This exhibition, the last in the series dedicated to women artists in the KADIST and Videobrasil collections, was conceived as a constellation that establishes relationships between works that are inherently different, but that form a temporary assemblage of meanings and practices. It explores how a group of women have used certain conceptual and formal strategies in order to question history, reflect on the present, and propose non-hegemonic forms of conceiving reality. It also follows feminist visual theorist Griselda Pollock’s proposition that “one of the primary responsibilities of a feminist intervention must be the study of women as producers.”
In Teomama (2018), Alicia Smith explores Mexican (Aztec) foundational narratives, which are still relevant today, to invoke forces that are channeled through the (female) body and that link the past to the present as a means to actualize constantly-moving identities inserted in complex, but not necessarily linear historical processes.The subject of ancestry is also revisited in Rosana Paulino’s in Das avós (2018), creating amorous interactions using images of anonymous black women from colonial Brazil. The issue of black womanhood in a country built on slavery permeates the the artist’s work, symbolically restoring the usurped memories in order to deconstruct an oppressively white official history.
By revisiting established Eurocentric myths in order to interrogate them from a feminist perspective in Europa Enterprise-0 (EE-0) (2018), Bosnian artist Lala Rasčic pays “homage to a millennia-old resistance to patriarchy… [promoting] the transformation of the European roots of toxic social representations and of punishments imposed on women.” Other forms of resistance are also present in La Libertad (2016), a film by Laura Huertas Millán, who follows the daily life of the Navarro family in the town of Santo Tomás Jalieza (Oaxaca, México), known for its weaving tradition. In their conversations, while using the backstrap loom — a centuries-old technology — to weave textiles with “grecas” (meander motifs), they envision a path to freedom (libertad in Spanish), honoring the traditions and worldmaking practices that give meaning to their craft.
In La vida en rojo (2018), Julia Mensch explores the memories of three generations of her family, who were members of the Communist Party of Argentina. Transitioning back and forth between personal and national history, the video examines the place of utopia in the face of facts, urgent political issues and affective relationships. In wa akhiran musiba (at last, a tragedy, 2017), Syrian artist Maya Shurbaji weaves together a series of apparently unrelated episodes to create a narrative which, despite being absolutely personal, poetically addresses (in the name of many) an unspeakable trauma that is intimately connected to womanhood.
Personal histories are present in all the works selected for the exhibition. Different levels of intimacy allow one to zoom in and out of broader issues that are not represented but interrogated and sometimes conjured up in the moving image form. Through all these works, there is an irresolute subject, constantly recomposing, whose identity is not fixed, but continuously mended through the labor of image-making. Faced with the myth of the wholesome white man defined by his identity, we propose the reality of a hybrid, unravelled, open subject, capable of generating critical media that do not cease to question how and from where truth is written.
Catalina Lozano, KADIST
Solange Farkas, Videobrasil
Das avós, 2018
Single channel video, 9’10”
The link between Rosana Paulino’s art and her black womanhood in a nation built on slavery is key to understanding her art. In this installation, created especially for the Sesc_Videobrasil Biennial, looped photographs of black women (enslaved or otherwise) from colonial Brazil are accompanied by brief performances in which a young girl tries to make contact with the ancestral representatives. Paulino places these characters side by side with her own life story, in the hopes of reconstructing and reestablishing lost ties through the symbolic restoration of countless usurped memories–ghost images that never cease to haunt us, demanding to be included in a Brazilian history whose telling is incomplete and partial.
Videobrasil Historical Collection
ROSANA PAULINO (Brazil, 1967)
Known for her research on social, ethnic and gender issues, her main focus is the place of the black woman in Brazilian society and the various types of violence to which they are frequently subjected due to systemic racism and to the terrible legacy of slavery. Besides her work as a visual artist, she is a researcher and an educator, with a PhD in visual arts from São Paulo University, and a specialist degree in engraving from the London Print Studio. She was awarded grants by the Ford Foundation and Capes.
wa akhiran musiba, 2017
Single channel video, 15’48”
Seemingly unrelated episodes shape the personal and, to some extent, untransferrable narrative of this story, in which tragedy is more of shadow than fact. Amid urban scenes, unusual angles of interior spaces, old childhood footage, and text message conversations, one finds indications of trauma. Amid unused clothing, out-of-focus bodies, wars, missing interlocutors and indifferent animals, the title of the piece conveys the strange relief experienced by the artist in developing this poetic essay on trauma: At last, a tragedy.
