(this page was last updated in July 2017)
Brasilia, Brazil, 1986.
Lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal and Paris, France.
PIPA 2017 nominee.
Ana Vaz is a visual artist and filmmaker whose films and their multiple developments in the fields of installation, performance or publications seek to deepen the relations between perception and language, the self and the other, the myth and the document from a perspective cosmology. By combining found or fabricated materials, her films combine ethnography and analysis exploring the zones of friction and fiction from the encounters, sensory experiences and sensitive hot flashes.
Video produced by Do Rio Filmes exclusively for PIPA 2017:
Ana Vaz has a degree by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, in Melbourne, Australia, and a masters in Cinema and Visual Arts from the Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France, and has also participated in the Experimental School in Art & Politics (SPEAP) directed by Bruno Latour in SciencesPo in Paris, France. She has directed movies like “Sacris Pulso” (2008), “A Idade da Pedra” (2013), “Occidente” (2014), “A Film”, “Reclaimed” (2015) and “Há Terra!” (2016). Her films are shown internationally in festivals like the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, London BFI, Cinéma du Réel, Visions du Réel, CPH:DOX, as well as the seminars like the Flaherty Seminar (USA) and Doc’s Kingdom (Portugal).
Her work is also part of international exhibitions like the Moscow Biennale of Young Art, Videobrasil and the Art Summit de Dhaka. In 2015, she was awarded the Kazuko Trust Award by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in recognition of the innovation in her cinematographic work.
Interview: Ana Vaz
by Aily Nash
Brazilian artist Ana Vaz is this year’s recipient of the Kazuko Trust Award presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in recognition of artistic excellence and innovation in her moving-image work. Vaz’s Occidente, which won the Grand Prize at Media City Film Festival and Fronteira International Film Festival, screens in the New York Film Festival’s Projections section on October 2 and 3.
Vaz’s 15-minute short-form work oscillates between 16mm film, HD video, and an array of formats in appropriated footage. With a speculative gaze, Occidente observes the colonial threads that bind Brazil and Portugal. Images of Lisbon’s maritime life, extreme surfing, kitsch dinnerware sets, and the city’s iconic Praça do Comércio, composited through Google Street View, together serve to signify a turbulent relationship. Projections co-curator Aily Nash spoke with the Paris-based artist last week by phone.
In “Occidente”, you question the post-colonial relationship between Brazil and Portugal. But I see the film as simultaneously enunciating the concerns of the Anthropocene, a perspective that flattens the distinction between the cultural and the natural. You draw attention to these sites of imbalance, and the seams and emblems of unrest, perhaps suggesting an imminent break. What’s the relationship between this ecology of signs related to post-colonial discourse and that of the Anthropocene?
There is certainly an interdependent relationship between colonialism and the Anthropocene. We could say one accelerates and feeds the other, and its impact is systemic. Facing our creeping ecological ruin, we are begged to radically reconsider and analyze our relationships and activities, our vices and modes of living—this is at the heart of post-colonial discourse and something Occidente keenly speculates upon. I like to argue, along with many other thinkers, that the Anthropocene begins with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, which is the consecration of the European project, the Occidental project. So with Occidente I was thinking about what the so-called “discovery of the Americas” posed as an identity problem, both internally and externally. The backbone of Occidente is anchored in an Anthropophagic mode of thinking. Oswald de Andrade, author of the Anthropophagic Manifesto, is said to have “discovered” Brazil from afar. “From the top of an atelier in Place de Clichy, he discovered his own land,” writes Paulo Prado about de Andrade. So this reverse perspective is something we find at the basis of his theory of “devoration,” a theory that borrows from the cannibalistic rituals performed by Brazilian Amerindians, which stunned the European settlers from their very first contact.
And so very much under this rubric of “who devours who?” I went to Lisbon to shoot Occidente as a kind of reverse ethnography. I wanted to imagine the opposing trip: from the Americas into the coast of Europe, from Brazil into the port of our historic colonial administrative centre, Lisbon—an eating-up of our European roots, a ritual of devoration.
