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The Embodied Vision

Performance for the camera

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Vito Acconci

Centers, 1971, b/w, sound, 22’ 28’’                    

Courtesy by Electronic Arts Intermix

In Centers, Acconci faces the camera, his head and arm in close-up as he points straight ahead at his own image on the video monitor, attempting to keep his finger focused on the exact center of the screen. In pointing at the image of himself, Acconci is also pointing directly at the viewer — an action that is paradigmatic of the psychological dynamic of Acconci's work in video. As the tape proceeds in real time, the only changes in the performance action are slight adjustments in the position of his finger as his endurance falters. Acconci has written, "The result (the TV image) turns the activity around: a pointing away from myself, at an outside viewer — I end up widening my focus onto passing viewers (I'm looking straight out by looking straight in)." (EAI)


Anthony Ramos

Balloon Nose Blow-Up, 1972, b/w, sound, 11’ 18’’

Courtesy by Electronic Arts Intermix

With a striking economy of means, Ramos enacts a close-up performance action: he blows up a balloon with his nostril until it bursts in his face. He then repeats the action with his other nostril. Alternating nostrils, he continues to blow up the balloon until it bursts. With each iteration his exhaustion visibly increases; he gasps for breath, almost to the point of passing out.  (EAI)


Joan Jonas

Left Side Right Side, 1972, b/w, sound, 8’ 50’’

Courtesy by Electronic Arts Intermix

In this early work, Jonas translates her performance strategies to video, applying the inherent properties of the medium to her investigations of the self and the body. Jonas performs in a direct, one-on-one confrontation with the viewer, using the immediacy and intimacy of video as conceptual constructs. Exploring video as both a mirror and a masking device, and using her body as an art object, she undertakes an examination of self and identity, subjectivity and objectivity. Creating a series of inversions, she splits her image, splits the video screen, and splits her identification within the video space, playing with the spatial ambiguity of non-reversed images (video) and reversed images (mirrors). Though Jonas' approach is formalist and reductive, her performance reveals an ironic theatricality. (EAI)

Gary Hill

Solstice d'hiver, 1993, video, color, sound

Courtesy by Galeria IN SITU - Paris/Fabienne Leclerc and the artist

 Solstice d'hiver (Winter Solstice) was commissioned by the French television network La Sept for a series entitled "live," an international project in which a number of artists were asked to produce one-hour works using camcorders. Their challenge was to create works in real time, without editing. In response, Hill created a piece about observation, turning an "objective" camera onto his quotidian life and immediate environment. Shot entirely within a domestic interior, Hill documents in real time the objects, spaces, and gestures of the everyday. Despite the intrusion of the camera into this private sphere, Hill's focus is on absence and solitude — the tape unfolds without language or interaction. Ultimately, Hill's durational narrative uses the acts of recording and viewing to describe a metaphorical interior space. Music: Alvin Lucier, "I am Sitting in a Room." (EAI)



Julião Sarmento

Parasite, 2003, video, b/w, sound, 13’ 51’’

Courtesy Galeria Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art and the artist

A camera, in black and white, captures a woman in the artist’s studio. Music begins to play, corresponding to Prokoviev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and the woman starts to take off her clothes. Her well-rehearsed and controlled movements seem to accompany the music’s power, as she wanders through the space. Sometimes she looks at the camera, sometimes she looks away, as a challenge to the viewer. After unbuttoning her blouse and bending her head, her hair defies the force of gravity, and that is when we realize that the exercise of taking her clothes off corresponds to the reverse process, as the woman is putting her clothes on and the artist is showing us it from back to front. Our awareness of this is disturbing: the illicit feeling of watching the woman undressing becomes the frustrating exercise of the opposite, as she is getting dressed.


