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by ellison

Names surround places. In the public sphere, street signs, bus signs, train station titles, emblems of municipal agencies and offices, among others, not only guide but also introject traffic limits and use of spaces. There is, in circulation, a syntactic contradiction: with simple nouns (“the Municipality”, the Transport Company”, “the Metro”), the city both orchestrates an illusory collectivity and camouflages the subjects that, in fact, give a face to power. As for us, we know that our names quickly lose their singularity: we become identification numbers, fingerprints, consumption codes, service protocols... In this massification, it is precisely our faces that have been captured, recorded and disseminated by surveillance strategies that restrict us more and more to the mechanized roles of "passenger" and "user".

These contractions between mobility and control are some of the questions raised by Gu da Cei's creative process. In his performances, urban interventions, videos, photographs and installations, the artist engenders a counter-surveillance that is already triggered in his own name, which aggregates and moves the multitude of the territory that constitutes it - Ceilândia, the most populous of the cities for a long time called of "satellites" to verbally maintain the idea of a "center". Furthermore, its geographic scale and cultural plurality, coming from the Northeasterners who built Brasília, definitely distance it from the condition of orbiting the capital. But the distinctions of access, as we know, go beyond verbal disputes, and it is in the daily shuttle for the 26 kilometers that separate his house from the "Pilot Plan" that Gu begins a process of visual experimentation to show more intensely the paradoxes present in the that guarantees access to all others: mobility. By correlating his practices as an artist and communicologist, the facial biometrics system on buses in the Federal District came into the crosshairs of his actions. This system, which has become official in several cities in the country, consists of installing cameras that instantly transform the image of passengers into processed data that are under the tutelage of transport companies. In other words, with the justification of inhibiting fraud in free programs, facial biometrics is like a squared ratchet: it simultaneously doubles the "audience selection" and the concentration of power of these companies, which capitalize on the right to go and come and violate the right to anonymity, stating "security" and "surveillance" as synonymous.

The artist enforced the Federal District Access to Information Law (4990/2012) by being the first person to request biometric images for non-police purposes. After months of performing the bureaucratic intricacies of the system, between investigations, offices, protocols and memos, he managed to acquire the records of his face. The set of recaptures of his banal actions at the turnstiles of the buses - reading magazines, listening to music, eating popcorn or waiting close to the camera for the vehicle to empty - imbricated in the public sphere when the artist projected them on 8 square meters of the roof of Rodoviária do Plano. Piloto, through which 700 thousand people circulate daily. The photographs, which take on humorous and absurd contours due to the scale of the projection, were superimposed by the terms "watchman"/"watched" and by the advertisement: "Require your photos at: ". The architectural intervention was accompanied by the artist's performance, who, masked, walked around the bus station emulating gestures of immobility, widening his eyes and putting his hands in the air. While physically emphasizing the paranoia of being persecuted, the other users momentarily escaped the nervous inertia of waiting for the collectives to look at the station's coverage and finally become aware that they not only pay tariffs, but also give up their image rights. By shouting "Catch" over and over again, Gu denounced the surveillance system while inviting people to watch him. The media repercussion of the action, in part shrewdly articulated by the artist himself, who is also a press officer, increased the number of requests for images by 4,600 percent in the first week alone.

In the process of reappropriating his own face and then expropriating it in public spaces - as in the stickers he sticks on bus seats, attaching an "aesthetics of the flagrant" to his image - Gu unfolds the system: disputing hand to hand the notion public, induced the general transport company to inform, in the news, that any user could request their biometric records. In this way, it collectivized a performative dissent, making explicit a "hidden" practice that wants to take our images for itself and make them obsolete. In this reverse surveillance, the mirror that directs the face of those who control us is also materialized in the works proposed for this exhibition: whether in the smile projected on the facade of the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, or in the scenography of a bus moved to the center of the exhibition space, with the audience experiencing being a panopticon. His works add layers of visibility to what is already kitschy, trash, comic, absurd and paranoid in the very places they pass through - "public and institutional" - and call us to anti-perform the imperative of public-private power: watch each other others.


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