Contours of Belief / Contornos da Crença
five channel painting-in-motion video animation installation
live audio design / performance by Juninho Costa aka Junix_11

co-produced by Andrea May (curator) and Ana Paula Bringel (researcher)
technical director: Erica Telles
gear and support: Mzad Eventos (Kithi Oliveira + Edvaldo Passos)

2:40 min cycle (wall) + 40 second cycle (tarp), dimensions variable, 2014.
presented 30 April 2014 Espaço Quadrilatero, Estado da Bahia Biblioteca @ Barris
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

presented courtesy of a 2013 Audiovisual Grant from SECULT
Secretary of Culture, Bahia, Brazil.

Video documentation taken in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil 30 April 2014.

rt: 4:35 minutes

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contours of belief / contornos da crença: vimeo

Contours of Belief -- a multi-channel painting-in-motion animation -- explores "spiritualized structuralism" in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil using video projections upon multiple architectural facades, in sync and in-the-round. In this project, action painting and geometric marks innovatively traverse between/across structures as live (non-melodic) audio bounces between surfaces. Contours of Belief spotlights spiritual origins driving viewers' orientation within the location itself while also sparking fresh perceptions about that ideology in the viewers both individually and within a larger group by turning the site into a third place -- an imaginative space of painting, looped but in a continuous flux.

In Salvador da Bahia, Candomblé spirituality -- a syncretic mix of Yoruban and Catholic religions developed by African slaves to secretly maintain their beliefs under their European masters -- is greatly influential upon urban planning. Belief shapes physical reality in Bahia, but its action is virtually invisible. Specific quirks -- obvious to Bahians but alien to visitors -- taken for granted by locals actually spark inventive navigation and discovery-based orienteering in a city largely undefined by maps. This creation through resistance is the content I aimed to illuminate in Contours of Belief.

For instance, when walking around Salvador's Fort Campo Grande one notices traffic street and sidewalk contours carved up and around (sometimes almost into) the old Portuguese fort, creating an idiosyncratic outline form. No park squares-off the fort as in other western cities and Portuguese settlements (eg, Goa, India). Acarajé, a popular street food in Candomblé as ritualized meals for orixás (Afro-Brazilian spirits who are intermediaries between man and God), is prepared and sold by Baianas as a spiritual practice. Traffic is more likely to be re-routed around a popular seller of acarajé, and not vice versa - after all, why should the acarajé seller and her superior product be moved when everyone knows where she is and where to get it?

Surprises of all kinds like these run rampant in Salvador da Bahia, a contemporary metropolis which defines itself by allowing a dialectical conversation between experience and demarcation, a balance few Western cities maintain in the age of the Internet. While large scale urban projections using video mapping to illustrate aims of architecture have become commonplace, spiritualities (in this case, a Hegelian sense of common consciousness conflated with a syncretic Yoruban-Catholic sensibility) which built the place are never employed into movement to parse very the ideology a site reinforces. Contours of Belief aims to visualize the latter conversation, using paintmarks animated into motion and non-narrative sculptural sound design, into and across the urban architectural face of Salvador, specifically the Bahian State Library (Biblioteca) in Barris.

As the projection as a whole moves counterclockwise across the Quadrilatero's facades assuming the movement of a Candomblé dance, one painting-in-motion rises up a building facade, while the opposing facade's projection pulls downward, affecting our sense of gravity. No animation or painting has done this before. Movements of light into architecture inhabit zones through which shapes, textures and colors redefine themselves AND their space while defying gravity, surrounding viewers and activating negative spaces. The site will bloom, tug, fall and reconstitute itself using hard edge marks and shapes colliding with action painting marks in colors and movements associated with Candomblé. These actions of light -- and where light is not -- also highlight surface and inner details of the Quadrilatero, addressing the uniquely Bahian shaped carving of urban organization through belief.

These invisible actions made visible reflects designs of the location itself, urban planning of the city, and daily travel patterns of people watching the work. Likewise, the idea that animated forms "played" between facades are temporarily rendered invisible covers states of cyclical changes of spirituality as common consciousness - something that is spoken > held > lived by individuals within groups. Projected across multiple surrounding buildings, Contours of Belief reveals Salvador da Bahia's urban vista to be a site of a very specific and previously covert cultural imagination, driven but also camouflaged by the drone of the trance.

Audio is a key component to this project. In Bahia, dueling PA systems in close proximity create cacophonies, carving out urban space and making ideology territorial, often invasively so. Likewise, our audio design -- electronic rhythm sans melody -- functions as a form to lure, guide, and move participants through the location (without telling them how to feel as melodic soundtracks function in narrative cinema). There is no narrative to the project other than the here-and-now of the project as its own experience-- participants in Contours of Belief function as their own protagonists under an electrified, surrounding Candomblé triangular circle in the square of the Quadrilatero.

The function of the orixá -- the Yoruban spirit intermediary specific to each individual who communicates between man and Catholic god -- is important to note here. The equation outlined in Contours of Belief is a flipping of that script to how man uses communication with the orixas to shape and create his own space and his own nature within society. Whether "god" is located in "man," "place," "action" -- or perhaps a trinity of the three -- is one of the questions I'm posing in Contours of Belief. As far as I'm concerned (with an agnostic eye toward production, experience and what I've observed in life), "god" is in the math, where overlapping connections illuminate synchronously amplified energies when they "cross" paths. Descriptions of the actions of these intersections correspond to the specfifc actions of the orixás Exu, Ogum, Xango, Iansa, Oxossi, Iemanja and Oxum.

The Brazilian creative team I worked with in Salvador da Bahia for Contours of Belief is Andrea May (aka May Happy Downlady, curator/co-producer / artistic director of Atelier Coletivo VISIO), Junix_11 (aka Juninho Costa, sound designer), Ana Paula Bringel
(co-producer/researcher) and Erica Telles (technical director). I met and worked with all on my creative team previously during my residency at Instituto Sacatar in Itaparica, Bahia, courtesy of a 2012 Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs / Cultural Exchange International fellowship. New to the team (and key to our success) were Kithi Oliveira and Edvaldo Passos of MZAD Eventos -- focused professionals and seasoned collabrators who provided the gear for projection and sound, making a difficult install appear quite simple and easy.

Contours of Belief, for which I generated all video content (installation, video documentations and editing), was generously funded by a grant from SECULT (Secretary of Culture, Bahia).

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MATT SHERIDAN

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i make paintings and painting-in-motion video installations in public + private architectural sites and contemporary art spaces worldwide.

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