Name curator: Raquel Schefer
Name artist: Ana Vaz
Title of the work you have chosen: Sacris Pulso
Year of production: 2008
Format: 16-8mm transfer DVCAM | ST
Down here, you can read the interview with the curator of this film, Raquel Schafer...
About the curator
Name: Raquel Schefer
Function: researcher, filmmaker and film curator
What is your main interest: avant-garde/experimental and political cinema
Where do you come from/ where do you live: Oporto/Paris
About the film and the filmmakers:
Consisting of eight short and medium-length films, the cinema of Ana Vaz allies formal innovation with a reflection on historical, political and epistemic problems against the background of the filmmaker’s life and cultural experience. The invention of a singular language which deliberately deviates from the film canon by establishing a critical dialogue with the visual forms of modernisms (particularly, those of Modern Latin American Cinema) is inseparable from thinking on issues as the continuity between ‘external’ and ‘internal’ colonialism, and the building of new politico-epistemological paradigms.
Two major intertwined motifs structure the work of Ana Vaz, achieving a unique formal expression. On the one hand, it addresses issues related to the multitemporality of the event (experience, memory, multiple interpretations and multiplied perspectives). On the other hand, it not only demystifies the history of modernisms, but also the history of modernist visual forms, essentially architectonical and film forms [mostly those of New Latin American Cinema, and Brazilian Cinema Novo (New Cinema) in particular]. Moving through cultural, disciplinary, and generic ‘contact zones’, the cinema of Vaz manifests an ‘impure cultural poetics’ that does not rely on static representations of culture, and that enables to reconsider the historical relationships between art and ethnography, modernisms and primitivisms. In other words, in the cinema of Vaz, the substance mirrors the form in the same way that the form reflects the content. Its motifs catalyze formal innovation while its innovative forms open up new perspectives on the present, history, and also on the forms of representation.
What can you tell about this film?
Sacris Pulso, Vaz’s first film, was produced by the Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2007. It presents the major motifs and formal trends of the cinema of Vaz. Incorporating archival footage [archival footage’s appropriation is one of the film forms of the cinema of Vaz, as, for instance, in A Film, Reclaimed (2015), co-directed with Tristan Bera], Sacris Pulso constitutes a sophisticated intra- and intertextual fabric. Vaz combines images from Sérgio Bazi and Zuleica Porto’s experimental film Brasiliários (1986) ‑ itself a fabulation of the discovery of Brasilia by Clarice Lispector narrated in the chronicle Brasília (1964) ‑ with found-footage and home movie archives. Besides being interpreted by Vaz’s mother, Cláudia Pereira, the sound design and the original soundtrack of Brasiliários were the work of Guilherme Vaz, the filmmaker’s father, and her frequent collaborator. Hence, Sacris Pulso not only makes cinematic self-referentiality more complex, but it also questions ‑ and it overcomes ‑ certain categorizations of the history of film, such as the separation between experimental, ethnographic, amateur cinema, and home movies.
Brasiliários constitutes the backbone of Sacris Pulso. Neverthless, Vaz dismantles its original structure: the filmmaker introduces and superposes new visual, sound (music and dialogues), and textual (typography) elements through a vertical and horizontal editing system. A film-cascade, Sacris Pulso slides along temporal, spatial, and material layers, in “the place where space most closely resembles time” (Lispector), from image to ‘entre-image,’ through the manipulation of images’ movement and speed. A system of ‘narrative anachronisms’ and non-chronological discordances between the order of the events in the story and the time-order of the narrative ‑ operating by analepsis, prolepsis, frequency, repetition, acceleration, and slow down ‑ structures Sacris Pulso. By combining images from Brasilia’s modernist architecture with shots from the Niagara Falls, Sacris Pulso reverses the actual chronology of Brasiliários’ action. These procedures concretize spatial and epistemic deterritorialization. The nature-culture distinction ‑ and the possibility of transcending it from an intermediary position ‑ appears as one of the key challenges of the cinema of Vaz. A reflection on auto-ethnography ‑ as a practice questioning the hierarchies of representation and knowledge related to the categories of subject/object, subjectivity/objectivity, observer/observed ‑ accompanies this critical approach.
