In Conversation with Everlane Moraes

The body as a living memory device

Visual artist Everlane Moraes, born in Bahia in 1987 and raised in Sergipe, currently attends the International School of Film and Television (EICTV) in Cuba. She has produced a wide variety of work, all characterized by the use of hybrid languages, ranging from documentary to video art.

Conflito e abismos, which is a tribute to my father, utilizes the hybrid form, because it is precisely the meeting point of my art, which is filmmaking, and my father’s art, the fine arts. And in Caixa D’Água this hybridity was a choice, in order to break with the pre-defined forms of educational, informative documentary. I wanted to break with this ethnographic study, which is more anthropological or educational, in order to create a more poetic, more performance-based form in which this body of the object of study is not only an object, but a dynamic subject. And that these bodies had something poetic, that would help in the reporting or in the reframing of the idea of ‘quilombo’ [maroon settlement], of qui-lombo, qui-lombo of the flesh. I use these bodies precisely in order to place these archives projected onto them as a support. The body as a support and as a device of memory, living, active memory.

C&AL: Why do you insert European classical music into your work?

EM: Back home, we have a very long tradition of classical music. Because of my father’s influence, we grew up surrounded by lot of classical music and popular music. So using classical music is no accident. I choose the ideal music and composers for each theme of my films. For example, I put Dmitri Shostakovich in my father’s movie, as the actor runs through a plantation. And I put it at that moment of escape or fugue, because it is a fugue by Shostakovich. I put it right at the moment of the escape. I put Beethoven at the beginning of Conflito e Abismos, because my father really likes Beethoven. I used Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 131, which I also like a lot. It’s a very dense piece, one of Beethoven’s saddest. I put in songs that I like a lot or that have to do with the theme. It’s not a random choice, because the classical music suits it. They are very precise choices, taking into consideration the theme, the moment, a feeling.

C&AL: How has your experience at the International School of Film and Television in Cuba contributed to your career path with regard to the production of contemporary art?

EM: The historical context in which the school was created and founded, the school’s curriculum and its design are already revolutionary in their own right. There’s something very special about the school in Cuba, which is its own view towards Asia, Latin America and Africa and the fact that they admit students through scholarships, allowing for a very in-depth experience in Cuba and at the school. We live at the school, we eat at the school. Everyone – teachers, advisors, Cuban school staff – lives inside the school and is always surrounded by this idea of Latin American filmmaking or filmmaking as a whole, global.

It’s a school that really values the language of film and places a lot of importance on aesthetic, political and ethical study in the students’ education. I think this contributes a lot to thinking about contemporary art as a whole. In other words, thinking about ethics, politics and aesthetics as combat weapons. Combatting against whatever it may be, against all kinds of social inequality, anything. It is an elevation through art with a more humane, more community-based, more sympathetic way of thinking, because just by being in Cuba you’re already thinking about it. Studying filmmaking in Cuba is really something very powerful, it’s almost guerrilla. We are studying a very powerful weapon, which is the weapon of communication, of making images, illusions. Given that everything has a deeply lasting effect, I think that the audiovisual, the seventh art, is what will wind up eternalizing all other art forms.

C&AL: Is it different being a black artist in Brazil than in other parts of the world?

EM: In Brazil, when you say you’re an artist, a filmmaker, you say what you really are, people are very suspicious, they look at your appearance and are suspicious of what you’re saying. So you have to constantly prove that you have ability, that you have this, or that. In Cuba, I don’t feel that difference. People believe, they trust me to be what I am, because it’s so normal there. Outside Brazil and outside Cuba, I don’t know. Racism is huge and there’s another context there. I haven’t faced many problems directly, because people are very accepting of my work, including critics. I’m always engaging, showing my work and moving forward.

 

Fábia Prates is a journalist whose work has appeared in major Brazilian media outlets. She currently writes on topics related to culture, behavior and corporate communication.

 

Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.

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