24 Sep


Artist Visit to FILE 2015, Sao Paulo, Brazil

FLOW: BIG WATERS, an on-going video installation of Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas is based on research carried out during July 2014 when invited to the Everglades National Park by AIRIE – Artists in Residence in Everglades and the US National Park Service.

Our video program FLOW: BIG WATERS was presented, under the Media Arts Category, FILE 2015, June 16 – August 16, 2015.


In July, I had the occasion to visit São Paulo, Brazil with Daniel Dugas. We flew there to see our video program FLOW: BIG WATERS in the context of the FILE 2015 Festival.

It was whirlwind trip. The itinerary included flying into Sao Paulo July 24 – 25; being there on the ground for July 26, 27, 28, and flying back out on July 29 – 30.

During those intense few days, Daniel and I concentrated our time between visiting the exhibition to become familiar with the works in this extensive international exhibit and, investigating culture in the very central area of Sao Paulo where we were based. The FILE 2015 attendants were friendly and well informed of the various instances of electronic art presented. On the level of spoken language, we worked between English, French and Portuguese.

On the recommendation of FILE organizers, we stayed at the Hotel Feller, just two blocks from the Cultural Center FIESP Ruth Cardosa. It is important to note that FIESP (Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo) houses, finances and culturally supports the Center. This was the first time that Daniel and I visited a country that neither of us spoke the official language. Before leaving home, we prepared ourselves for encounters in Portuguese by carrying a list of phrases in our notebooks and consulting Google translate. At one point when we visited the gallery shop in the Ruth Cardosa, the attendant stepped over to her computer to quickly consult the translation software. Surprisingly, the reliability of the translation software worked its magic. Greatly improved since its debut, it became a key point of reference for me in Sao Paulo communication.

The information package sent by the FILE organizers was very detailed. In addition to maps, demographic information, exchange rates, there was a complicated list of fashion warnings including no cargo pants, no colorful t-shirts, and no shorts in public for men. Most of the warnings were intended to advise against appearing to be a tourist. In the actual experience of visiting Sao Paulo, I found that some of the warnings had gone out of fashion. Surprisingly, some had not. In Sao Paulo there were always crowds moving through the streets. I saw only a few persons taking photographs and was reminded of the warnings about being low-key with cameras. More surprising, and almost shocking was that sunglasses and hats – personal protection from the sun were not in fashion.

Driving in and out of Sao Paulo along the cement lined water canals; you can easily see the sad reality of clean water shortages is at crisis levels.

As a pluridisciplinary artist, I have long recognized that sources of information, encounters with people and cultural observations impact both my practice and career. Basically, circumstances are not isolated but connected in the net of culture that we live within. While paying attention and taking notes, subject matter presents itself everywhere. A photo, a note, or a scrap of video sometimes comes back to haunt.  It comes together when another piece of the puzzle presents itself and I am able to create a work that incorporates all of the elements.

It seems that seeing Schindler’s list in Portuguese on television in Sao Paulo could circle back to me in another phase of creation.


26 July, 2015

Waking here
after the sleep of jet lag,
I could still be within a dream.

I don’t know where I am.
Of course,
I know that this is Sao Paolo,
this is Brazil,
the grand Avenida Paulista.
And I am walking to the Centro Cultural FIESP – Ruth Cardosa,
named for the anthropologist and philosopher.
Among the magazines and newspapers, news stands feature volumes on the work of philosophers and I wonder if she is the reason for this unusually civil public display.

To live in a region in my own country
and to visit the world,
is like a dream of immersion into another culture.

This visit to Sao Paulo is so short that only my tools,
notes, photos and videos,
prove to me that I am,
and was,
In a few days I will have to say,
I was there there once.

26 July, 2015

But where I am in my own geo-points
I cannot say.
This is a whole other universe that I have landed inside of.
South of the equator,
I find myself in a winter,
not unlike early fall,
or late summer,
in the land from which I have flown.

Today is Sunday
26 July, 2015

and people are more relaxed on the street.
I step inside the concert hall to understand the language of music,
one of those languages
we have known
from a very young age,
from the instant of memory arriving.

I am reminded of a music class.
The teacher told us that the composer had decided,
to inject a loud and lively section,
into the composition.
It was intended to jar the audience out of,
after-dinner slumber.
It was considered shocking in its time.

That shock,
or spice,
changed the shape of chamber music,
way back in the 18th century.

And today, maybe it is the sound of some audience members breathing heavily, or even snoring that has prompted this memory.

As someone drifts off to permit the music to enter her / his subconscious,
and the memory of dreams,
I hear that heavy breathing,
a snore or two.

But I half believe that,
some of the
measured breathing
could be coming from the direction of the cellist,
in the delivery of music and life notations,
from the life of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

And then I know where I am.

I am the grain of sand falling in an hour glass,
an instant of scanning,
in a world of crystalline formations,
floating downward,
on the way to the end,
of counting this instant of time.

Monday Fashion
July 27, 2015

I pass Renner Department Store on the Avenida Paulista and I hear the enthusiastic voices of the sales staff revving up within the morning pep talk before opening.
Moments later, the store entrance is ripped open to reveal the staff in a final rally before heading out to their stations.
I am reminded of being in a mall when Walmart first opened in Canada.
What sounded like fascists preparing to mount a holocaust
has turned out to be only the rallying call of fashionistas,
working in retail.

Languages and Interpretation
July 28, 2015

Before leaving for the trip, I was too busy to learn a lot of key words and phrases of Portuguese so now I am cramming.
The challenge for my sleep-deprived brain is hit and miss.
Sometimes the word is there and more often the wrong word comes out.
Luckily, Obrigada – thank you from the feminine perspective,
emerges when all else fails.
And then there is the famous motion miming to demonstrate a need.
Charades on the fly in a foreign country.

Journey’s End
July 29, 2015

As the taxi drives us back through the neighboring cities,
I notice that the graffiti is up very high,
too high to be written from the roof of buildings.
The author would have had to dangle on a rope,
or, to paint from the ground,
it would have required a mechanism for spraying to be mounted on a pole.
In either case, these graffittis could not have been quickly,
nor secretly applied.

Evidence of yet another Brazil mystery left unanswered in this visit.
On the drive in and out,
the view from the taxi window was,
of the mass of cities that have grown to entangle each other.
By comparison with a 70’s postcard image, we could see that the water level
in the cement canal of an ancient river was dangerously low.
The videos for FLOW: BIG WATERS, are rooted in research carried out in the Florida Everglades, another area experiencing crises of water shortages.

In Sao Paulo, when the noon air raid siren demands that all work stops for lunch, bottled water is waiting to support the pause.



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About Valerie LeBlanc

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, pluri-­disciplinary artist and writer Valerie LeBlanc has worked in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Her creations travel between poetry, performance, visual and written theory. Valerie LeBlanc has been creating video poetry since the mid 1980’s, and is the creator of the MediaPackBoard (MPB), portable screening / performance device.

L’artiste pluridisciplinaire Valerie LeBlanc est vidéaste, poète, performeuse et essayiste. Son travail oscille entre le remarquable et le quotidien. Elle a exposé ses œuvres en Europe, en Australie et au Brésil. Elle crée des vidéopoèmes depuis le milieu des années 1980 et a inventé le MediaPackBoard (MPB), un appareil de projection mobile pour la performance.

Date : April 2020
Genre : Vidéopoésie/Videopoetry

Videopoetry / Vidéopoésie

Small Walker Press

Date : January 2021
Genre : Poetry