Carolee Schneemann

Up to and Including her limits, 1976, video, color, sound, 29’

Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix 

Up To and Including Her Limits extends the principles of Jackson Pollock's action painting. Schneemann is suspended from a rope harness, naked and drawing; her moving body becomes a measure of concentration, the sustained and variable movements of her extended drawing hand creates a dense web of strokes and marking. This video captures the concentration and raw intensity of Schneemann's presence and use of her own body. The piece was edited by Schneemann in 1984 from video footage of six performances: the Berkeley Museum, 1974; London Filmmaker's Cooperative, 1974; Artists Space, NY, 1974; Anthology Film Archives, NY, 1974; The Kitchen, NY, 1976; and the Studio Galerie, Berlin, 1976. (EAI)


Jemima Stehli

Photo Performance nº 30, with Larry Bell sculpture and artist Lewis Amar, 2005, video, color, sound, 41´

Courtesy Fundação de Arte Moderna e Contemporânea – Museu Colecção Berardo

In Photo Performance # 30, with Larry Bell sculpture and artist Lewis Amar, 2005, recorded in video and photography, the artist conceives a set of actions and movements together with Lewis Amar, in a dialogue with a sculpture by Larry Bell, Untitled (horizontal gradient), 1995. In a complicated "negotiation" of responsibilities, Stehli instructed Amar to place her in position for the photograph that she will shoot herself with release cable that she holds in her mouth. The physical dialogues that the artist establishes with the sculpture and the space distend and densify her conceptual proposals. The relationship between subject and object, between activity and passivity, vulnerability and power, that characterize the work of Jemima Stehli places the figure of the voyeur (ourselves) in the center of the equation.


Marina Abramović

Dragon Head 6, 1989, video(DVD, NTSC), color, silent, 29' 57''

Courtesy Julião Sarmento Private Colection and the artist

The performances that belong to the 'Dragon Heads' series were the first that Marina Abramovic carried out after her separation from Ulay at the end of the famous 'The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk', in which the two artists walked from two ends of the Great Wall of China to say good-bye in the middle. In fact, the series actually consists of the same performance that is done several times at various locations between 1990 and 1994, with only small variations. In all versions, Abramovic sits motionless with a snake slithering around her body. According to Abramovic, the starting point for this work was the following observation: 'Snakes can follow the energy of the planet, wherever you put them.' Thus, the snakes in the performances would actually never go into th…e audience because they do not slither over ice, which surrounded Abramovic and the snakes. The snakes were to follow the lines of warmth and energy on Abramovic's head and body. The seven channels of Abramovic's installation 'Dragon Heads' from 1990, which are based on studio re-enactments of the events, are all similar in that she wears a crown of large snakes in each of them. Each monitor shows a close up of Abramovic, who is almost expressionless as snakes slowly slither around her face and neck. The same sequence repeats a few times by means of dissolve. In the soundtrack of 'Dragon Head No.2', Abramovic's voice-over hypnotically repeats 'follow my skin, follow my energies, follow the earth's skin, follow the crystal's skin... the heat of my skin, deep in the centre of my being...'. In 'Dragon Head No.4', the contraction of the snakes' muscles can be easily noticed as Abramovic's face is pushed and distorted by the movements of the snake. Her lip is pulled and the snake finds its way winding around her neck giving a sense of impending suffocation. As the work clearly refers to the Medusa-theme as well to the mythological symbolism attached to the Great Wall of China, snakes in general are a recurring motif in Abramovic's work. In the performance 'Three' (1978), Abramovic and Ulay lay down on the floor, emitting sounds from a bottle to attract free roaming snakes to approach them. The imminent danger that emanates from snakes is what seems to motivate part of Abramovic's fascination with these animals, placing the work in the context of earlier performances that play on the fear of the participants. 'Dragon Head No.1', 'Dragon Head No.2' and 'Dragon Head No.4' are also part of the 16-channel installation 'Video Portrait Gallery' (Abramovic 1975-2002).



João Onofre

Untitled, 1999, video (SDV), color, sound, 3’’

Courtesy MACE - António Cachola Private Colection

Two Performers execute a 180º turn in the air and fall on their back.


João Onofre

Untitled (We will never be boring), 1997, video (SDV), color, s/sound, 60’

Courtesy MACE - António Cachola Private Colection

Two performers formally dressed walk, facing each other, in separate, for the duration of a video tape - one hour.