The film looks for the elastic tensions between spaces and gestures, people and social environments, animals and rites, botanic displays and museum displays, in this sense very much under this flattening you suggest between the cultural and the natural. I see Oswald’s Anthropophagic proposition as a method for a constant de-colonization of our modes of thinking, and under this logic the paradigm that opposes culture to nature is another imperative to be de-naturalized, de-colonized. So Anthropophagy is a negative philosophy that begs us to ingest our enemy only to subvert any imperial logic, any imbalance between self and other, in order to become with and within this enemy-other. So yes, to answer your question about the Anthropocene and its relationship to this (post)colonial cosmology that we are confronted with in the film, there is certainly a destabilizing logic at work, in which things are at once put in conflict and contradiction with one another, in a constant dialectic of “who colonizes who?” This is what the denomination of the Anthropocene begs us to do, to re-define our relationships in order to un-tie the naturalized binds of the Western project of domination and destruction, exclusivity and property, exploitation and exhaustion. “Life is pure devoration,” de Andrade claims in “The Crisis of Messianic Philosophy,” and I think Occidente is a film about cycles of devoration.
The European crisis which had Portugal as one of its main protagonists had me thinking about these processes of devoration and reversals. It was noticeable how Portugal was inviting its former colonies to return and inject force and vigor into their economy and social fabric, offering European passports to Brazilians who could buy property in Lisbon, and rich Brazilians entertaining the bankrupt Portuguese aristocracy, and so I felt this uncanny situation would be an interesting backdrop for this film. This is condensed, particularly in the lunch scene where the Anthropophagic question returns, the question of where to sit around the table, and of “who eats who.”
In this recurring meal scene you focus our attention on the looks and gestures of both the diners and servers. Was this a scene you constructed in order to explore the idea of “who eats who”?
Yes, I was interested in observing the social rite of the table and its codes, interested in the politics of social celebrations and interactions. What happens with this kind of cinema is that even if shot in an unscripted and documentary fashion, all subjects are fully performing their unscripted characters—it is a question of framing but also a question of fulfilling a role, performing ones’ otherness. There was no need for directions, roles, or a description of what the scene could signify, but there was a silent and common understanding of what it could be, and quickly the glasses clinked and the laughter broke. The only character who anxiously doubts her performativity is Lis, who chooses to dress as a 19th-century maid, but who continuously confronts the camera and denounces my voyeuristic presence. This model of servitude is a European invention imported to the colonies; the difference is that there it remains, while in Europe it is mostly looked down upon because they could put in place social reforms that ended this mode of servitude. So it is as if the scene performed and parodied a past that the “advanced and socialist” Europeans don’t really want to see. I feel that the scene is unsettling to watch for all these reasons, and Lis seems to be the only character trapped in the anxious feeling of a double alliance: is she to protect herself or her patron? To perform her Otherness or to admit to the ridicule of the celebration? To eat or to be eaten? I think that that confrontation of her gaze with the camera, something that I could never have scripted, not in the way that it happens, ends up being the crux of the film—a speculation upon a gaze.
I would go further and say that in keeping with its Anthropophagic appetite, Occidente is not only a film about masters and servants. It’s not at all a film that stagnates at the paradigm between oppressors and oppressed—a Marxist reading would not suffice. To cite Oswald again: “Marx reduced the abstractions of German metaphysics to accounting.” I think the film tries to transform the ‘taboo into totem’, to unravel the vegetative state of the elites and transform social reality into a metaphysics.
In the text you wrote on “Occidente” you say: “To be ethical is to be anxious and this is the anxiety of the ethnographer or the anthropologist, the anxiety of history, the threat of shining too much light or casting too much shade—the anxious movement of ethical thinking.” This anxiety is deeply felt in the film, an unease that expresses itself through restraint and speculation, and in your words “a speculation upon the gaze.” We’re constantly destabilized, and the perspective is shifting, our sense of time is altered. Is this anxiety built into the film and generated through a formal strategy?
