Saturday, April 04, 2009

Week 1 - Sao Paulo (Brazil)

Last Day At Paralelo

After the dinner at the house of the head of the British Council here in Sao Paulo we went in search of a night club. after some group mind discussions our splinter group (the rowdy ones as someone named us) discovered a samba club playing live samba and we danced the night away. Again we returned to the hotel and some of us went to the pool and ended up in the sauna. we attempted to watch the sunrise over the skyscrapers but got too tired and in the morning realised we were facing the wrong way anyway.

The next morning was a round up of the workshop and the beginning of the goodbyes with the wonderful group of people that made up paralelo. Lots of collaborations and new ideas have been discussed and good friends made which I hope will continue in the virtual world. I hope that Paralelo can continue as a way for artists around the world to meet to discuss environmental change and the way artists approach, intervene and respond to these changes. It feels very important and a real priveledge to be part of this community and certainly given us a deeper level of understanding of what we can achieve with our work.

I am sure Matt will write about the crazy interview for a brazilian online tv channel, the impromptu visit to the cartoon house and our day with our friend (ex colleague) Capra who somehow manages to turn up wherever we go in the world - so far he has turned up in Singapore, Paris, Cambridge and came with us to San Francisco and Finland… things are always hilarious when he’s around. Him and Matt are swimming in the pool now as I type.


Days in Pictures

due to lack of sleep caused by trying to watch the sunrise over the sci-fi skyline of sao paulo and more late night swimming on the roof.. i will just upload some photos from last night, the dinner at the head of the British Council which was like a ferraro rocher advert and then samba dancing all night.

Presentations and Caiprinhas

Paralelo has been very intensive and exciting. Full of heated discussions, fascinating presentations and giving us a big leap forward with ideas for the Dark Forest.

I haven’t written for 2 days and so will try and catch up. On Sunday we were introduced to the open workshop process, it is quite basic and in some ways a bit too “free” as some things dont ever happen or get missed out, but in fact it has provided fantasic opportunities to hear about the other projects and artists work as well as discuss some key topics. I kicked off by joining the “How to Love the Future” discussion about what positive approaches artists can have for the future and how maybe it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom. The is quite a challenging view amongst people here, of accepting were we are and how the environment will be destroyed and looking towards creating “new nature”, how we live in this changed place. It is interesting and fits into the way people appropriate technology to work around changes but I am not ready to admit defeat for nature as it should be as opposed to how we have changed it and I also feel it is difficult in some ways to discuss without ecologists and I am slightly surprised about how few artists are here from a more rural background, particularly amongst the brazilian artists and think these discussions are difficult without this representation.

I wont describe too much more of the discussions as they will be documented elsewhere.

In the evening at the last minute Paulo invited us to go to a launch of the Insitituto Claro. A very strange experience. Me and Dominic went and Matt stayed for the the talks at Paralelo. I was totally under dressed and unprepared for this incredibly smart event in the new museum in the train station, a museum of the Portuguese Language. We walked in and it felt like the scene from Batman when Bruce Wayne hosts a civic event for all the rich people of Gotham City. I kept on expecting the joker to appear, although felt like maybe that was me, standing in the middle of this elegant place in jeans and flip flops. The Minister for Art, Technology and Culture and the Mayor of Sao Paulo were there. We were introduced to lots of important people (including the Minister) and by coincidence had our sensor kit with us so we tested it there and also showed people the funny prototype in a box file (as it is now). Everyone infact appeared very excited about the project and we have 2 meetings next week to present the project in more detail.

Yesterday was mainly spent preparing for our presentation in the evening in the public programme. I took part in one workshop based on the Dutch artists Edo and Luna’s ideas they call conditional design. Their work looks very beautiful and the practical activity was good fun.

The presentation went pretty well I think, although with a restriction of 8 minutes it was hard to talk about anything in any depth. Dominic did a very concise presentation about MRL’s collaborations with artists and then we presented Heartlands in terms of how we work with the academic partners and then build towards engaging public audiences.

After the presentation our exhaustion was transformed by a VJ mix by a Brazilian performer/VJ that was great and firmly put me back into the real world with some banging techno and hilarious mixes about british people celebrating climate change because it will give us a warmer climate, soft porn, pac man, a mix for cockroaches and germany in 1945, random and funny.

We went to a bar and found all the other artists there, ate a vegetable salad full of Palmitos (palm hearts…mmm) and then began a Caiprinha marathon which ended with several of us stripping to our underwear and jumping in the pool on the roof of the hotel (under the stars) and then spending a drunken hour in the sauna. Lots of networking with new people, in the best possible way and some important research into the different types of Caiprinha available… coconut, passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry and melon. Which we shared round each other to the background of samba.