Bruce Nauman

Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk), 1968, video, b/w, sound, 60’

Courtesy  Electronic Arts Intermix

A fixed camera turned on its side records Nauman repeating for nearly an hour a laborious sequence of body movements inspired by passages in works by Samuel Beckett that describe similarly repetitive and meaningless activities. Hands clasped behind his back, he kicks one leg up at a right angle to his body, pivots forty-five degrees, falls forward hard with a thumping noise, extends the rear leg again at a right angle behind, and begins the sequence again. As in many of his fixed-camera film and video works, parts of Nauman's body disappear from the frame as he moves close to the camera; occasionally, he walks off-screen completely while the sound of his footsteps continues on the sound tracks.  (EAI)

Ana Pérez-Quiroga

Inventário - Diário #1 Phales, 2009, video, color, sound, 3'

Cortesia Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea

Inventory-Diary # 1 To fall to one's knees, 2009, starts of with a fascination I've always had of going down a pole in of the fire department. This piece is part of a set-Inventory of daily-works that refer to issues that particularly interest me and that are somehow materialized in small ad hoc interventions. It interested me on the other hand, to explore the culture where classic Greeks not only put the Phallus in the center of the world (Delphi), but also thought the world of men and women (cf. Comedy) revolved around the divine symbol of virility and fertility (Phales). (APQ)


Gary Hill

Mediations (towards a remake of Soundings), 1979/86, video (U-matic/DVD, color, sound, 4’ 17’’

Courtesy Galeria IN SITU - Paris/Fabienne Leclerc and the artist

“The beginning of a remake of an earlier work [Soundings, 1979] in which I wanted to extend the reflexivity of each text in relation to the interaction between different physical substances—in this case, sand—and the speaker cone. A loudspeaker fills the screen and I begin to speak, referring to the speaker itself. This is followed by more declarations of what I am doing, ‘…a hand enters the picture….’ A hand filled with sand enters the picture and slowly releases it into the loudspeaker’s cone. Every nuance of speech vibrates the speaker’s cone (or membrane), bouncing the grains of sand into the air. The more I speak about what is happening, the more it changes—or feeds back into—the movement and patterns of the sand. At times the grain of the voice seemingly merges with what is experienced as ‘sand.’ The hand allows more and more sand to trickle onto the loudspeaker until the cone is no longer visible. The timbre of the voice crackles and is radically muffled. When the speaker is completely buried, the voice sounds distant but remarkably clear.” (Gary Hill)

Nuno Sousa Vieira

Razão nº1, 2011, Table structure in beech wood, MDF cover painted in acrylic, glass, first book reason of Simala Plastics Factory, photocopies on A4 paper, 140x200x150 cm, video transferred to DVD, color and sound 8'10'', inkjet print on cotton paper 20x16, 6 cm.

Courtesy Graça Brandão Gallery and the artist

Razão nº1 is a work that is only completed when it contains two other works (1960-2011) and (2001 -). The photographic piece (2001-) is a work that documents the other side of the result of the action of walling off the main door of my studio. The piece (1960-2011) is a video that documents the action of the walling. In the editing process of the video, whenever the worker enters the scene and whenever its presence in the execution of the work is picked up by the image field, the video is cutted, resulting in an underlining of the action and of the making through the result, dispensing the actual doing. In short, (1960-2011) critically operates in a society that values ​​the already accomplished thing in detriment of the making and the doing. (NSV)


Nuno Sousa Vieira

Sight without Eyesight, 2008, video (DVD), color, silent, 32’02’’

