Artists Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca define their collaborative practice between documentary filmmaking and art making, while engaging popular culture to raise fundamental questions about social visibility.
In the celebrated video Estás vendo coisas (You Are Seeing Things, 2016) — recently acquired by Pérez Art Museum Miami — the artists dive into the subculture of brega music in Recife, Brazil. Having emerged in the 1970s, “brega” is an informal term applied to a body of mass-oriented popular music strongly associated with the notion of “bad taste.” While it is still often regarded as a tacky genre, fusing Brazilian techno beats with lyrics composed of exaggerated declarations of love, confessions of infidelity, and delusions, it remains extremely popular. In the genre’s social and professional environment, video clips are a gateway for an aspired future bolstered by a powerful capitalist appetite for material success. With today’s easy access to technology, brega is produced and distributed via sophisticated methods, oftentimes giving visibility to disenfranchised communities in the peripheries of northeastern Brazil.
Scripted and performed by actual members of the brega scene, Estás vendo coisas documents the routines of Pork, a hairdresser and MC, and Dayana Paixão, a firefighter and singer, as they live out parallel lives. Wagner & de Burca expose viewers to a landscape in which image construction in the realm of the spectacle becomes a form of affective labor, bearing a huge impact on the creation of voice, status, and identity for a new generation of self-made musicians. In contrast to approaches that often satirize the subject by amplifying its carnivalesque aspects, this film exudes a psychological and melancholic tone, highlighting how inherited aesthetic judgements differ across social classes in developing economies.
Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca: Estás vendo coisas is organized by PAMM Assistant Curator Jennifer Inacio in the Bank of America Gallery. This exhibition is supported by Ornare. Ongoing support for PAMM’s project galleries from Knight Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.
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