Black Women Artists

Dialogue Between Cinema, Performance And The Visual Arts

Marked by unconventional creative processes, contemporary productions by black women artists such as Pontes sobre abismos, NoirBLUE and Kbela reveal intersections between languages, devices and formats.

Apart from the very oxygenation of each sequence, they all create and construct. The result is a short film with two main thrusts: one willing to diagnose the pain, trauma, and neuroses caused by racism; another committed to offering, by means of the work itself, a moment of healing and confabulation of the future. The film has made the rounds in both traditional film spaces (Rotterdam Festival, Black Rebels program) and museums, as part of the exhibition Diálogos ausentes (“Absent Dialogues”, 2016), at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo.

Body as media

While Kbela borrows from performance art to build blocks of meaning, NoirBLUE – Deslocamentos de uma dança (“Movements of a dance”) takes a step in another direction: it itself is a film-happening that goes beyond the particulars of each artistic field. Presented by director Ana Pi for the first time at the 19th Artdanthé Festival in Vanves, France, the dance performance earned a welcome cinematic existence by having its film “version” presented and awarded at the 20th International Short Film Festival of Belo Horizonte in 2018.

In the creative process for NoirBLUE – Deslocamentos de uma dança, Pi brings to bear the notion of body as a medium, fundamental for performance, the theater, and dance. A black body that carries memories and also exudes futurity. But it is not a dancing body and a camera recording the dance. It is more than that: there is cinema, visible in the placement of the camera and the movement of bodies through space, constituting planes, not just takes. And in the expressiveness of a cadenced narration that, instead of organizing and guiding the experience, invites us to delve into one character: Ana, the Brazilian artist who travels around the African continent, finding approximations and acknowledging distances. And cinema is also in the consciousness of the power that is showing, as well as hiding, in the beauty that is filling the screen with black or blue. And, finally, in the precision of shaping the time waiting for action and the time of the action itself.

Bridges over the abyss

Pontes sobre abismos (“Bridges over the abyss”) is also cinema, even though its genesis and screening have found greater backing and acceptance in galleries and museums. Conceived and directed by Aline Motta, the work appears simultaneously as a video installation – shown in the Narrativas do Invisível (“Narratives of the Invisible”, 2016), at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo – and as a photographic series, with one of the images included in the Histórias Afro-Atlânticas exhibition (MASP and Instituto Tomie Ohtake).

In its cinematographic life, the short film Pontes sobre abismos constructs a racial formation narrative in Brazil, using the image of the artist’s grandmother on three screens – an approach that is hardly traditional in cinema. What in the installation was spread across three different screens, each one showing a “different” film, allowed visitors to decide which of the three screens to follow. In the cinema, however, the work is shown on a single screen with three segments, and the viewer needs to move between these. In other words, the viewer no longer controls the flow of his or her appreciation, losing the possibility of determining the direction of his or her own gaze.

Within a single medium – the movie screen – three films unfold simultaneously, forming a single film that comes crashing down in front of us like the torrent of a waterfall. In its masterly ending, a leopard simultaneously takes over the three windows on the screen, awash in the narration by the author who “reveals” the film’s “subject”.

Other examples of the powers that reside in the intersectionality between cinema, performance and the visual arts are short films like Michelle Mattiuzzi’s Experimentando o dilúvio em vermelho (Experiencing the Deluge in Red); Elekô, by the Mulheres de Pedra Collective; Limbo, by Anderson Feliciano. The common thread to all these works: direction, creative process, staging and body constitute the same space-time, as a matter of equal importance.

Heitor Augusto is a film critic, curator, teacher and translator. Curator of the show “Cinema Negro: Capítulos de uma História Fragmentada” (Black Cinema: Chapters of a Fragmented History) and co-curator of the Brasilia Festival (2017 and 2018). In addition to conducting regular critique workshops and non-credit film history courses, he maintains the website Urso de Lata (www.ursodelata.com), where he publishes writing that explores the intersections between race, aesthetics and politics.

Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.

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