Chamada From Chico Mendes: interactive digital art installation exploring climate justice and Afro-Brazilian carnival
Artist Statement about the exhibition
“Being a digital artist and having known and worked with Global Grooves for a number of years, the possibility of creating some kind of crossover piece of work seemed a natural progression. Eraldo Marques (from Global Grooves) explained that the essence of carnival in Brazil was not the final carnival itself, but the social process that led up to it, the interaction, collaboration and multiple bonds between people. Looking at carnival art I also saw a massive celebration of nature – butterflies, birds, fish, flowers – being symbolised all over the place and this chimed with my continuing work on climate justice. The story of Chico Mendes in Brazil naturally rose to the fore, in which he himself wanted to connect people across the world with similar realities and struggles.
I felt I wanted to capture the live interactivity of carnival and also create a work that connected people in some way. One obvious thing about the digital age is that it is possible to be connected to each other far more than was possible before, and I wanted to develop this – an area not really of great interest to most digital artists. “Chamada” means a call to all, and I invited people in different countries to contribute media stories and art which have become ‘modules’ within a larger composite story and artistic statement. This aims to have a strength and intensity in parallel to the original works. A key point artistically is that the video material involved is not simply ‘found’ material, but has been gathered though a dialogue with each contributor who understands and supports the project. The conversations with individuals in Somalia, Bangladesh, Australia, Uruguay, USA, Zimbabwe, Peru and so on generate a sensitivity and will hopefully suggest new possibilities for further development and collaboration, such as possibilities of visually connecting documentary realities without necessarily having to fly around the world.
I believe that art can allow a fluidity between different approaches, consciousness and communities but often doesn’t. Does it have to? Of course not. But I see most battles for a better world being lost and if we are to ‘up our game’ then art cannot simply be about beauty, fun or intellectual games any more. On the other hand, we can’t continually digest dense brain crunching information and perspectives either. So this work attempts to weave conscious documentary narrative within a musical and visual vibe, perhaps like creating a new playable instrument through which chunks of challenging portrayals of our world can be digested in a different way.
As a part of the installation project I wanted to represent the climate justice issue as a structure that talks to us and suggests how we might connect with it, maybe to humanise the structure itself. The large carnival-like face mask is like a spirit that is actually composed of our brothers and sisters facing adversity and trying to create positive change. The objects in the wooden trays each have a significant part to play in the climate issues facing us – beef from Brazil, cotton from Bangladesh, synthetic rubber from China, plastic disposable toys for Christmas crackers, designer bottled water from France and mobile phones that use the rare coltan from DR Congo. Each object is on a bed of coal, one of the fossil fuels that are leading us towards climate catastrophy, and each is also connected electronically to each other and to the global spirit. The objects gaze up at us under individual bright lights as if laboratory specimens or museum pieces, yet they are there for us to play and invoke the global spirit to dance while it continues to speak to us in multiple voices from our global kin.”
Kooj / Kuljit Chuhan, February 2015