Thursday, October 11, 2007

Art Space Talk: Kika Nicolela

Kika Nicolela is a new media artist from Campinas, Brazil. Kika's works include single-channel videos, video installations, performances, experimental documentaries and photography. Kika graduated with a degree in Cinema and Video from the University of Sao Paulo in 2000. In 2002, she completed film courses at the University of California. Since then, she has developed her personal works-- which have been exhibited internationally.

Face to Face. 2006

Brian Sherwin: Kika, where did you study? Who were your mentors?

Kika Nicolela: I graduated in Film and Video at São Paulo University. I started very young, when I was 17, and studied there for seven years. I’m not sure if I have mentors, but there were some exceptional professors at this course, and they all had some influence on me. People like Jean-Claude Bernardet, Arlindo Machado and Ismail Xavier, who are very respected film and video scholars in Brazil and abroad.

In the last years of my studies, I started an internship at a film production company in São Paulo and there I met and worked with some great Brazilian filmmakers, and that experience was also very gratifying. I was very much impressed with Tata Amaral, for example, who was one of the few Brazilian female feature film directors at that time (and still today we have no more than five).

In 2002 I went to live in Los Angeles for almost a year, and I did some continuing education courses at UCLA, which was extremely important to me, because the classes were very much hands-on and the students worked very hard, so I was able to complete about 8 short films in only 7 months. That was the beginning of developing my own voice and finding the themes that interested me.

I also met amazing film professionals in seminars, such as: Sophia Coppola, Mike Figgis, Paul Mazursky, Conrad Hall, Janusz Kaminski, Sam Raimi, Curtis Hanson and Callie Khouri, among others. It was so inspiring to talk to them and learn from these people. But it was right after I came back to Brazil that I really started working with contemporary artists and that led me to video art. I found that it could be a much more personal rewarding and free art form than classical filmmaking.

BS: How did your studies help to shape the work you create today?

KN: I think it’s very hard to say how much of this or that helped to get me where I am today. We’re made of so many different experiences, and sometimes something seemingly not important has actually a profound effect on us, and only later we realize that. I believe I’m very much concerned with using elements of film language in new ways; I also have a strong sense of narrative and structure that are somehow present in all my works.

BS: Kika, tell us about your installations, films, and photographs. What are the themes you deal with in your work?

KN: Examination of the relationships between the camera, subject, author and the spectator. I always seek new ways of exploring this complex bonding between the audience and the audiovisual, mediated by the point of view of a 3rd person – the artist. Another theme that has been very present in my latest pieces is the connection between man and his environment, between the body and its surroundings, being those urban or natural.

I perceive these two lines of work as different ways of approaching the same theme: (un)communication in the contemporary relationships and art. Another relevant question is: how to use art to produce unique perceptive experiences?

BS: What about influences... who has influenced you?

KN: Ingmar Bergman, David Lynch, Jean Luc Godard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Alain Resnais, P.T. Anderson, Pedro Almodovar, David Cronemberg, Peter Greenaway, Bill Viola, Mathew Barney, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry. Those are some names that just came to my mind right now.

BS: Can you tell us more about your artistic process... your philosophy, so to speak? How do your ideas become a reality?

KN: In general, I could say that my artistic process include having an idea, finding out the essence of it, researching about the themes and/or techniques involved, then writing a shooting script - not a screenplay per se, but a script of the things I want to shoot, a kind of blue print to guide me, but at the shooting itself I always keep an open mind and improvise a lot.

I either work by myself or with other partners, it depends on the project, but I love to have other people’s creative inputs to my ideas. One of the people that has contributed many times with me is my husband, who is a great director of photography. Sometimes, I worked with other artists from scratch, so the concepts are both theirs and mine. And then comes what I consider the most important and delightful moment: the editing.