This question around anxiety has been something I have considered for a long time. The original sentence is: “Anxiety is the mode par excellence of ethicity,” articulated by the American philosopher Avital Ronell. She speaks about the fact that any political, personal, or social discourse that is so affirmative, so self-assured as to not leave any room for doubt or anxiety is bound up with the threat of irresponsibility, of a lack of ethical engagement. She adds that “the moment you think you know the Other, you are ready to kill them,” and I think this idea was foundational to the kinds of questions I was interested in exploring. The conceptual work that I developed when I was younger was very much bound up with radical feminism as a mode of critical thinking, and this method of inquiry necessitates this state of confusion, this lack of any possible mastery, this necessity for constantly shifting and re-configuring of one’s gaze, a certain elasticity of thinking that refuses binary logic. And to escape binary thinking, we are necessarily in a constant state of anxiety, of a neither-this-nor-that entirely, neither one nor other, but always at least two. And it is this in-between space, this shadowed space of both light and dark, of sun and moon, of here and there, that I tend to work from, always feeling there is something which escapes. In Occidente no one speaks. You see my hands in the film but they appear in very odd shots. They’re not really guiding you. I’m not pointing at anything. I’m not giving you an answer. More than anything, I’m trying to create new relationships between objects and spaces, but nonetheless you don’t know if you trust that hand or not.
We should never trust our narrator entirely, and this is where this sense of anxiety might come from—a state of not knowing where to place yourself and constantly having to re-define where you speak from, reshape your placing, re-configure your relationships with your surroundings, with your Other, your animal Other, your temporal Other, your racial Other, etc., as well as with the many Others which are inside oneself. Formally speaking, Occidente plays with a number of different surfaces and mediums: things I shot on 16mm, National Geographic–type appropriated footage, extreme sport videos, etc. I’m working towards something I like to call a “cinematographic multi perspectivism,” borrowing from the philosophic theory of the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, a mode of thinking that believes in the immanence and sentience of all things and in their multiplicity of zones of subjectivity, only “to send back an image of ourselves in which we don’t recognize ourselves.”
The nearly three-minute prelude to “Occidente” makes a particularly striking use of a non-image, a pulsing blue that induces this unease and builds tension. How did you arrive at using this motif to bookend the film?
For me, the sequence works as a pairing between this pulsing blue and an aural atmosphere. It’s a musical composition made by my father, Brazilian conceptual artist Guilherme Vaz, who lived with the Zoró indians in the lower Amazon region. For many years he studied their instruments, their gestures, their cosmology, and worked collaboratively with them on aural and painterly experiments. He employs what is called in music theory the mode scale, which is the pre-modern scale defined by a lack of concern with functional harmony, and is often the means by which folkloric and popular music is made. In the film, the composition we hear, “The Calling,” he composed with a European bassoon that he transforms into an Amerindian sounding instrument—taboo into totem. This reversal is particularly poignant if we are to think about a film like Occidente, where this idea of “a one” is never fixed but rather always in the process of perhaps becoming an Other, animal or object, in lineage with the Anthropophagic appetite.
And then the blue is actually a failure-turned-serendipity in the process of making the film. I had planned to go shoot this group of surfers who surf at a beach just outside of Lisbon, a beach from which I had heard a lot of transatlantic ships used to leave during the age of Portuguese discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. For me, it was telling that that coast was now populated by a group of young surfers who I saw as being part of a continuous lineage. The movement of the surfers seemed to me in line with the desire to conquer, to tame, to expand, always in search of a better and bigger wave, not to mention the infallible potential of falling and failing. Also in economic and political rhetoric we often hear the metaphor of “surfing the wave” as a way of taking the greatest advantage that a certain climax can give you. All of these ideas were there, but when I got the negative back from the lab, there were a number of technical problems and the images didn’t come out. The surfers weren’t there. And all of a sudden, I thought, it doesn’t matter, because the horizon of transatlantic expectation is there. We don’t see the surfers, but the ghosts of the surfers are there. So I’m going to use this particular blue, this vibratory blue that speaks so much about this horizon, of opportunity, discovery, and expectation, as well as its potential violence because it is, as you say, an anxious sort of a scene. And, furthermore, I decided to cut to the hyper-contemporary HD image of practicing surfers borrowed from extreme-sports videos. This is what I was interested in with a film like Occidente: a continuous rupture, a constant mash-up of materials that disrupt the possibility of a historicizing or mastered logic.
