Glitches in the Sound and Thought of biarritzzz

Working in music, the digital arts, and the audiovisual space, biarritzzz thinks of meme production as a pedagogical practice. She also challenges adherence to global aesthetics like Afrofuturism, proposing other imaginaries about the future beyond the idea of progress such as the concept of glitches, magic, and low resolution.

In #firstvideoclipever (2014), we’re able to see some of the visual repertoire biarritzzz was starting from at that time: captured images from Tumblr on a moving screen. One of them reproduces the architectural model of a development project that generated a wave of protests against real estate speculation in Recife leading up to the 2014 World Cup. It was also a presidential election year, as we can see in memes about Brazil’s political landscape, and the beginnings of an impending crisis. “Back then I did everything on my own, a young nerd making things on the computer,” says the artist. “Over the years I started wanting to make my body more present and to work with other people.”

Criticism using humor and parody reappears in Pátria (2019), a work that launched another production format for the artist and her second persona, spelled BIAHITS. From that point on, music has taken on a greater role and takes place in a more collaborative way. “I’ve always been very involved in the music scene, but in 2019, this project, Vampiras Veganas, with Denise Nuvem, Naju Pataxó and Milena Nonsense came about,” she says. “We created a group of non-musicians making music, with a totally DIY sound over brega-funk beats, which was happening a lot in Recife at the time.”

Behind an aesthetic that mimics the digital environment and all its visual and sonic excess, the lyrics of Pátria lead a sequence of images with memes and videos taken from social networks with clear criticism of the historical erasures that are so common in Brazil, and that in those years took on more explicit dimensions. The artist uses mockery and poking fun as tools to give new meaning to images that have become banal because they are repeated so often. This strategy is part of what she would come to call “meme pedagogy”. Still, while studying for her sociology degree, where she wrote about Leona Assassina Vingativa, considered Brazil’s first YouTuber, she turned to the production of memes from the North and Northeast of the country, based on racialized or sex-dissident people. “I was interested in thinking about the potential of these new means of producing self-image as a counterpoint to the traditional audiovisual space,” she says. “Before, if a racialized travesti from the North wanted to work with humor, she would have to submit to the choices of a white director.”

An initial, more incautious look at biarritzzz’s videos might find influences from Afrofuturism—a term created in the 1990s by Mark Dery to refer to artistic and intellectual productions that used fiction to think about ideas of a future for Black people. Something that, in fact, happened: in an article about her work, the term “Afrofuturist” was applied without any further explanation, which bothered her. “Because I’m Black and work with digital images, they automatically put me in that place,” she explains. “People have to have a different kind of sensitivity to deal with this when they come to Brazil, especially because our ethnic and racial background is quite diverse.”

Her answer came in the form of an interactive, web-specific sound and visual album called Eu Não Sou Afrofuturista (2020), which BIAHITS developed as part of the Pivô Satélite program, with musical production by Henrique Falcão and several others collaborators. One format of the work took place as a video performance, with the participation of a fictitious band. At the center of the stage, the artist appears wearing a green screen cloak on which moving images from the album were projected. In the web version there was also a player in which each click activated one of the 10 gifs created for each song. In one of them, repeating the refrain “We must put an end to the idea of progress,” the artist presents another image-based vocabulary about the idea of the future that takes into account Afro-indigenous ancestries in Brazilian culture.

biarritzzz’s criticism of Afrofuturism is echoed by thinkers like curator and writer Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, as the artist quotes in her talk “I’m not an Afrofuturist and what does that have to do with machines that think” , held in October 2023 at Café Filosófico CPFL. Its association with the modern avant-garde, whose main representative, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was linked with fascism, is just one of the problematic issues. Talking about “futurism” also reinforces the notion of a highly questionable Western linear interpretation of time, which ignores other worldviews, such as Afro-indigenous ones, in which the division between past, present and future does not exist in such a watertight way.