Courtesy Galeria Graça Brandão and the artist

Sight without eyesight is a video that results from the remaking of a piece of sculpture in the place which was occupied previously by the raw material that constitutes itself - the main entrance door of my studio. In the summer of 2008 due to a process of legalizing the former premises of the Simala Plastics Factory, the front door had to be removed and replaced by another that obeyed the new security rules, having to open to the outside in the case of an incident, in a way that could facilitate the exiting of the factory workers. It is noteworthy that since 1999 this structure was dismantled and at that date I was its single user. The door, in perfect conditions and functionality has been replaced by another, and left behind to its becoming. What I did was an intervention that produced a new door opening and turned it into an object that emphasizes its aesthetic qualities in detriment of its functional ones, which, in any case, are still present. This object was replaced temporarily in its original place, the door was closed and I left hurriedly, not through the door, but through the gap that my intervention had produced in it. The video Sight without eyesight was filmed by two cameras, resulting from the juxtaposition of these two recordings, one from the front and one from the back, facing the same plane, which in addition to a movement towards and away from myself, produced also a total and global vision, without the presence of something that predicted, with its mass, the erasing of something else. (NSV)


João Tabarra

O encantador de serpentes, 2007,vídeo (HD), color, silent, 5’ 10’’

Courtesy António Cachola Private Colection and the artist, on loan at MNAC-MC

The Snake Charmer (2007) is a video work by João Tabarra that exposes the difficulty of a man (character?) in a construction site in the suburbs to control a huge hose due to the impetuosity of the outflow of water. This object/entity urges to be enchanted, or at least to try and snatch boldly and by surprise, in a setting where drama and comedy intersect in the manner of Buster Keaton.


João Tabarra

Pose/Maquillage/Pose 2, 2004, video, color, silent, 8’ 55’’

Courtesy by the artist

When in 2003 the U.S. President George W. Bush is preparing to declare war on Iraq in a television channel, the cameras capture the moments preceding its entry "on stage", being unveiled to the viewer the construction process of the "character": the makeup process, the study of the pose, the instants of relaxation. João Tabarra’s shoots (by appropriating himself of) these images directly from the TV screen, expanding the game and the perceptive distances while reflecting on a notion of "performance for the camera”.


João Onofre

Untitled (Masked tap dancer), 2005, video (SDV), color, sound, 11’ 53’’

Courtesy António Cachola Private Collection, on loan at MNAC-MC 

A Tap-Dancer commutes between a bus and the subway in the heart of Lisbon, wearing a zombie mask, tap-dancing all the way.


Bruno Pacheco

Self-portrait smoking a cigar without the aid of the hands, 2002, video, color, silent, 15’40’’

Courtesy António Cachola Private Collection, on loan at MNAC-MC

This work belongs to a series of videos that parody the genre of self-portrait, exploring the existential condition of the artist. They present themselves normally as videos without great special effects or spectacular tricks, stripped of psychology, in which the artist performs senseless or even bizarre acts. Self -Portrait Smoking a Cigar Without the Aid of the Hands shows a close-up with a medium to long duration shot. We see the artist as he smokes a cigar without the aid of the hands and, during the course of the play, he thus changes his facial expressions. The cliché of the self-assured artist, enjoying the pleasures of life, is gradually destroyed by the apparent effort (and tears) of smoking an entire cigar for more than fifteen minutes. The title of this work, and its interpretive "emptiness" (as well as other video works in the same logic), is part of a deconstruction of the notion of the self-portrait.


Mónica de Miranda

Biting nations, 2006, vídeo (HD), color, sound, 23’ 25’’

Courtesy Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea

This video was produced in collaboration with Luna Montenegro, Lisa Bradley and Arantxa Johnson and questions the rigidity of national identities, investigating the multiple notions of geographical belonging. Through a performance, the artist gnaws false nails painted with the colors of various flags with which she feels culturally or personally related, creating an unsettling feeling in the viewer. It questions how the identities of the diaspora can be defined through various nations and between distant cultures. This work also adresses the impact of emigration on creating a concept of cultural hybridity. Through this contemporary process of cultural hybridization, the old certainties and hierarchies of national identity are eroded and questioned in a world where boundaries dissolve and break continuities. (M.M)


Merce Cunningham (with Charles Atlas)

Merce by Merce by Paik: Part One: Blue Studio, 1975-76, video, color, sound, 15’38’’

Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix                   

Blue Studio: Five Segments is a groundbreaking work of videodance by postmodern master Merce Cunningham and his then filmmaker-in-residence, Charles Atlas. In a series of short pieces choreographed and performed specifically for video space, Cunningham is multiplied, overlaid and transported from the studio to a series of unexpected landscapes. Cunningham's gestural dance is manipulated to the accompaniment of a disjunctive audio collage that includes the voices of John Cage and Jasper Johns. (EAI)


Johanna Billing

I´m lost without your rhythm, 2009, video (DVD), color, sound, 13´29´´

Courtesy by the artist

I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm is based around the recording of a live choreography workshop involving amateur Romanian dancers and acting students at the Periferic 8 Biennial of Contemporary Art in Iasi, Romania in 2008. Led by renowned Swedish choreographer Anna Vnuk, with whom Billing last worked over a decade ago, there is no final performance as such: the resulting video weaves several days’ activity into a continuous process of live improvisation between choreographer, dancers and local musicians, watched by an audience who were free to come and go. The project was an attempt to explore, along with the participating individuals and the audience, what contemporary choreography can be, or means today, especially in the cultural context of the small city of Iasi where there are few opportunities to enter the field of contemporary dance. With a nod to choreographers like Yvonne Rainer's explorations of everyday movement, Billing investigates the sense of having a body and how we perform our being. Paying tender attention to small details, Billing focuses the mind on the social body - the body among others, the body aware of itself.  The work’s soundtrack is a combination of improvised live music performed at the event in Iasi, and a specially recorded interpretation of the song ‘My Heart’ (originally written and performed by the Swedish drum and vocal duo ‘Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ in 2009). The song is perhaps a tribute to a beating heart, but in this new context of a post-totalitarian country struggling to find new ways of relating the individual and society, it's also an ambiguous plaint for the lost rhythms of a disappeared social order. It's all more optimistic than it may sound, though - Billing treats her subjects with an unreserved warmth and tenderness; she's interested in performance as an experience and the potential it holds for exchange and learning, not as a crafted perfection. The final video was created through a lengthy post-production editing process, in which the dancers’ movements, the activities taking place around them, and the rhythm of the music are reconstructed into a new choreography – perhaps closer to the everyday struggles and surrounding obstacles than might first be imagined – including climbing over institutional structures and running through hierarchical corridors.


Johanna Billing

Graduate Show, 1999, video (Beta/DVD), color, sound, 3´20´´

Courtesy by the artist

For her graduation project Billing invited her graduating fellow students from the various disciplines at Konstfack University, College of arts, crafts and Design, to take dance lessons during the spring of 1999 together with the choreographer Anna Vnuk. In the final film that deals with learning and becoming, the pedagogical aura of the art school is pitched against the more rapaciously aspirant desire of the talent show. We see the students run down corridors and staircases from their respective department to reach the school’s auditorium to perform a rehearsed and concentrated show dance routine to the soundtrack by ESG’s track Moody (1981).

A film by Johanna Billing, Co-directed by Henry Moore Selder, Cinematography by Manne Lindwall, Choreography by Anna Vnuk, Performed by graduate students at Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design 1999.


Vera Mantero

Curso de Silêncio (with Miguel Gonçalves Mendes) Vera Mantero version, 2007, vídeo (DVD), color, sound, 45’

Courtesy O Rumo do Fumo and the artist

Vera Mantero and Miguel Gonçalves Mendes were invited by the Temps d'Images Festival in co-production with Circular - Performing Arts Festival, to present a joint creation in which they crossed their areas of artistic creation - dance and cinema. From this invitation comes Curso de Silêncio (Course of Silence), two films (the editing of each of the films corresponds to the personal vision of each artist) based on an imagistic universe of Maria Gabriela Llansol. For the construction of the script for these films the artists departed from different books and interviews to by the author that allowed not only to address her work in a diagonal way but also to work one of the central ideas of Llansol, the so called "blaze scenes", nuclear images in which the temporality or spatiality are non-existing and whose "chaining" follows a design that escapes the reader (we should say spectator), thereby precluding their classification. (O Rumo do Fumo)