This blending of image sources is also apparent in the way that you render these monuments in Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio later in the film through a virtual tour. You’ve said these monuments become geo-data. Why did you decide to use Google Street View for this sequence?
I was interested in that square in particular, Praça do Comércio or “The Square of Commerce,” which was the administrative center of the Portuguese monarchy and the overseeing center of Portugal’s colonies. The centerpiece monument is a statue of King Joseph I riding his horse and crushing dying serpents underneath his vigorous horse. The statue incarnates a mood of conquest and is adored by the swarms of visiting tourists who frantically photograph the monument, thus rendering the statute a de-historicized fetish, a souvenir, a new commodity. So I thought it would be particularly interesting to make that entire tour out of Google Street View images, through the images that tourists had made themselves around the monument. I felt this was symptomatic of a tendency that I see, particularly in Europe, of the rendering-museum of an entire culture, of the “becoming museum” of Europe, and this “becoming museum” tends to render history as a souvenir, monuments as digital artifacts, and place as coordinates. A capitalistic capture of our surroundings, which happily transforms the tourist into laborer. And so I wanted to transform these standardized image fragments into a different narrative and experience. The film is consistently erring without a pre-determined goal. It is filming itself that becomes a labyrinthine route for thinking, editing becomes a form of writing, and the film punctuates certain cycles and repetitions, and this is not to say that history repeats itself, but perhaps more so to say that there’s a viciousness in its engines.
La Region da Pedra
by Filipa Ramos
Expanding the representation of space towards a system of vision that considers other forms of movement beyond the more conventional latitude-longitude axes, Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale (1971) and Ana Vaz’s A Idade da Pedra (2013) offer, at a distance of more than forty years, two truly outlandish perceptive experiences.
La Région Centrale, Michael Snow’s three-hour film was entirely shot in five days in the Eastern Canadian forest in Quebec and relied on the creation of a complex mechanical apparatus—conceived by Snow together with film technician Pierre Abeloos— whose course and speed could be remotely controlled and allowed for a 360° movement of a 16mm film camera in all directions. No human or animal presences are seen on land, water or sky, only the vast, semi-flat natural area that surrounds the plateau where the machine was positioned: stones, mosses, clouds and a distant lake become its most distinctive features.
Moving at a relatively slow and steady pace, the camera scans the surrounding region as the arm that holds it gradually abandons any form of classical panning to flip and turn in all possible directions. The film’s sound is derived from the machine’s movement; the electronic sonorities clash with the natural landscape. Its repetitive, pulsating rumours stimulate a trance-like effect, while its irregular and unpredictable pace enhances a deep sense of hallucination.
Ana Vaz’s “A Idade da Pedra” departs from a vision so steady that only the sound of singing birds attests the passing of time. It consists of the image of the sun rising in a prairie, its light gradually dissipating the shadows of dawn and slowly bathing all that the eyes can see in a rich spectrum of colours. The film takes place in the central plateau of Brazil, the sertão, an arid and vast plain dotted with scrub. Its Portuguese meaning is untranslatable, not only because the sertão stands for an endemic landscape that is a space as physical as mental, but also because the term sertão sounds as ser-tão [be-much], containing in itself all the superlative possibilities of being: ser-tão, to be much, to exceed the inherent ontology of the self.
The naturecultural characteristics of this territory are scanned in a profusion of detailed and intense portraits of spaces, animals and people that reveal Vaz’s unique exploratory gaze. This landscape and its dwellers are the set for the artist to rethink the birth of the city of Brasília and its geological foundations, opening itself to a journey that becomes an intense moment of discovery of a hypothetical future as well as an occasion to reflect about the ideals and beliefs of modernism.
In their own manner, both films take the viewer onto a unique journey of discovery, not only of the remote territory they portray but also of another way of seeing. Gradually they break all sorts of conventional relations to space and time: latitude and longitude make no more sense as forms of measuring distance and location; the linear conception of history is scattered, and the disciplinary borders of geology, geometry, geography are shaken and twisted, fused onto a whirlpool in which images and sound stimulate a trance-like effect and offer an experience as contemplative as it is immersive.
