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21 Nov 2023 


Luiz Roque in conversation with KUNSTVEREIN GARTENHAUS 

KUNSTVEREIN GARTENHAUS: We are curious to learn how did you start working as an artist and filmmaker?

Luiz Roque: My first interest in art has started through cinema, tradi4onal cinema. When I went to University in South Brazil, not to study cinema but communication, I was lucky to find a group of people who were passionate about the idea of producing films, some of them s4ll doing it like the duo Distruktur, for example, and we made a couple of Super 8 films together. I realized very soon that the field of studies I had enrolled in wasn’t for me so I started to work in the film industry focusing on advertising, short and feature films. Later I worked as an Art Director, a background that is still very important in the production of my films. Later I also decided to switch from the communication department to the Art School at the same University doing a final thesis titled Fictions in video art.”

KVG: The exhibition The Story of Origins presented at KUNSTVEREIN GARTENHAUS focuses on a series of works that take animals as main agents and protagonists.
As someone interested in the genre of nature documentaries – as a specific gaze of representation, how does this inform the exhibition’s specific body of work? Are animals a way to think about otherness through the lens of non-human agency?

LR: I remember once, when I was working as an Art Director on a film in the Midwest of Brazil I saw a giant anteater walking around our shooting location and I was impressed on how abstract their body looks, a mesmerizing and enigmatic scene. This haunting image stayed with me and it took me years to decide to do a film about an anteater (Ancestral, 2016). The idea of enigma is something that I’m always looking for when I make a film, and also in my recent ceramic production. Maybe this is why my films are short and somehow abstracts, inviting the viewer for a second or a third gaze. Most of the themes I insert no credits on screen in order to blur beginnings and ends more or less like the feeling I had when I saw the anteater, the head looked like a tail and the tail like a head, a body looping into itself. During the European invasion of the deep South America in the 17th Century there are reports about an intersex animal that could fecundate themselves with a long peak that the Spanishes thought was a penis. Indeed I love nature documentaries but only when there’s no human presence. When I portrait animals I like to think that they are the ones directing the films.

KVG: The work Urubu (2021) originally exhibited as part of the main exhibition The Milk of Dreams at latest Venice Biennale, creates a poetic parallel between the mid-flight of an Urubu, a common bird in Sao Paulo and your apartment’s confined perspective limited by the long pandemic isolation. Can you tell us more about how this work originated?

LR: Together with the entire world I was locked inside my house for a long time in 2020. Since the first film I made in 2000 using a Super8 film, it is a medium I am very attached to record my surroundings. Super8 is like my photographic camera, I always have a film cartridge in my camera and sometimes actually I film things and then extract a frame and make a photo of it. During the pandemic, the noisy city of São Paulo was so quiet that the urubus, urban birds that use to fly high in the sky, felt free to come below occupying an empty area between the downtown city’s massive buildings where I live. So, I kept observing them from my window with the camera, mapping their journey, doing attempts to catch them until we finally moved together. The first time I presented Urubu was as an installation similar to the totem I’m showing as part of The Story of Origins, a video sculpture which deals with the idea of a monument representing a specific time period. I wanted to frame this moment, its solitary gaze and sense of void as I was particularly affected with the loss of dear people very close to me.

KVG: Architecture is a great subject in your films where queer bodies and cities are often juxtaposed, unfolding new perspectives on Latin American urbanism and Modernist ideas, but also often expands across the exhibition space, as in our current show, as sculptural displays suggesting new forms of viewership. The film ZERO (2019) presents us with urgent topics, in the film, the contrast between the desert’s dust, the futuristic skyline, and the lone creature on a plane seems like a timely alert, what are your thoughts?

LR: When I moved from the south to São Paulo 15 years ago I rented an apartment at the Edificio Copan, a colossal building designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and house of more than 4000 people. Architecture and urbanism have informed my practice quite a lot and it has something to say about my migration from the cinema’s black box to the gallery’s white cube. The movie theater is designed to immobilize the body, a fact that was a bit boring for me when I started to look more at sculptures than films. I like to think of the video sculptures I do – like the two we have here in our show– as architectures, buildings. The film ZERO was made in the very beginning of 2019 just after the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil in 2018. I was so sad about the fact that more than 50 million Brazilians had voted for Bolsonaro as president that I decided to do a film with no human presence to show my disappointment through a non-human perspective. In a way ZERO talks about our societal failure, creating metabolized infrastructures that in the long run will drain permanently our resources leaving the planet as a beautiful and shiny ruin.