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The Exploration of Amérika Through Ana Vaz’s...

The Exploration of Amérika Through Ana Vaz’s Art Film

Hidden from the usual effervescing streets of the Lower East Side, 67 Ludlow is located in a basement of an old Tenement building. With its doors flapped wide open, the extraordinary space invited its visitors over the weekend to witness the work of Brazilian filmmaker Ana Vaz Amérika: Bay of Arrows curated by Carla Lucini. The art film was shot in collaboration with British filmmaker Louis Henderson and turned into a conversation between both artists.

Ana Vaz-Amerika-Bay of Arrows-Art Film

Still from “Amérika: Bay of Arrows,” Ana Vaz

After ducking into the looming darkness, viewers were faced with a floating screen dividing the otherwise raw and empty space. In the semi-darkness, okra and beige colors twisted and twirled on the thin screen accompanied by the sounds of birds, running water and motors. The shapes turned into barren landscapes, radiating sunlight and dry, leafless stems of palm trees. Shot at Lago Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic, the video is a reference to the historic moment when Spanish settlers first encountered the Caribbean Taíno tribe.

Yet it is not colonialism in and of itself that interests the artist but, rather, a focus is set on bringing the topic into the present. The film becomes an anthropological and ethnographic exploration that sways the line between fact and fiction. Through her film Vaz explores the idea that this first encounter could have been the catalyst for the beginning of the Anthropocene, the geological age where human activity is the dominating influence on the climate and the environment.

“This dystopian environment speaks a mnemonic language. Alas the lake speaks as the video attempts to listen to its language in an effort to escape gravity and cardinal points in order to submerge in its environment.”

The video, sound and the displayed shells become evidence in the artist’s investigation and speculation. “One can almost hear the prophecy of Brazilian religious pilgrim and founder of the Canudos revolution, Antônio Conselheiro, “o mar vai virar sertão e o sertão via virar mar (the sea will become desert and the desert will become sea).”

Ana Vaz-Amerika-Bay of Arrows-Art Film

Still from “Amérika: Bay of Arrows,” Ana Vaz

The hypnotic effect of the video is emphasized by the swiftly shifting camera perspective, and the swirling and warped image. The camera is turned into an active participant in the exploration instead of a mere aid, allowing the viewer to live the artist’s own experience instead of becoming an onlooker to the scene. The sonic experience is what truly allows the viewer to transcend, displacing him or her out of the darkened Lower East Side basement onto the shore of the saline lake with its unruly palm trees and chirping birds. “Field recordings and audio testimonies {…} allowed me to escape the camera frame in an effort to draw a different kind of space around me, one punctuated by sonic drops {…} they seemed to begin a kind of dance in which one dictated the rhythm of the other”.

Ana Vaz-Amerika-Bay of Arrows-Art Film

Still from “Amérika: Bay of Arrows,” Ana Vaz

Ana Vaz-Amerika-Bay of Arrows-Art Film

Still from “Amérika: Bay of Arrows,” Ana Vaz

 

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Adriana Pauly is a curator and art writer with a MFA in Contemporary Art, based in New York. She specializes in artwork by emerging female artists as well as Latin American art. She has been published by Missy Magazine, Autre Magazine and is currently the Content Coordinator of Art Report.

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