Ana Vaz: Occidente
by Olivier Marboeuf
A film-poem of an ecology of signs that speaks of colonial history repeating itself. Subalterns become masters, antiques become reproducible dinner sets, exotic birds become luxury currency, exploration becomes extreme-sport-tourism, monuments become geodata. A spherical voyage eastwards and westwards marking cycles of expansion in a struggle to find one’s place, one’s sitting around a table.
The ocean before the continent, the Atlantic before the Occidente. Infinite, vibrant variations of blue, howling, cries of anger, the growl of a world whose history starts in pain and metamorphosis. The Middle Passage comes first here – it all begins where it all usually ends. How can one tell this other story, one that reminds us of the one we once heard, a proud history, a crystal clear order of things, a house with rock-solid foundations, all unceremoniously thrown in the whirlwind of a dark ocean? Yesterday’s impeccably bright lights are turning to petrol blue. Rejoice! The old narrator has drowned, and along with him were lost all the languages that once served to make the finest maps and books drawn on to talk, in all occasions, wherever we were, of any one thing. Locked in their apartments, the masters enjoy a banquet as the decor’s cracks deepen and their most faithful servants have already followed the aquatic world’s call. But they pay no attention to it all, refusing to witness the end of a world and the boisterous establishment of another, the hallucinated carnival of things and creatures they had, until now, patiently organised in their infantile empire, the revenge of the possessed. Rejoice! All is overturned. In the storm, the survivors stand in silence, humble creatures amongst many others, listening to the story of the magnetic fields, of the possessions’ power – the tale of a world told in the language of the objects and the preys. An infernal music that resonates through their bodies and spellbinds them.
Full text available here.
Young at Heart
by Ela Bittencourt
“PRESENTING POSSIBILITIES of cinematographic language” was how Antônio Junior, the artistic director of the international film festival Olhar de Cinema in Curitiba, Brazil, summarized its fifth edition. And indeed, across the board one could sense Latin American cinema’s appetite for experimentation.
The most rapturous film I saw this year was Há Terra! (There Is Land!), a short by Brazilian visual artist Ana Vaz, whose Occidente (2015) played in last year’s New York Film Festival. Há Terra! picks up on another short, Idade de Pedra (2013), in which Vaz imagined premodernity in her native Brasilia, the imposing monument-city designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. In Há Terra! Vaz returns to the young protagonist of Idade de Pedra, Ivonete dos Santos Moraes, who has joined Brazil’s landless movement that struggles to wrest land from powerful agriculturalists. Ivonete also hails from the region of quilombos, settlements of runaway slaves that resisted the colonizers. In one sequence, staged as a sort of hunt, Vaz has Ivonete hide from the camera, playing to the tensions of ethnographic cinema. Shot on expired 16 mm film stock, the scratched and bleached Há Terra! points to a tenuous connection with temporal reality.
Rapture permeates Paraguayan filmmaker Pablo Lamar’s fiction feature The Last Land. In one scene of this quiet contemplation of death, a husband bathes his deceased wife’s marble-like feet. Much like the Renaissance painters’ studies of cadavers, the image of this flesh-statue underlines that, in art, the sublime never strays far from the grotesque, beauty from morbidity. Wonder also lies at the heart of this year’s festival winner, José Luis Torres Leiva’s The Winds Know That I’m Coming Back Home, in which documentary filmmaker Ignacio Agüero travels to a Chilean island of Muelin on a pretext of finding actors for a drama about disappeared lovers. Agüero, who interviews school youth and elderly islanders about prejudice among the native and mestizo populations, emerges as a patient archeologist of local lore.
