In Conversation with

Vitória Cribb: Transmediated Gazes

Using tools like 3D software modeling and augmented reality in video essay formats, the artist Vitória Cribb, from Rio de Janeiro, stands out among the new generation of digital artists by reflecting on themes such as surveillance and automated machine processes, while simultaneously investigating the relationship between Black bodies and digital extractivism.

C& América Latina: I wanted to start by talking a little about Prompt de Comando (“Command Prompt”, 2019). What was the starting point for the development of that language, using the computer system?

Vitória Cribb: That was my first film in the video essay format. Previously I’d done a lot of visual experimentation with D3, but this was the first one where I include a proper narrative in a personal tone. And my idea was precisely to emphasize this dialogue with the machine. I first wrote out the text by hand and then moved it into the command prompt, the central computer command that we normally use to correct system errors. And I recorded the screen while I typed, like I was controlling my computer with the text I was writing. My starting point came from reflections on my relationship with technology. I make an analogy between what is expected of a Black woman, seen as a means to serve and generate profits, and the machine itself, which performs this function for me. These are questions that permeate my life, all my life, as well as my relationship with these digital devices. And a sort of mirroring happens, identifying with that machine that is so similar to the place society expects me to occupy—a place of serving, of generating results and profit, and never being the owner of the final result. As for the format, my intention was to bring an aesthetic to the interior of the machine, what is behind this computer that we don’t normally look at.

C& AL: You also use this video essay language, with a first-person text leading the narrative. At the same time, the visual part is essential, and from what we talked about, it’s something that happens during a second phase. Can you tell us a little about that process?

VB: Yes, my work always has this initial phase where I depart from the text. Only then does the visual part come in, where I start to think about character design, art direction, what the colors will be, etc. Then, when all that is better defined, I always work with two sound producers with whom I can share more subjective ideas of what I want to convey. Lastly, I also narrate the film.

C& AL: Watching your videos in sequence – Prompt de Comando (2019), @Ilusão (2020) and Vigilante_extend (2022) and Undercover agent for the Truth (2022) — you can observe a chain of ideas connecting them, as if it were a single narrative and one point that was coming together. Like, for example, in this last video about Tina Turner, in which you personify the figure of the Vigilante created in the previous film. How does this process happen?

VC: I have this way of looking at my previous work and thinking about how I want to evolve, what I can do differently. For example: @Ilusão has strong, saturated color but after that I wanted to explore a more gray aesthetic, something a little sadder. In a way, it’s an attempt to represent this cyberspace, to try to escape the clichés of that language. And trying to portray myself as someone from Brazil, thinking about how the representation of a cyberspace from here needs to have more noise. In the new work that I presented at the Sesc_VideoBrasil Biennial, I’ve tried to create other forms for the character. In previous films they were very monumental,but in this one I wanted to create an image that was a little more fragile.

As for the Tina Turner piece, I started out with my 3D visual representations, with avatars, thinking about creating her character in two phases. One is Tina surrounded by eyes, public Tina—who is a diva, sensual, a beautiful woman. And the other is when she’s in control of that gaze, when she starts to control her narrative.

C& AL: You talk a lot about your background in gamer/geek culture in your early teens. How did those references lead you to the world of visual arts?

VC: I was born in the late 1990s, a time when gaming was expanding. My father used to show computer games to my sister and me and bring up these references. I was a teenager who grew up watching music videos, that pop culture universe has always influenced me a lot. And my generation grew up with the internet. My relationship with the arts was due to the fact that I’ve been a creative person since I was little, and the intersection with digital media was also natural because all this was part of my daily life.

C&AL: Although you belong to a generation that grew up in the Web 2.0 era, there is a critical view and discomfort with the role of technology in our daily lives, especially the internet of platforms and the harmful extension of surveillance carried out by these systems. What is your personal relationship with these media?

VC: My generation is very critical in the sense of wanting to know what I’m doing there and thinking better about where that information is going. I think that since we experienced Web 2.0 as children, we were better able to witness young people using it without restraints, and were able to develop a little more care. My relationship with these media, of course, is permeated by a lot of criticism. I use these platforms, but I think social media is very harmful to mental health, so I avoid using them every day. This has become increasingly common among people my age or younger, who today prefer more anonymous platforms. And that’s healthier. So I’m also pretty careful about the issue of data use, because we’ve accepted terms we barely read.

Vitória Cribb is a visual artist from Rio de Janeiro. Born in 1996 to a Haitian father and a Brazilian mother, she uses the digital environment as a means to express her reflections while investigating social behavior in the face of the development of new information technologies.

Nathalia Lavigne is a researcher, journalist and curator. She is a post-doctoral student at MACUSP and holds a PhD from USP’s School of Architecture and Urbanism (FAUUSP).

Translation: Zoë Perry