Unsurprisingly, today i’ve been useless although still managed to see Esther’s performance tracking cows and cowboys, which was really nice and also we hosted a session on sensors and interpreting data which sounds dry but wasnt at all mainly because Gisella, Fillipe and Wapke were good fun and had some great ideas. And I drunk Horse Milk!!! Wapke Feenstra’s work looks at farming and villages and her family have a farm producing horse milk that is meant to be good for health, so she gave me some to drink to help my hangover. Strange, a bit like chewing on a piece of grass.

Our first day in Sao Paulo (going back a bit already) was a fantastic Sao Paulo day. It pissed down with tropical rain and so Paulo and Marina decided to take us to a restaurant for feijoada in the rain and enjoy Paulista life with food and many Caiprinhas. We sat and talked in the restaurant on the corner, opposite an empty Starbucks (supposedly it hasn’t taken on here which is good to know) it was a busy busy day. The food was amazing as I remembered, black beans, deep friend banana, manioc flour (farofa), rice, hot chilli sauce. As ever the company was great, and lovely to see Marina again.

We finished the day off (after many caiprinhas) with a drive through Sao Paulo at night, which was exciting, but such an endless city of tall buildings and small buildings and Padarias (cafes on street corners that are more like greasy caffs with lots of people sitting eating and drinking inside and out on the streets). Old men on chairs sitting on the street watching the world, graffiti, traffic jams…

By the time we got back to the hotel and found the other artists that had arrived during the day we were drunk and sleepy, meet up with Dominic (Mixed Reality Lab) and had a sleepy coffee before going to bed. despite the short time difference we are all confused by time, particularly with the onset of british summer time back home.

Next day was an easy-ish 10.30 start with a bus drive (like a school bus) to the museum of image and sound. A beautiful minimal white modern building housing screen based and interactive artworks. we began with an elegant looking brunch (no vegetarian food but im having a break from pure vegetarianism and eating fish with some difficulty) and chatting to people. some really interesting artists from brazil and holland and the uk, some uk people i have wanted to meet for a long time.

after an exercise finding out how we are all connected we returned to the small no vegetarian buffet. Marcelo arrived back from his trip with Esther, tracking cows and cowboys with gps in the centre of brazil.

Paralelo kicked off with a panel discussing environmental arts activity in brazil, quite theoretical to start but a good grounding for the context of the workshop, some interesting debates touching on the indigenous cultures of the Amazon and Mata Atlantica and some potential conflict about difference, across Europe and Brazil as well as internally. It felt quite an urban centric discussion, looking out at nature as opposed to from it. Maybe most artists are working from the cities?

The next panel was lighter but still quite intense, with artist presenting a diverse case study of work, including Koert’s theory on Next Nature, Janet Prophet’s beautiful interactive work and 2 very interesting eco artists residency and living projects in Brazil, from Flavia and Alexander. Also Rombaud’s amazing energy neutral alternative to using lifts in high rise buildings.

A semiconducter film ended the session and a long discussion about where to go for food, the guys getting very desperate to eat immediatly. We were sent off on a strange bus with curtains hiding the driver and in fact got locked in. Finally arrived at a restaurant and squeezed 20 of us in. the waiter was the most effecient calm waiter i have ever seen and managed us all and got food to us in no time, including the biggest salad i have ever seen.

a good meal. nice chance to talk to new people.

Day 1

We are here. It is hot, finally after that big cold winter we have had in the UK! It is familiar here for me as I have been before, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

The journey was long and boring. Iberia is not the best airline ive ever flown on, a bit like time travelling rather than world travelling, back to 1992. a flickering telly that i could only just see above the seat in front (and i sat on a cushion) played Australia and Happy Go lucky and the sound crackled in and out. Was happily consoled by Gin and Tonics and Matt was equally happy with his flight ritual vodka and coke. Gave us some time to think a bit clever about our work that is something we have needed to do for awhile, rethink our presentation and prepare for the coming 5 days of arts speak which feels so exciting since we have been working more and more in the “media” and games world. Nice to be able to wear our artists hats firmly on our heads and have time to reflect.

Last night we were picked up from the airport by Rodirigo, he found us (!) and also met with Orla from Probocis. The journey through to Sao Paulo was long, and Rodirigo go a little lost in the endless traffic. We seem to be in quite a cool district, not quite as posh as where I was last time, lots of bars nightclubs and also endless tall apartment buildings with secure gates and palm trees, mixed up with older Sao Paulo buildings.


The hotel room attempts to be more like a flat, with a kitchen, living room and bathroom in one, i could live here… although it is mainly a largish room STUFFED with furniture that you have to squeeze round. I am not complaining though it is luxury and I cant wait to discover the swimming pool and sauna on the roof. I love it here!

Last night we wandered down the road for food and an attempt to use our brazilian portuguese which after only 2 lessons is very shaky. The Waiter insisted on talking English, and 3 large bottles of beer later we weren’t sure what we were speaking. (Rachel)

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