The editing is actually the most creative part, in which the film really takes form. I experiment a lot, but always having in mind the essence of what I want to convey or express with the work. I do my best not to get impressed by easy effects, because there are so many available. I also avoid following stylistic tricks and trends. I try to find the right tone, rhythm and look for that particular piece I’m working on. And then comes the difficult task of knowing when it’s ready, when to stop and say: "that’s it, that’s the best I can do right now".

Concerning how my ideas become a reality… this is a tricky question, because there are many ways this can take place. I mean, I always have many ideas floating in my head at the same time. Then something triggers the process of starting the project itself. It could be the invitation for a specific exhibition, a grant that fits the profile of one of my ideas, a partner who invites me to do something together, or just an event that happens in front of me and I record with my camera, later transforming it into a new piece. I try to be always open to new opportunities and inspirations. And I always keep a camera nearby.

Working with video can be really simple and cheap, or incredibly expensive and complex. I’ve done both kind of works, and everything in between!

FLUX. 2005

BS: Kika, can you go into further detail about FLUX(2005)? Tell our readers about the meaning behind this piece. What inspired you?

KN: FLUX is a project that started with an invitation. The visual artist Suzy Okamoto had this beautiful exhibition space called Capela do Morumbi - which is a very old chapel in São Paulo that was transformed to receive contemporary art installations - available for her to make an exhibition. She wanted to make a video work, but she had never made one before. She had seen another video of mine and invited me to work with her on this one.

The first thing we decided was that we wanted to shoot part of the video in the chapel itself, and the sensation that we had inside that place was the foundation. The building was made of a kind of mixture with earth, very rough, and very sensual in a bizarre way. And we wanted to express this feeling and this exchange between our skin and the "skin" of the building, its walls, the grass outside, its stairs etc.

This was my fourth video in which I tried to translate a very abstract feeling, emotion or memory into audiovisual experience. It’s painful to explain its meanings, because the work is supposed to lead the audience to an abstract state of mind, and I hope that each experience is unique. But I can talk about my inspirations: the feelings that I had in that place were related to something animal, something primitive and untamed inside of me. The video speaks of the relation between our body and the environment; our ever lasting whish to return to a more primitive state. The performer we invited for this video is Leticia Sekito, a great dancer with whom I have collaborated many times in the past 4 years.

FLUX was primarily a video installation, composed of 4 different projections in the chapel itself. Then I edited this single-channel version that has been shown in many festivals and is now available on You Tube.

BS: What type of equipment do you use? Also, in regards to working with others... how do you choose who to work with?

KN: I have used many types of equipment in my videos; from snapshot still cameras that also shoot MP4 videos, to high tech High Definition cameras. I’m very keen of technology and I try to be always in synch with what’s happening in terms of new equipment, codecs and softwares. Right now, I have two different cameras: they’re both High Definition, but one is a Panasonic Handycam, which shoots in SD memory cards, and the other is the Panasonic HVX200, which is a wonderful bigger camera with a more complicated workflow.

My last video, WINDMAKER, was shot with the latest, and it’s amazing how beautiful the images are. I sometimes still use the Panasonic DVX100, which was the camera I used in FLUX for example, because I consider it the best standard definition camera out there. And now I’m looking forward to work with RED, which is a new digital cinema camera, just released in the US. I believe it will definitely change the way both filmmakers and video makers work – it will blur even more the lines between these two arts.

Concerning the softwares, I’ve used Sony Vegas for many years for editing, but I switched to Final Cut Pro recently (yes, I’m a Mac now). And I’ve used both Resolume and Arkaos as Vjiing softwares. In regards to working with others, I balance two things: their work and their personality, that is, first of all I have to admire their work, but I also need to feel an empathy for them. With some collaborators I’ve worked for months or years with, and it can become a traumatic experience if we don’t get along. Well, unfortunately, sometimes we only find out that some person is terrible to work with during the process…

BS: Kika, I've read that your work has been exhibited in more than 30 countries. Tell our readers about a few of those exhibitions. Which have been the most exciting for you?

