press release

Brazilian-born, French-based artists Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain have worked together since the mid-90s, a partnership almost as long and prolific as theirs with the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil. The duo, whose works have been shown at the Venice Biennale (2007), São Paulo Art Biennial (2004, 2006, 2008) and Havana Biennial (2009), took care of visual identity in five previous editions of the Festival. Building on global South art production issues that the curating addresses, like identity, memory and iconography, they devised a visual concept for the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas that harks back to African alphabets and the myth of the origin of writing.

To Solange Farkas, the Festival's chief curator, Detanico and Lain breed a new creative, poetic universe through their contemporary art inquiries and productions. Underpinned by extensive research and reflections on meaning and its graphic representation, the duo's work explores the art-design connection. "They appropriate themselves of verbal language through visual propositions, creating exercises in language encoding and decoding and construction of new codes, organized into a new 'script,' in a proposal that relates to issues brought up by this Festival edition," says the Associação Cultural Videobrasil director.

After the announcement of the 19th Festival's first guest artist, Malian Abdoulaye Konaté, one of the most revered contemporary artists from Africa, the creative process began and brought together the duo's research around the proposal of new alphabets and the discovery of numerous writing systems that originated in the African continent, from ancestral alphabets and syllabaries to the latest proposals for preserving oral tradition. One of the references was the work of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (1923–2014), an Ivory Coast artist featured in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), the 30th São Paulo Art Biennial (2012) and dOCUMENTA 11 (2002). Bruly Bouabré designed an extensive pictorial syllabary to document the history of his people, transmitted orally in the Bété language. "From then on we set out researching African writing systems, which led us to other alphabets created recently for oral tradition-based languages, like Sierra Lione's Kikakui and Congo's Mandombe," Detanico and Lain say. The duo's research also includes age-old scripts created in North Africa, like the Tifinagh alphabet, employed in the writing of northern Berber languages, and Ge'ez, which has outlived the language spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Plato's dialogue Phaedrus also lays the groundwork for Detanico and Lain's research work. The Greek philosopher addresses the myth of the origin of writing and states that graphic characters were invented by the Egyptian deity Thoth, the creator of numbers, calculus, geometry and astronomy.

Working with these references, the duo designed the Tautográfica (Thothgraphics or Tautographics) typography, using graphic elements shared by the alphabets researched. Illegible at first, the reading unravels to those who put in the time to decipher it. Featuring a palette of earthy tones, with variations based on the works of other 19th Festival guest artists, the visual identity put together by the Detanico-Lain duo will unfold into signs at the exhibition spaces, publications, printed materials, the 19th Festival website and animated logo, applied by designers Carla Castilho and Lia Assumpção (Janela Estúdio) and Lila Botter (Videobrasil) and by the artist Deco Farkas.

Featuring an extensive program comprising four exhibitions, performances, film screenings, public programs, educational actions, and publication launches, the 19th Festival will take place at Sesc Pompeia and other venues across São Paulo, from October 6 to December 6, 2015.

About the artists Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain are respectively a linguist and a typographer by trade. Working together since 1996, they started out by developing ideas on writing, reading and translation, either from one medium to another or from one code to another, in an attempt to explore the boundaries of representation in time and space.

Detanico and Lain, winners of the 2004 Nam June Paik Award, participated in the Media City Seoul (South Korea, 2004) and the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale (Japan, 2006). They had recent solo exhibits at the Fundação Iberê Camargo (Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2013), curated by Solange Farkas, at the Museu Coleção Berardo (Lisbon, 2013) and at the Kyoto Art Center (Kyoto, 2013). Their work was shown recently at the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon (Lyon); at the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, Ohio); and at the Astrup Fearnley Museet (Oslo).

The duo, featured in the first Videobrasil's FF>>Dossier, combines poetry, sound and image to create both design and contemporary art pieces. Learn more about Detanico Lain in Videobrasil Collection.