Artist Spotlight: Pedro Costa

by Ryland Walker Knight

The A+C bio I wrote

     Pedro Costa has made digital works since the turn of the 21st Century due to a number of influences and philosophical premises. Through his 1997 film, Ossos (Bones), Costa shot on film and perfected a style of shadow and elision equal parts Bresson, Rivette, Ford and Tourneur. After working in the Lisbon slums of Fountainhas while filming Ossos, Costa realized the inefficiency and intrusion of a 35mm camera crew, no matter their limited size/footprint. He realized that to work with any grace, any honesty, any integrity, he would have to abandon the troupe of filmmaking. Thus he forsake film’s emulsion for digital’s arrayed pinholes of light and began to shoot his next film, No Quarto de Vanda (In Vanda’s Room), by himself with a “consumer-grade” camera. This was not simply a democratic, or even simply a Marxist, impulse. It’s more complicated, more radical. His new art—in and of the margins—gives face to the mosaic of poverty too rarely seen on cinema screens. It builds the world in blocks of time and space into a concrete object of witness. It’s document without the guile of documentary. It gives us heroes without capes (although they wear masks, as does everybody, the argument goes): the ordinary, made material, exceeds representation.
     Costa’s cinema refuses. As he says, it’s a closed door that leaves you guessing. The impulse to separation is a denial of not just audience identification but the very way of seeing that keeps poverty hidden. It’s a paradox. Pedro Costa looks at the rift and creats a cinema of faith—in the world, in our bondage to it as much as our flight from it. This faith, of course, supercedes politics, however political his image-making may be, into the space of ethics. —How we look is how we make the world.

Some links you might enjoy, or find useful.

The VINYL IS HEAVY link dump, which will point to essays I've written, as well as some other essays written by other people.
— An impetus for my VIH link dump was Girish's One Stop post, which also prompted Michael Guillen's Next Stop post.
A Closed Door That Leaves Us Guessing, a lecture Costa delivered that Rouge then published in its 10th issue.
Andy Rector on Costa over time.
— A clip from his Straub-Huillet video, Où gît votre sourire enfoui?
— His recent The Rabbit Hunters is available for (crummy) viewing on youtube in three parts: one, two and three.
— And! Please, if you want to, help us add more at Pedro's page! Or, as ever, you can send us a link via "curator at artandculture dot com" — or drop it in the comments!


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