Reflecting Upon Visual Politics and Collaboration Against Controlling Images in Brazil

In late 2019, two anthropologists met three drag queen artists at a party in São Paulo, and after that encounter, a film demanded to be born. Amazed by their glamorous and powerful performances and interested in how they were addressing the conservative political turn Brazil had just taken in their artistic performances, the anthropologists thought they knew the story they were about to tell - through following their gigs and their artivist collectives around São Paulo . They already had a visual in mind of how the film would look: it would quote the great documentary classics– “Paris is Burning,” “The Queen and Wigstock: The Movie,”– while referencing contemporary drag queen culture that was made extremely popular after the huge success of RuPaul’s Drag Race reality show. The covid-19 outbreak, however, presented challenges to everybody’s plans, and the two anthropologists and the three drag queen artists found themselves going deeper in collaboration, going from video-diaries to a three-days creative residency, engaging together in the creative process of re-thinking the film they were all making.

Drawing from this experience, this presentation discusses collaboration not just as a method, but as a dialogic premise and a political choice that impacts visual discourse, especially when addressing alterity. By reflecting upon the concept of controlling images - extremely relevant to black feminist thought, and coined by Patricia Hill Collins -, and their role in freezing oppressions by building mediatic popular images of oppressed groups, this paper explores how collaboration might play a role against "tokenizing" our characters and fellow authors, offering an honest take, both individual and collective, about surviving and (re)creating one's own self in a pandemic as a queer person in Bolsonaro's Brazil.

Paula Bessa Braz

Paula Bessa Braz is a Brazilian anthropologist and PhD student in Social Anthropology at Universidade de São Paulo, in Brazil. Dedicated to the study of musical cultures in urban settings, she integrates the research group “Local Musicking: new pathways to ethnomusicology.” She also integrates the group Pesquisa em Antropologia e Música, attatched to Laboratório de Imagem e Som em Antropologia. For her Masters, Paula engaged in research about the teaching and learning processes and identity building through musical discourse and the playing among children of a family in the outskirts of a violent city in Brazil. As a product of the research, in addition to the written ethnography, Paula also developed a filmic ethnography, where the aspects of the sensible and sensitive music-making of the family are addressed with a sensorial take, revealing the atmosphere of intimacy, closeness and harshness that is built by their musicking and within their surroundings.

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