Vivo 2010 – Report from Belem


Check the Vivo 2011 photo set here. has been a major Brazilian fes- tival of art and new media in the last few years. It’s especially focused on mobility, in part because it’s mostly funded by Vivo, the largest mobile phone service provider in South America. In 2010 it was held in five different cities: Belém, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and São Paulo. This was the first time that Belém was involved, even though it’s the biggest city in the North of the country (with two million people living there). Being in Belém means being in a big city but fully immersed and influenced by the Amazon. The Amazon forest is just there, on the other side of the huge river Guamá, surrounding the city. Its products and culture are omnipresent, merged with technologies that vary from commercial to Do-It-Yourself domains. Does a mobile and new media art festival make sense in a territory like this? Actually it can mean a lot, if properly done. The festival was closely watched over by Lucas Bambozzi, who was responsible for programming, and it was locally coordinated in Belém by Giseli Vasconcelos. It was structured in a similar fashion to other major festivals, with presentations, debates, projections, exhi- bition and workshops, though the event never lost a sense of its own specific location.The most symbolic production was created through a close collaboration with a local community who call themselves “bicicletas sonoras” (sound bicycles). These are DIY sound systems mounted on bikes whose structure has been modified to carry heavy speakers, a mixer, microphone-holders and eventually CD or mp3 players, and use car-batteries as the energy supply. They work as street audio promoters, riding their bikes in the crowded streets and being commissioned to “broadcast” audio messages and music by party organizers, com- panies, and candidates for the election, among others. To be more attractive every sound bike is heavily personalized, in color, structure and equipment. French artist Tal Isaac Hadad spent more than a week with this (mostly young) community making public workshops and finally realizing an amazing performance in the city, combining sounds sampled, mixed and mapped during the workshops, so in a way returning them to the city via a few of its most active inhabitants. The Fórum Landi, where the performance started, also hosted two interesting artworks. “Ouvidoria” by Lourival Cuquinha consisted of a plantation of public phones in a popular public square in the old city: Praça do Carmo. The phones were connected to the internet through Ethernet cables wired over the huge mango trees in the square and into the facilities of the Fórum Landi. They offered free voice-over-IP calls all over the world, but in the square there were only vague invitations given to the passersby to use these “public phones.” People started to use them, happily calling whoever they knew in any part of the globe, and unaware of the other part of the installation hosted inside the Fórum. Here, completely im- mersed in the dark, spectators could see the pulsing lights of the equipment needed to sup- port the calls and could also hear scattered and delayed samples from the calls them- selves. The other artwork hosted at this location was “Água” by Valzeli Sampaio. A long projection of river water on the floor reacted to illumination from lamps used to see underwater in the dark. Their typical red light was detected in order to show the underwater content (through another projection), with no delays and a very smooth interaction.
Among the various conferences and presentations Amazon culture was prominent. Although becoming a global icon for the environmental movement, the Amazon is different to how it is usually represented. Professor Orlando Maneschy talked about the collective imaginary of the Amazon, starting from Albert Frisch who was the first to
retouch pictures of Amazonian people for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. The Amazon can be seen as the “synthesis of the sublime and monotonous” but it can also be seen as an “immersive environment.” The popular Avatar movie raised a lot of issues about this topic, using a communication strategy that was far stronger than the Copenhagen forum. Valzeli Sampaio and Jarbas Jacome described the Água residency project, in which a boat connected to the internet navigated various Amazon rivers in the state of Pará and established temporary internet LANs for the local populations. It’s worth mentioning that Greenpeace is giving some indigenous peoples GPS trackers to check the size of soja cultures (the main reason of the deforestation), using them as a metaphorical gun. The collaborative maps have been acquired by the government. Various other talks described different perspectives on technologies and mobility. Lala Dehenzelin, of the CrieFuturos movement, was talking about the so-called retro-future, or how current technologies have been imagined in the past, while Cicero Silva, described the Transborder Immigrant Tool developed with Ricardo Dominguez. Marcos Bastos elaborated on fascinating parallels between the circulation of blood, the social circulation of animals, the circulation of money and the mobility of people. Then, after a workshop by Cristiano Rosa about Circuit Bending, came another successful project called “Fotonovela” by Fabiane Borges e Nacho Duran. This involved kids living in the old city around the refurbished Fórum Landi, allowing to experience the construction of a classic picture romance story, playing a lot with narrative, identity and social prejudices. The outcome was very well crafted and popular, generating the kind of feedback from the families living there that any workshop would like generate. Finally, another performance (“Fut Mov – Hapax”) dealt with another icon of Brazil: football. In the rough public football field in Praça da Bandeira two teams (open to public participation) were playing. Each of the players was “wearing” an iPhone connected to a local server running software able to detect the GPS position of each player, which made alterations to an electronic music composition accordingly. So a more virtuoso style of football playing (especially from the boys who spontaneously joined) generated delayed variations in a nice ambientoriented soundtrack, played through big speakers at the same playing field. In a country that is booming economically after the Lula years (when the poorest population was actively supported with real money, reinforcing the presence of the state), and one that is always culturally effervescent, a festival like this is crucial for further opening its local productions to experiences fostered in rest of the world, creating a collaborative and fruitful exchange that could be capitalized on.