Ana Rito

Poème-acte, 2012-2013, 8mm film transferred to vídeo (DVD, PAL), b/w, silent, 2´

Courtesy  António Cachola Private Colection 

In Poème - acte, gestures are now "repositories" of two bodies in transit, that in their wanderings, bring the poem to life. The performativity inherent in the texts of Maria Gabriela Llansol places this author in the central axis of a project that started from the written word and its bodily and sensory translation. Despite the possibility of identifying some traditional elements of narrative, her works are presented as a series of small chains of thoughts, made ​​visible here in this piece. The "pilgrims of the text", guest figures and a vibrant unknown place and suspended by their own passions, emotions and silences, appear in this film as "makers of poems" in a continuous circular gesture, where blank pages (spaces left empty) populate an extensive sandy beach, effecting on the verge of their (dis)appearance, and the waves of the sea as a constant challenge.


Ana Rito

AKTION, 2010, 8mm film transferred to video (DVD, PAL), b/w, silent, 2´55´’

Courtesy António Cachola Private Collection, on loan at MNAC-MC

Aktion, emerges as a kind of archival footage that confronts the viewer with a continuous action, no climax. We watch a recording of a performance that brings into the scene two bodies experiencing their own convulsions and contractures.


Gary Hill

Goats and sheep, 1995/2001, video (DVD), b/w, sound, 11’ 50’’

Courtesy Galerie IN SITU - Paris/Fabienne Leclerc and the artist

Goats and Sheep was created for the limited edition version of Gary Hill: Around & About: a Performative View (Paris: Éditions du Regard, 2001), edition of 100 plus 20 artist’s proofs. Goats and Sheep uses the source material of the installation Withershins, 1995, consisting of two simultaneous views of a person signing:  the hands and arms are framed in one, and the back of the head and top of the shoulders in the other.  This latter view catches the hands when they refer to the head during signing. For Goats and Sheep, Hill changed the color image into black-and-white, re-recorded his own voice and “re-synchronized” it to the original signing. 


Vasco Araújo

Far de Donna, 2005, video, color, sound, 10’45’’

Courtesy  António Cachola Private Collection, on loan at MNAC_MC

Far de Donna, Playing as a woman, is based in the story of a boy that discovers its counter-tenor’s voice (castrati) in the same day that his mother loses hers. The piece is then about the idea of the edipian relationships between mother and son, that in most of the times no one really dies but something is affected in the internal being of each one.

Text: Maria da Graça Queiros

Characters: Pedro Cardoso, Lúcia Lemos, Alexandra Torrens.


Julião Sarmento

Faces, 1976, 8mm film transferred to video (DVD), color, silent, 44' 22''

Courtesy Galeria Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art and the artist

Julião Sarmento’s films from the seventies are strongly influenced by the formal structure of the early films of Andy Warhol. The film Faces adds very important formal aspects present in two of the most important early works by Warhol: Blowjob and Kiss (both from 1963). In the beginning of the film we see the heads of the two models framed in the bottom of the screen, with their hair tousled and somehow mixing continuously, moving smoothly as it touches their faces, beyond the frame of the shot (at least so we assume). The film alternates from a framework of the women's hair to a framework of their mouth, nose and chin while kissing, revealing the alleged act that was unable to be glimpsed earlier. Next, a long kiss occupies almost the entire duration of the film sequence shot until the lipstick is smeared by the two women, smudging them around the chin and cheekbones. The impassivity of the fixed plan and its structure shows Faces as a work that investigates a certain detachment of the one who looks (gazes) but also an almost pornographic approach to skin and touch. The extreme close-up evokes a fragmented "objectification" of the body and its sensual and almost tactile surface. The element that can be seen as more important in this moment may be the tongue of the two characters. Symbolizing interconnected concepts of communication, language and speech, the tongue emerges here as a constituent with life within itself, that investigates the skin of the other and that travels through the body of the other as if it were a snake.