Nineteen Century Portraits Animation: Thinking about Photograph Using Photograph
Museu Paulista is a History Museum belonging to Satilde;o Paulo University. Built as a memorial for national Independence, it became a Natural History Museum in 1895. From 1917 on, new exhibitions and collections related to Brazilian History gained progressively relevance. Nowadays, Museu Paulista keeps 25.000 objects, 700 meters of textual documentation and around 50.000 images.
The video was the first stage of the project Visual Culture involving also exhibitions and seminars. The project aims to articulate historical issues and Fine Art languages within a museum context. Starting from a common motivation - a critical reflection on the image's discourse and its social use - we believe that historians and artist could share a mutually enriching experience. The video is an animation made with more than a thousand portraits produced between 1862-1885 by a Brazilian photographer. Gender, age, poses and studio props were organised in a sequence, which generated the animation. In the animation the individual features were subordinate to the rhetoric of the body. The video focuses on issues connected with identity, the bourgeois domestic space construction and body behaviour in the urban context. Gender, economic and racial differences are highlighted, as well as the limits between public staged and plausibility.
One of the main difficulties was the lack of money. The video production costed around US$ 10.000,00. The team involved in the production grouped two historians, one fine artist, three database experts and two trainees. Espaccedil;o Digital, a post-production enterprise, supported us with its technical team and digital production equipment. As the use of this specialised equipment is very expensive, and clients normally pay by time of use, we could only work on the video in the unfilled time, turning our schedule into chaos.
Our social and professional philosophy is to work the academic knowledge using the same visual resources of the documentation in focus. Doing this we expect changes not only in the quality of the knowledge produced but also in the efficiency of the communication with visitors in the museum environment. Such philosophy is based on a concept of curatorship that articulates technical, educational and cultural activities with research. Generally saying, we try to overcome the restraint generated by the harmful divisions between documentation, academic and artistic works.
Among documentaries, our project is different from others due to the language adopted to treat historical visual issues. To discuss the 19th Century's visual culture we used less traditional narrative construction such as photographic juxtaposition. We opted for the use of very short subtitles. And, finally, we adopted conceptual sound track that stresses the scenographic changes in the studio photographs, when the majority of documentaries insist on the use of generic or eacute;poque sound track. Our goal was to make the visual narrative easily understandable and, at the same time, move away from the typical approach that associates historical photographs with things like nostalgia, naiveness and temporality.
The video was the first step toward another product, that is, an artistic installation in the same concepts would be developed in an interactive way. The museum visitor would be able to make his own photographic selection. This interactive process will allow the visitor to have a curator's experience of arranging visual documents from a wide image universe. He will also have the possibility of learning about the connections between the classifying and understanding processes.
Looking at our project we can define professional excellence as a good interaction between creativity, conceptualisation and technical approach. This interaction being a condition that replaces with advantage big budgets and the abuse of the digital effects.
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