Videobrasil Historical Collection
MAYA SHURBAJI (Syria, 1979)
Producer, filmmaker, screenwriter and curator Maya Shurbaji explores the political aspect of first-person narrative, frequently merging the self and the voice of collective consciousness. Her film At Last, a Tragedy premiered at the 68th Berlin Film Festival in 2018. She holds a master’s degree in cultural management from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain), she is a film producer at Bidayyat for Audiovisual Arts, a Beirut-based organization founded in 2013 to foster Arab audiovisual productions. She has curated several film festivals, such as the Uppsala International Short Film Festival (Sweden).
La vida en rojo, 2018
Single channel video, 21’50”
As if projecting snapshots of a trip, the artist revisits the memories of three generations of her family, who were active members in the Communist Party of Argentina. An off-screen voice contextualizes and questions images of her grandparents’ house, slides of her grandfather’s trip to the Soviet bloc in the 1970s, letters and photographs. More than a collection of personal objects or a history of the Argentinian left in the 20th century, the film unfolds as an essay on the place of utopia in the face of facts, urgent political issues and strategies and affective affective relationships.
Videobrasil Historical Collection
JULIA MENSCH (Argentina, 1980)
A visual artist, Mensch works at the intersection of text, installation, public action, photography, video, and lectures. She investigates the personal repercussions of historical and collective themes, such as the communist utopia, women’s enfranchisement, and the agro-industrial mode of production. Mensch is a member of Palatti, a collective composed of artists from various countries, which develops projects and occupations worldwide.
Europa Enterprise-0 (EE-0), 2018
Single channel video, 36’23”
In Greek mythology, Arachne was a talented mortal weaver who challenged Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts, to a weaving contest; this hubris resulted in her being transformed into a spider. EE-0 is the first episode of the Europa Enterprise project which looks into new, feminist readings of established Eurocentric myths and reconsiders the meaning of cultural heritage and the production of artifacts for the future. In EE-0, the Greek myth of Arachne is re-contextualized through a poetic script, taking an imaginative leap from antiquity into science fiction. Skewed and subverted storylines from classic mythology are combined with anecdotal episodes found through field research in and around Prizren, Kosovo–Europe’s youngest nation-state. Ideas of repressed ancient female knowledge and power are examined through storying of local urban myths, customs, and current sociological, ecological and cultural phenomena, in what the artist calls “an homage to a millennia-old resistance to patriarchy […] promoting the transformation of the European roots of toxic social representations and of punishments imposed on women”, the idea of becoming is explored through the idea of genesis, transformation, and metamorphosis.
Europa Enterprise-0 was commissioned by KADIST and Lumbardhi Foundation (Kosovo) as part of the three-year project Not Fully Human, Not Human at All, curated by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez.
LALA RAŠCIC (Bosnia, 1977)
The artist’s projects take the shape of videos, artifacts, installations, drawings and performances and her interests are rooted in the different modes of performing and interpreting a text, from ancient and contemporary storytelling practices to oral histories and monodrama. Her work draws on the aesthetics of old radio plays, and the artist often takes on multiple roles while playing with different temporalities and realities. She is the president of the board of the collective Crvena, composed of artists, producers and theoreticians who work with art, culture, feminism, education, ecology, gender equality, and human rights in the constituent republics of former Yugoslavia.
LAURA HUERTAS MILLÁN
La libertad, 2016
Single channel video, 29’52”
La libertad is a “greca” film, a “meander” film, with no beginning or end, weaving together fragments of daily life at the Navarro’s, counting threads and time, wandering around and wondering about words such as emancipation, labor, and freedom. The “greca”, the meander, is the main symbol weaved into the textiles made by the Navarro sisters, from Santo Tomás Jalieza, México. A geometrical symbol shaped like an endless braid of diamonds, the “greca” represents corn, an entity worshiped by the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mesoamerica. La greca stands for sustenance, but it also represents the feminine power abundance and fertility – the textiles which contain these continuous motifs may be read as invocations of life and growth.
In the textiles made by the Navarros, animals, objects and spaces are represented. Their fabrics are made with backstrap looms, a pre-Hispanic technique preserved by indigenous women for centuries. Through textiles, women have compiled a parallel history of Mexico’s cross-cultural relationships, of “mestizaje”, of colonialism and of modernity. Echoing the politics and ethics represented in the objects they weave, the Navarros have built an ecological and familial micro-society, which longs for independence.
LAURA HUERTAS MILLÁN (Colombia, 1983)
The artist’s films and expanded cinema pieces tackle aesthetics and political issues using a wide range of narratives and formats. In 2009, she began working on a series of pieces centered on the notion of exoticism, inspired by the bewildering documents about the human zoos which existed in France in the early 20th century, and drawing on both cultural anthropophagy (as expressed by Oswald de Andrade in 1928) and accounts by explorers of their journeys in America. The films create a link between ethnography and colonialism, proposing hybrid narratives which eschew the hierarchy of genres like science fiction, surrealism, fantasy and documentary. Since 2012, she has been engaged in a practice-based PhD film research on “ethnographic fictions”.