How does this film relate to the theme ‘politics and poetry’ in your opinion?
Politics and poetry coexist in entangled relationships to each other in Sacris Pulso. As Vaz’s opera prima, it announces the dynamic tension between political content and formal experimentation that characterizes the filmmaker’s subsequent works [for instance, A Idade da Pedra (The Age of Stone, 2013) or Occidente (2014)]. Sacris Pulso’s innovative forms expressly deviate from the film canon, but the film also imbricates the transgressive nature of this gesture with subjectivity, and self-referentiality.
Vaz confronts the heritage of the transnational liberation culture of the 1960s and the 1970s, within which political emancipation was perceived as inseparable from the emancipation of art, culture, and knowledge. However, she demystifies this historical background, namely through the critique of the complex and contradictory relationships between modernisms and primitivisms, and of the visual forms these relationships have historically assumed. Opening new approaches in the renewal of cinema and anthropology, the cinema of Vaz moves beyond simple binaries ‑ objectivity/subjectivity; ‘reality’/representation; subject/object ‑ by reconsidering disciplinary conceptual frameworks and visual representations as determined by historical processes.
Are politics and poetry (or politics and arts) two separate worlds according to you? Why / why not?
Politics and poetry are connected worlds according to me. To Nicole Brenez, engaged cinema does not “remain indifferent to aesthetic questions.” Quite the opposite, “the cinema of intervention exists only insofar as it raises the fundamental cinematographic questions: why make an image, which one, and how? With whom and for whom?”. Engaged cinema also exists to pose questions about the genealogies, the ideologic underpinnings, and effects of visual culture, as proposed by Vaz.
There are a lot of political tensions and changes in the world right now. Do you (already) notice any changes in the focus and/or ideas and work of artists because of these developments? Do you have examples?
Fredric Jameson argues that, with the failure of the traditional distinctions between the spheres of work and leisure, to look at images is fundamental to the functioning of most dominant institutions. Jonathan Crary considers that, under such conditions, “most of the historically accumulated understandings of the term ‘observer’ [sic] are destabilized.” Associating a critical reading of the tradition of avant-garde/experimental and political cinema, new modes of political engagement and formal innovation, films such as those of Vaz constitute true acts of seeing ‑ affirming image’s productivity ‑ in a network of permanent observation.
The cinematic representations of political events/processes such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, 15-M and, more recently, Nuit Debout exemplify changes in the filmmakers’ focus and the film forms, highlighting the link between the economic structures and the aesthetic manifestations.
At the same time, different ways of looking at and producing images are emerging. On the one hand, these different ways of looking at and producing images clearly point to an ongoing dynamic dialectic of ‘structuration’ and ‘destructuration’ of the film forms (such as the newsreel in the cinema of Jem Cohen or Sylvain George, for instance). On the other hand, to look and to produce images differently mean to deviate from the film canon ‑ particularly, from the so-called ‘creative documentary.’ This gesture often implies to question incisively (following the footsteps of filmmakers as Joris Ivens, Robert Kramer and Juan Downey) certain ideological categories historically linked to the ‘indexical’ image and, more specifically, to the documentary’s system of representation: objectivity, neutrality, transparency, realism, purity. Vaz’s Há Terra! (2016) or Ricardo Silva’s Navajazo (2013), among other possible examples, are films about the processes of organization and construction of the point of view. The cinematic representation is no longer valued for its adequacy to ‘reality,’ but inversely in terms of separation, variation, interpretation, and transformation of ‘reality.’ In this sense, these films constitute true acts of seeing, involving observation and auto-observation.
Besides the theme of ‘Politics and poetry’ are there any other comparisons between this artist and Ivens according to you?
The films of Vaz and Ivens stand as examples of a cosmopolitan cinema which reverses the historical center/margin direction both in expressive, and epistemic terms. Une histoire de vent (A Tale of the Wind, 1988), for instance, constitutes not only a poetic reflection on Iven’s biography and the political history of the 20th century but also a problematization of cinematic and cognitive categories. In the same way as the cinema of Vaz, the consciousness of Ivens’ enunciative and epistemic standpoint appears as a fundamental condition to engage in a reflection on the relational dimension of the systems of representation and knowledge.