While Lamar and Torres Leiva hew to classical narrative, Olhar abounded in more radical gestures: In João Pedro Miranda Maria’s short The Girl Who Danced with the Devil, an evangelical evaporates in a burst of fire after kissing another woman. As in his previous Command Action (2015), Miranda Maria draws on observations of Brazil’s interior, enfolding them in a gothic tale and exposing the devious logic of local beliefs. In Guto Parente’s The Strange Case of Ezequiel, a convulsing green-hewed man arrives from a futuristic planet akin to our own. And in Mexican filmmaker Jorge Sistos Moreno’s short The Solitude of Images, a glowing creature acts as doppelganger for the protagonist’s psyche. With so many otherworldly touches, this year’s Olhar carried echoes of Carlos Reygadas and Adirley Queirós, pointing to a continuous search for language that can speak the uncanny.
Formalist invention informed shorts like The Grey House and the Green Mountains by Brazilian Deborah Viegas and Event Horizon by Colombian Guillermo Moncayo. Viegas’s mise-en-scène is deceptively simple: A bridge stretches over a river; distracted by passing cars and the background, it is easy to miss the figure that jumps from the ledge. An attempted rescue results in a tragic scuffle, shot from a distance that precludes any certainty about the course of events. The effect is a bit like an animated Peter Bruegel painting of Icarus: a humorous study of nature’s indifference, and of vision’s limitations. Moncayo’s visually spare Event Horizon is just as playful: It builds on a real-life story of Charles Kroehle, a German explorer in the Amazon, and weaves a fantastical tale of a disappeared race. Moncayo’s economy of imagery reduces the narrative arc to a boat carrying a bright light, yet engulfed by darkness—a metaphor for Europe’s “civilizing” conquest.
Finally, Daniel de Bem’s debut fiction feature, They Came and Stole His Soul, which won a prize for artistic contribution, reflects the dilemma of a self-doubting filmmaker: socially alienated but wed to his VHS camera, a budding director cannot stop shooting, and provokes revolt from his main actor. A crie de couer about abundance anxiety in today’s media glut and, at the same time, a tender tribute to the art of cinema as ultimate psychic compensation, the film’s reflexivity embodied the Olhar de Cinema’s ambitions and the zeitgeist of its predominantly young audience.
Toward an Aesthetic of Displacement in Ana Vaz’s “Sacris Pulso”
by Oana Chivoiu
In 2007, when young and talented director Ana Vaz was a student at RMIT University in Melbourne she debuted with the experimental short film “Sacris Pulso”. At that time, she was personally familiar with the experience of displacement (cultural, geographic and linguistic), which she adopted as the central theme and narrative motivation in her first film. Sacris Pulso is about the filmic possibilities of accommodating radical displacements and innovation in representations of subjectivity and the factors that produce it (such as the relationship with our origins). From the experimental filmmaker and cultural theorist of transnationalism, displacement, and the experience of mobility, Trinh T. Minh-ha, we learn that displacement is an experience that involves critical and often radical renewal and intervention: “displacement involves the invention of new forms of subjectivities, of pleasures, of intensities, of relationships, which also implies the continuous renewal of a critical work that looks carefully and intensively at the very system of values to which one refers in fabricating the tools of resistance.”
With “Sacris Pulso”, displacement is more than the representation of a new subjectivity resulting from spatial or temporal dislocation; it is an aesthetic practice that is committed to producing new venues of representation and thinking about subjectivity and time. In an essay reflecting on the conceptualisation of “Sacris Pulso”, Vaz explains her underlying philosophy: “[t]hrough the film I construct a symbolic and fictional sense of selfhood, which is then displaced within film, as it no longer refers to my condition, but to an other”. Through the practice of filmmaking Vaz models displacement as an empowering and liberating practice: “an auto-genesis, where the subject actively structures and shapes its origins under the light of the subjective imaginary”.
“Sacris Pulso” is multiply paradoxical; it challenges and reassures our horizons of expectation. Its collage of images induces both familiarity and alienation. The apparently idiosyncratic narrative is eventually voided of any subjectivity and meaning. The emphasis on linear time that the film seems to thematically privilege and adopt as narrative structure is gradually suspended in favour of a cyclical time or, as in Mircea Eliade’s formulation, a mythical time – a “primordial time” of origins and creation. What appears to be a personal geography is subject to serial displacements with the result being a terrain that has an aura of universality. It is a personal geography from which the subject steps out while providing us with possibilities of identification.
