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Privileged view – notes from MITsp, Brazil

Quarantine was established in 1998 by directors Richard Gregory and Renny O’Shea with designer Simon Banham. We make original theatre, performance and public events with and about the people who are in it. Whatever form it takes, our work begins and ends with the people in the room. Over the last 20 years, we've collaborated with a shifting constellation of artists, performers and people who've never done anything like this before. Our work seeks to create the circumstances for a conversation between strangers...

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Privileged view – notes from MITsp, Brazil

Posted: 4 May 2020

Artist & producer Kate Daley introduces ‘Vista privilegiada (privileged view)’ a film she made during Quarantine’s recent residency at MITsp 2020 in São Paulo.

 

This film was made during Quarantine’s residency at the International Theatre Festival of São Paulo, MITsp 2020. From 9th February to 11th March, we were based at Centro Cultural São Paulo. The film was made in the last week we were there.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about coronavirus, but we were aware it was spreading across China and beginning to hit other countries hard. If I’m honest, it felt far away. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I didn’t.

Vista privilegiada – ‘Privileged view’ (2020) from Quarantine on Vimeo.

And now I am writing this, thinking about all the people we met during that month. The artists we worked with from 2pm – 7pm most days, the dancers we watched dancing in the courtyard (I actually had a go at the Lindy hop), all the staff at MITsp I kissed cheeks with individually in a line up, the warm hugs from near strangers, the friends of Lucas at his leap year birthday party, the snogging couples at the centre that apparently had only just met on a vegan dating app, the men playing chess and sharing sweets, the waiter that liked to bring Renny her food, the people at the Japanese karaoke bar we shared songs and drinks with, the woman on the mattress outside the centre who smiled at anyone that walked past, the security guards who spoke emphatically to me in Portuguese even though I had just told them (in Portuguese) that I am sorry but I don’t speak Portuguese, the teenage punks who sat and drank tea with us, all the vibrant Brazilians belting out songs on their way to carnival blocks wearing all sorts of outlandish costumes celebrating Mardi Gras, and the 41 people we recorded to make this film, who I needed to stand centimetres from because the lens didn’t have a great zoom. Now all of those people I stood with, feel (and obviously are) very far away.

During our residency and for the exhibition that marked its end on the weekend of 7th & 8th March, we used the centre as a frame to look at who is visible and/or invisible in São Paulo. The film – titled Vista privilegiada (privileged view) – shows the faces of 41 different people who just happened to be in the centre when we were filming.

During the exhibition, the film played in a small red cinema room on loop for just over two hours. The room was on one side of the centre’s 3rd floor gallery space. On the second presentation of the film we added a bench, so people didn’t have to stand or sit on the floor.

Next to the cinema room, there was an exhibition of people – people who use the centre and we’d met during our residency, stood along a long white wall. There was water behind the wall in case they got thirsty. People could read their exhibition cards and have conversations with the collection.

Opposite, on the other side of the gallery, an architect sketched and painted a blue print of the building on freshly painted white exhibition wall. He needed a step ladder to reach the top bits.

Next to him in another area was a smaller exhibition of people. They were asked to occupy the space by doing what they had come to the centre to do – play chess, dance, read, write. Three teenagers used the space to practice a play because it started raining outside.

Neighbouring them was another live exhibit taking the form of a one question relay interview. There were two chairs and a microphone, lit by festoon lights. Speakers were placed so the conversation could be heard in other areas of the gallery. Every so often the interview would pause, and music would play.

Next to the interview room was a collection of over 300 signs written in black paint on recycled paper. They featured short statements and observations, gathered from our time at the centre.

In between the two galleries were ramps that you could use to get to the various floors in the centre. On the ground floor was the library; on the first floor, a smaller gallery space and an area with tables and chairs to work on, leading to the café. We were on the 3rd floor; the top floor, which also had a street entrance, access to a roof garden and a statue of a women reclining.

The presentation happened between 2.30pm and 4.30pm. During this time, all the spaces were kept open to the general public. The exhibition was framed and contained by people who just happened to be in the centre while it was open.

The artists we worked with during our residency occupied the ramps and its surrounding balconies. During the 2 hours, they picked up the signs and live curated modes of walking and stopping in relation to each other to experiment with their own visibility and invisibility.

People were invited to wonder around all of the spaces. A lot of people asked each other questions in the interview room, some people had long conversations with the live exhibits, a few people took to the ramps with signs – mirroring the artists behaviour. Lots of people just watched.

By the end of the exhibition, all of the signs apart from 3 were hung from the railings on each level of the centre. They were stuck on with 3 pieces of masking tape each, to make sure they didn’t fall off. The last sign to be shown read: ‘This is not the end.’

We spent four weeks based in the Centro Cultural São Paulo and flew home from Brazil on Friday 13th March. Four days later, on the 17th March, the centre closed to the public indefinitely. It stands empty now.

The film has no sound and you see each person for around 2 minutes. Feel free to listen to your own music whilst watching or people watch in silence.

Vista privilegiada – ‘Privileged view’ (2020)

Vista privilegiada – ‘Privileged view’ (2020) from Quarantine on Vimeo.

This film was made by Quarantine ensemble member Kate Daley, with Danilo Circa de Souza & Deborah Pinto. With thanks to MITsp, the British Council, Centro Cultural São Paulo and everyone who agreed to be filmed.

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