Single-channel video, 5’41”
Teomama means “God Carrier” in the Aztec language Nahuatl. It was the name given to medicine men and women who carried the bones of Huitzilopochtli—the god of war, sun, and human sacrifice in ancient Mexico, and the national deity of the Aztecs. Of the many legends featuring Huitzilopochtli, the origin story of Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) is perhaps one of the most well-known. It is said that he instructed the Aztecs to abandon their home in Aztlán and seek a new place to settle. The Teomamas carried their medicine bundles for 200 years down into Anahuac (a drainage basin that formed the ancient core of Mexico) looking for a sign they had arrived in their new home. They finally saw it when they reached Lake Texcoco: an eagle devouring a snake on a prickly pear cactus. A symbol of the union between sky and earth, it marked a place where it was safe to build their city. And now, the image is widely recognizable as the coat of arms on the Mexican flag.
In the video, the artist acts as both Teomama and Tenochtitlan. She stands thigh-deep in a tranquil lake. Bent at the waist, her torso hovers over the water unmoving, her hair and garment disappearing into a reflection of themselves. The long white dress is cinched at the waist with a belt similar to those worn by the Aztec priests, and her bent body acts as the island of Tenochtitlan; she is land, an offering plate, and carries god on her back. Her posture is one of abjection—that has been long understood by her ancestors as a tool for accessing the sublime.
ALICIA SMITH (USA, 1962)
Alicia Smith is a Xicana artist and activist. Her work uses the abject and the sublime to investigate ideas related to the tension between greed and reverence, its impact on the environment, and our relationship to the female body. Through the use of video, performance, printmaking, and sculpture, Smith seeks to dissolve romanticized tropes that deny indigenous women their complexity, while at the same time demonstrating their beauty and strength. Smith describes her artistic practice as a means of unpacking her complicated relationship with her mixed-race heritage, the land, and her body, which she does depicts through powerful visual imagery.
Women Artists in KADIST’s and Videobrasil’s Collections is the result of a six-month collaboration between the organizations, comprising three exhibitions that delve into the work of women artists who explore specific ways of creating moving images from situated perspectives. Spanning diverse sensibilities, methodologies and media, the works consider different ways of approaching art practice, knowledge, and the relation to the present from clearly feminist positions, affirming the agency of art as a transformative force.
The first two exhibitions are devoted to the work of Lynn Hershman Leeson (Sep. 27th – Nov. 28th 2021) and Gabriela Golder (Nov. 29th, 2021 – Fev. 06th, 2022), respectively. While the first explores the experience of womanhood and violence and the trauma it entails, as well as the struggles of women artists to gain equal conditions in the art world, the second addresses topics that touch on gender issues, such as the relationship between work and identity, from a feminine and political perspective.
Finally, a group exhibition (Fev. 07th – April 03rd, 2022) will bring together a selection of works from Videobrasil’s archive and the KADIST Collection emphasizing women’s diverse points of view on a myriad of issues. The programme offers an instigating survey of the contribution of women artists who work in the north and south axes—of both art and the world—to the field of video and to confronting key issues of our present times.
Founded by Solange O. Farkas, the Associação Cultural Videobrasil develops and carries out curatorial and research actions with a focus on the audiovisual production of the geopolitical South. Its projects draw on the Videobrasil Collection: a collection of artworks, publications and documents amassed since the first edition of the Videobrasil Contemporary Art Festival, in 1983, during which Brazil – and most of Latin America – was under a military regime. Created in the beginning of 1990 and based on a rigorous process of qualification and updating, the Videobrasil Collection features roughly 1,700 works from the art scene of the geopolitical South – Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The collection constitutes an inestimable wellspring for research on the production of the geopolitical South, which is marked by the use of the video medium for political, combative and liberational purposes.
KADIST believes contemporary artists make an important contribution to a progressive society, their work often addressing key issues of our time. KADIST, a non-profit organization dedicated to exhibiting the work of artists represented in its collection, encourages this engagement and affirms contemporary art’s relevance within social discourse. KADIST’s local hubs in Paris and San Francisco present exhibitions and events, and organize residencies and educational initiatives, as well as producing projects online and via social media. Concurrently, KADIST is actively establishing networks across five areas—North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia and Latin America—inviting new artists into the collection and initiating collaborative programs, especially exhibitions with museums of each region. Together, they aim at facilitating new connections across cultures and creating vibrant conversations about contemporary art and ideas.