The visual materials used in Sacris Pulso are a mix of fragments from the short film Brasiliários (1985) by Zuleica Porto and Sergio Bazi, featuring the uncanny encounter of writer and migrant Clarice Lispector with Brasilia, and 8mm found home movie footage. With these choices of images, the film invites us to think about the relative and fragile boundaries between the personal and the collective, the private and the public, and ultimately the self and the other. All of these visual materials undergo displacement and transformation, and Brasiliários itself shapes a collective imaginary around a surreal image of Brasilia. At the same time, Brasiliários is Vaz’s myth of origins – “her primal point of reference”, as her parents met during the making of this film. Fragmentation, reversed motion and narration, and slowed down scenes extending the duration of contemplation (when Lispector played by Claudia Pereira – Vaz’s mother – has the wind blow her hair) frame Vaz’s reimagination of this primary work. The shots from the family movies have the duration and spontaneity of flashbacks and present granulated consistencies and reduced visibility. This lack of focus and clarity abstracts the concrete, the anchorage in time and space, and the personal affiliations of the images. Once they are voided of personal attachments, they become scenes of everyday life. Images of childhood, family life, ceremonies (first communion) attest to our need to materialise and document the past through the practice of home image making. Vaz explains how 8mm footage has the capacity to blur the line between the personal and the collective: “[t]he found 8mm footage is used in the film to create a sense of memory, a collective memory, which displaces the focus on my own history and alludes to more collective family rituals. The 8mm footage ‘de-subjectivizes’ the film as it speaks of other memories, other conditions, and other family histories.”
Vaz’s experiment with displaced, fragmented and depersonalised home movies attests to the failing function of home movies to document and safeguard the past from oblivion and loss, and looks at niches where memory and imagination can intervene. Moreover, it reinforces the idea that our relationship with origins and personal history is one of displacement and the continuous innovations and appropriations provoked by otherness.
According to Ingmar Bergman, film is “mainly rhythm; it is inhalation and exhalation in continuous experience”. Similarly, the notion of Sacris Pulso is central to Vaz’s film experiment and refers to a sacred pulse or a mythical time when the self is born as its other through acts of displacement, imagination and memory. The film also suggests that Sacris Pulso is associated with ritual (the re-enactment of a primordial moment), which it invokes in the shots of the girl in the first communion bridal dress and in the form of what seems to be prayers or incantations spoken in a soft and hardly audible Portuguese voice. Sacris Pulso is the promise of renewal – an aesthetic rejuvenation that is possible through the practice of experimental filmmaking in particular. This exceptional temporal dimension is radical and irreducible; it is the cathartic experience, as Vaz explains: “The film is inevitably derived from a cathartic impulse, where by trying to reconstruct my relationships with my origins I am able to displace myself and re-create an other sense of self”. If throughout the film we follow the collage of images as a sequence, in the end linearity is suspended. Instead of linearity we contemplate the simultaneity of the images. They form a layered structure of fractured, blurred, almost transparent images that fade into each other and overlap according to a logic that is abstract and purely aesthetic. By the end, when these shots form vertical “architectures”, we have already had the chance to retain memories of them; we have seen them before in a more integral shape and with slightly more clarity. Consequently, we can acknowledge their transformation. The end of the film comes with one of the narrators confessing a state of intense enjoyment that translates into the feeling of being on a temporal and spatial continuum: “what I feel is without time and without space. Future time has now passed.” Sacris Pulso models with great poetic and philosophic insight how experimental cinema can challenge modes of thinking and expression inside and outside of cinema. In Vaz’s film, constructions of subjectivity reliant on birthplaces, native languages, chronologies, and personal affiliations are seen as sites of aesthetic intervention that envision alternative subjectivities predicated on acts of displacement and innovation.
Ana Vaz – Interview (Mai 2013 – dans le cadre de l’exposition Panorama 15), 2013, duration: 11’03”
Ana Vaz | Interview at Curtocircuíto 2016, 2013, duration: 11’03”