KN: One of the things that I love the most about video art is that I can exhibit it in many different ways, and each way influences how the work will be perceived. I can show the same video in a small LCD screen on the wall of a gallery; I can show it on the web; I can make a site specific installation with it; or it can be projected on a large screen during a festival.

I’m a big fan of film and video festivals. The experience of sharing the dark room with hundreds of people, and watching films on the big screen, still fascinates me. Besides, festivals, especially video art ones, always bring together a variety of works from all over the world - some good, some bad, others spectacular - and usually I find the screenings inspiring and rewarding.

I’ve been fortunate to be selected to some great festivals, like Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin De Nouveau Cinéma Et Art Contemporain (France and Germany), Kunst Film Biennale (Germany), ACA Media Arts Festival (Japan), VAD Festival Internacional de Vídeo i Arts Digitals (Spain), Exis Experimental Film & Video Festival (Korea), Videolab (Portugal), International Short Film Festival Hamburg (Germany), just to name a few.

Not always I’ve been able to attend the festivals; rarely they have enough budget to invite and cover the directors expenses. My favorite ones were AluCine Toronto Latin@ Media Festival (Canada), which I attended in 2006 and 2007, because I love their selection (all genres, but more experimental), the organizers are great, they welcome the guests in a very warm way and Toronto is a fabulous city; Videoformes New Media & Video Art Festival (France), which I participated in 2004 and 2007 but only attended this year, because they select only experimental videos and very good ones, I met great artists there, I got the main award (which is always a nice experience), and I just love France; and International Electronic Art Festival Videobrasil (Brazil), which I participated in 2003 and 2005, because they take place in São Paulo, where I live, it’s one of the biggest video art festivals in the world, and they have an important role in promoting video art in Brazil for the past 20 years. All of these 3 festivals also organize great exhibitions and seminars beside their screenings.

BS: What do you like most about exhibiting?

KN: I adore watching people watching my works. It is so rewarding to see a spontaneous strong reaction to something I did. To me, art is all about communication; it’s the most complete communication there is, because I try to put my heart and soul in my works. I also believe in the power of the audiovisual experience and the possibilities it offers us, that is, we (artists) can change the world, or at least try to do it.

BS: Kika, in your opinion, what are some of the main issues facing video artists today?

KN: In my opinion, a great deal of video artists tend to get seduced by new technologies and medias and just loose themselves. I’ve seen so many bad Vjiing events that proclaims themselves art, so many interactive works that seem like a game for kids to press buttons, or horrible videos using game or second life excerpts like they were doing something revolutionary. I just think that we have to try to reflect about all these new tools, and remain true to ourselves.
BS: As a video artist, do you ever have any concerns about censorship?

KN: I have faced some problems regarding this. I have a project that deals with porn actors and it’s really hard to get a grant or funding to do it, mainly because of its subject. And I made a video called TROPIC OF CAPRICORN which is one of my favorite works, and despite the fact that it was my most exhibited and awarded work, it just got censored in You Tube, after months of being shown there. I sent them a letter complaining, but they never answered me. It was made with transvestites, and it displays a little bit of nudity and a lot of dirty talk. Still, it’s a touching video and it shouldn’t be censored.


BS: Kika, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers any details about your future projects?

KN: I’m finishing a single-channel version of my video installation WINDMAKER; I have about 4 projects in the process of getting funding; and I’m writing my first experimental fiction feature film.

BS: Do you have any exhibitions lined up? Also, where can our readers view more of your art?

KN: Yes. From October 10th to December 2nd, my video "Ecstasy Poem" will be part of a big contemporary art exhibition in São Paulo, called Cut and Paste CRTL_C + CRTL_V; I was just invited to be part of Supermarket of Art International Biennial, in Warsow (Poland), which will start end of October; and a retrospective of most of my works is being organized to take place in São Paulo on the first week of November.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

KN: Making art and showing it are the most rewarding things in my life. And I love to have feedback and exchange ideas – so please, whoever is reading this, just watch some of my stuff at and leave your comments!

You can learn more about Kika Nicolela by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


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