remix Brazil, Cannibal Brazil

The action Paulistas’ Beach completed the III 3M Digital Art Show – Technophagies. This happening gathered the critic and media activist Ivana Bentes, Cia de Foto, Pedro Paulo Rocha, the TranzMidia collective and guests to update Glauber Rocha, the paradigmatic artist, in order to reflect upon tecnophagic culture and new ways of recreating representations of Brazil in the XXI century, beyond the clichés of exoticism and precariousness. As a result of parallel reflections by Ivana and myself, this action was planned on the basis of some ideas of ours, which are discussed in the following conversation.

Giselle Beiguelman: The exhibition has as its axis the concept of technophagy, which I define as the encounter between cutting-edge science and garage science; that is, aesthetic reinventions combining high-tech and low-tech, tradition and innovation. Since the beginning, I thought of Glauber Rocha as paradigmatic for this discussion—the way he turned the “problem” of tropical light from the zenith into a plastic artistic reference, questioning the images of Brazil as denial of exoticism, using cinematic techniques to create a demystifying vision of cultural nationalisms. What do you think about that? Can we speak about a technophagic Glauber ?

Ivana Bentes: In my view Glauber fits in a unique way within the anthropophagic /technophagic trend according to propositions in his manifesto “aesthetics of hunger,” turning “precariousness” and instability into a style and way of thinking: camera in hand, overexposed photography and high contrast, “our originality is our hunger,” while incorporating making-of and chance in the filming, and so on. He thinks Brazilian culture as a “technology” capable of capitalizing or diverting hostile forces into an act of creation.

From the Anthropophagic Manifest by Oswald de Andrade and
Eztetyka of Hunger by Glauber Rocha up to anthropophagic capitalism in the era of the web and globalisation, we’ve been moved by the same drive: to experience cultural practices of dissolution-devouring-incorporation-hybridization-creation. But we must be cautious with such procedures, because they are not self-explanatory. One should qualify and assess situations: anthropophagy can turn autophagy or self-cannibalism, the aesthetics of hunger can turn into “exoticism” and exportable folklore. Technophagy can either function as power, mode of action, resistance and creation or function as cognitive capitalism, which doesn’t have an “off” and owns everything, monetizing and privatizing what is common.

GB: What does the Paulistas’ Beach action mean to you?

IB: It means to activate the power of images, share the processes of creation and take ownership of the imaginaire of an artist as vital and powerful as Glauber Rocha, now confined to a cinema “ghetto,” when in my view he is among the great inventors and narrators of the “Brazilian experience”.

The Glauber Remix is a way to devour Glauber by contemporary artists and groups. It is very difficult to take ownership of an artist so unique and ‘with no heirs’ as Glauber is. So, an operation to make images, sound tracks, ‘glauberian’ dialogues and data available for a process of reconstruction and collective re-invention, so as to re-insert him in the contemporary trends and imaginaire seems to be a crucial technophagic move. In this sense, both individual and group proposals, such as this idea of a “platform,” i.e. the Kynorama Glauber Machine by Pedro Paulo Rocha, set a challenge before us: to remove Glauber from the history of cinema and from the ghettos that deprive him of his due potential and reinsert him in the new stream of contemporary aesthetic and media production.

GB: Can we think of an art.br without giving in to pseudo-nationalistic clichés and without missing the pace of history and the process of globalization?


IB: I believe that anthropophagy, the cultural practice of technicized barbarians, as Oswald used to say, still works as a device to interpret and analyze Brazilian culture, but we cannot reduce the complexity of contemporary Brazil to that single matrix. I believe that the anthropophagic matrix is powerful as a means to deconstruct, liquidize, recycle and recreate. Dissolution and incorporation are two decisive practices in our culture, but there are many ways to devour and many risks involved. Glauber for example goes beyond the drive to demystify and deconstruct by creating myths and mythologies. That is a constructive drive, creating new mysticism. For instance, Glauber remixes the Latin American, Luso-Afro-tropical and transcontinental imaginaires. He operates a multicultural remix of iconographies, tongues and languages. This Brazil Remix has always been a tool able to disqualify a series of classic oppositions, such as myself and the other, national and foreign, barbarian and civilized, religious and profane, one and multiplicity, chaos and cosmos, transgression and order, among others. Anthropophagy, Cinema Novo and also Tropicalism (the Mangue Beat currently) and today’s Digital Culture were and are decisive to get away from rigid nationalism, this is the Brazilian trick of the trade as we have always experienced such a hot, tense and problematic multi-cultural reality. Today the world is becoming Brazil. That is, the organized edges of the global periphery are about to become the new center. I only understand Brazilian art in these terms, as drawing the world map of Brazil, but going beyond the anthropophagic or Cinema Novo imaginaire, connecting these amazing insights and discoveries to the practices of digital and web culture, that is, not letting these notions and imaginaire get fossilized becoming a new sort of folklore, history or museum items, but using them to stimulate and enhance contemporary practices.

Artists:

Arthur Omar
Cássio Vasconcellos
Cia de Foto
Dirceu Maués
Os Gambiólogos
Gilbertto Prado e Grupo Poéticas Digitais
Gisela Motta e Leandro Lima
Jane de Almeida
Jarbas Jácome
Lea Van Steen
Lucas Bambozzi
Martha Gabriel
Rafael Marchetti
Raquel Kogan
Rejane Cantoni e Leonardo Crescenti

Special project: Paulista’s Beach (Glauber Rocha Remix)

Ivana Bentes, Thiago Dezan, Pedro Paulo Rocha e Cia de Foto
Curator: Giselle Beiguelman

References

1. III 3M Digital Art Show. http://www.desvirtual.com/?p=2066, (accessed September 9, 2013).
2. Andrade, Oswald. “Manifesto Antropófago.” In: A utopia antropofágica. (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Globo, 1990), pp. 47-52.
3. Rocha, Glauber: Aesthetic of Hunger. http://www.tempoglauber.com.br/english/t_estetica.html, (accessed September 9, 2013).
4. Gutierrez, Bernardo. “A era adhocrata .” seLecT, agosto/setembro (2012), pp. 48-49.
5. Bourriaud, Nicolas. “Radicante: por uma estética da globalização.” Trans. Dorothée de -Bruchard. (São Paulo: Martins Martins Fontes, 2011), pp. 20-50).

Bio

Giselle Beiguelman is a new media artist, curator and researcher. She teaches Art History and Design at the Architecture and Urbanism Faculty of the University of São Paulo. Her art work has been presented in international venues such as Net_Condition (ZKM, Karlsruhe), el final del eclipse (Fundación Telefonica, Madrid), The 25th São Paulo Biennial, Algorithmic Revolution (ZKM), 3rd Sevilla Biennial, Transitio_MX (Mexico), YOU_ser (ZKM), Geografías Celulares (Fundacion Telefonica, Buenos Aires and Lima), artemov (Belo Horizonte and São Paulo) and Visual Foreign Correspondents (Berlin), among others. Beiguelman’s creations often explore the dynamic potentials of new media technologies, both in theoretical and practical applications. Curator of Nokia Trends (2007 and 2008), HTTPVideo Festival (2009 and 2010), Technophagies – 3rd 3M digital Art Show and Virada Cultural 2013. www.desvirtual.com