Nthe new episode of the Videobrasil Commented Collection, the critic and theorist Márcio Seligmann-Silva  talk about the work SARS (2003), by Chinese filmmaker Liu Wei.
Liu Wei is an independent filmmaker who lives and works in Beijing. He was born in Hei Longjiang Province of the People's Republic of China in 1965 and graduated from the Central China Academy of Drama in 1992, completing his studies at the Department of Philosophy at Peking University in 1995. His works are closely related to experience and personal memory, as well as the reality and rapidly changing history of contemporary China.
Liu Wei's films have already been screened at the New York Video Festival, The European Media Art Festival, Experimenta Media Arts Festival, Berlin International Media Art Festival, and in three editions of Sesc_Videobrasil. His filmography includes the following works: The City of Memory (2000) Underneath (2001) Sars (2003) A Day to Remember (2005) Year by Year (2005) Hopeless land (2008) and Unforgettable Memory (2009)
Perhaps of Liu Wei's works, one of the best known is A Day to Remember (2005), made in partnership with Susie Jakes. The documentary’s premise is simple: Liu spends the 2005 anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre walking around asking people “do you know what day it is?” and film the responses. As famous as the Tiananmen massacre (June 4, 1989) is outside China, the event is little known within the nation. It is precisely this vast amnesia, the self-censorship imposed by the Chinese government, that Liu explores in this film, trying to understand how, in a country as cosmopolitan as China, this can be possible.
“The reactions on people's faces as they process your question and the ways they try to respond is a powerful representation of what it means to have your government forcibly suppress the memory of a painful national event. Some seem sincerely oblivious, some find a way to signal their understanding without saying it overtly. Others simply run away, so sensitive is the memory of Tiananmen that even asking the date June 4th can scare people into running away,” says journalist Max Fisher.
The work compares the power of the SARS virus, the pneumonia that spread from southern China and infected thousands of people in 2003, to that of the Chinese media, which erodes understanding of reality by hammering out propaganda images of joy and absolute prosperity. In the video from Acervo Comentado, comparing the Sars epidemic to that of Covid-19, Seligmann-Silva reflects on the relationship between art and politics.
“Now, too, the States show themselves as managers of life and death. Totalitarian states, like China itself, are now revealing themselves as well-oiled biopolitical machines that manage to impose a lockdown with military rigor and can count on the discipline of a population trained by fear”, points out Seligmann. And he adds: “States managed by populist, neoliberal politicians, as in the case of Brazil and the United States, show themselves as negationist necropolitics machines. These politicians are betting on maximizing, as we know, profits, and maximizing exploitation of labor and the working classes, no matter if it costs lives.”
About the Commented Collection
Videobrasil Commented Collection is a new partnership between arte!brasileiros and Associação Cultural Videobrasil. Every 15 days we publish, on our platform and on our social networks, a part of its important collection of works, gathered in more than 30 years of trajectory.
A institution was created in 1991 by Solange Farkas, the result of the desire to host a growing collection of works and publications, which has been gathered since the first edition of the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil (still Videobrasil Festival, in 1983). Since its creation, the association has worked systematically to activate this collection, which brings together works from the so-called geopolitical South of the world – Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East –, especially video art classics, own productions and a vast collection. of art publications.
This project contributes to “rediscovering and relating works from the Videobrasil collection, and thematic aspects, in the voice of critics, curators and thinkers, illuminating urgent contemporary issues”, says Farkas.
Márcio Seligmann-Silva holds a PhD from the Free University of Berlin, a post-doctorate from Yale, a professor of Literary Theory at UNICAMP and a researcher at CNPq. He is the author of, among other works, “Ler o Livro do Mundo” (Iluminuras, 1999, winner of the Mario de Andrade Prize for Literary Essay of the National Library in 2000), “Adorno” (PubliFolha, 2003), “O Local da Diferença ” (Editor 34, 2005 winner of the Jabuti Prize in the Best Book of Theory/Literary Criticism 2006), “Towards a critique of compassion” (Lumme Editor, 2009) and “The actuality of Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno” ( Publisher Civilização Brasileira, 2009). He was visiting professor at Universities in Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England and Mexico.