The output of Daniel Lisboa from Bahia (Salvador, 1979) sets itself apart with its political vocation and its particular grasping of the mobilizing power of image. The artist casts a melancholic, almost fatalistic eye on political subservience-the proverbial Brazilian cordiality, Lisboa's main theme-, evolving into a use of video which, instead of conforming to regular forms of leftist militancy, borrows from the rawness of contemporary strategies for spreading terror, not without a tinge of irony. With O Fim do Homem Cordial (2004), which aggressively concretized the idea of “Audiovisual Terrorism,” Lisboa earned recognition (he won the New Vectors Award at the 15th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival) and made some people uncomfortable: the work was removed from the show Mostra de Vídeo Jovens Realizadores Baianos, in Salvador, in an outrageous case of censorship.
Preceded by homemade experiments and music videos-he got his first camera when he was fifteen years old-, Lisboa's embracing of political themes came from the contact not only with the poverty in the streets of Salvador, but also with a passivity that seemed just as ostensive to the artist. The experimental documentary film U Olhu Du Povu (2002), his first significant accomplishment, begins with a public demonstration in which students, militants, and the general public asked for the expelling of Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhães, then involved in a Senate election fraud in the capital of Bahia. Camera in hand, Lisboa turns his back on the demonstrators to record the apathetic gaze of a crowd as it watches by without participating or sharing the rebelliousness.
Awarded for its poetic quality, the work carries within itself the seed of something that would later become central in Lisboa's works and articulations: the idea of the cordial man. The artist made a free interpretation of the Brazilian citizen as defined by Sergio Buarque de Hollanda in his masterpiece Raízes do Brasil: a cordial, affable, generous, and hospitable man. Later denied by Hollanda himself, who considered it “ambiguous,” the expression was reborn with the additional meaning of political subservience in both O Fim do Homem Cordial and in the name of Movimento Anticordial [Anticordial Movement], an urban intervention collective created in response to the film's prohibition, and in the set of commandments of Manifesto Cinematográfico Anticordial [Anticordial Cinematographic Manifesto], which preaches an “abrupt, fast-paced, necessary” cinema, financially independent from government edicts, and born out of the “contact between digital technology and the lack of resources.”
Before the idea behind O Fim do Homem Cordial consolidated itself, though, Lisboa explored different directions. In Um Milhão de Pequenos Raios (2003), a musical documentary about the war of kites between grown-ups and children that takes place on the seashore of Bahia's capital on weekends, Lisboa explores his affinity with electronic music and the choreography that lies in the streets of Salvador. In the same year, Lisboa exercised his fascination for the human richness of Salvador with the Figuraça Project, a portfolio of peculiar characters from the capital city such as Seu Marinho, a retired man and a self-proclaimed traffic patrolman, and Pimentinha, a bar owner who welcomes his customers with candomblé blessings. Still in 2003, Lisboa recorded a week of demonstrations that followed an increase in the city's bus fares, in the documentary R$ 1,50.
The demonstrators who throw the city into chaos to protest against bus fares in R$ 1,50 and the citizens who raise their voices against the elitization of Bahia carnival in the Figuraça Project are far from being examples of cordiality-neither do they enable us to foresee the vicious attack to the godfather of Bahia's 'Colonelism' on O Fim do Homem Cordial. Aimed at Antonio Carlos Magalhães and his mechanisms of political perpetuation, Lisboa's first fiction film puts all commandments of anticordial cinema to work: the film stages the abduction of the Senator and the ransom demand with rawness, and is built upon an “audiovisual kidnapping”-it appropriates and manipulates images by TV Globo from Bahia. “Just as terrorism strikes against the empire in the globalized system, within our context Audiovisual Terrorism strikes against the audiovisual empire,” Lisboa claims. “Just like them, we are aware of the power of image.”
In addition to its obvious merits-such as its use of precariousness as a language, favoring the viciousness of the message conveyed-, O Fim do Homem Cordial is born out of a discovery: the idea of confronting a form of political power the longevity of which owes a lot to control over means of communication, with the practice, seldom used in Brazil yet a staple of Palestinian terrorist groups, of sending messages and promoting actions through TV. The power of this mix can be measured by the reaction it provoked: a bizarre case of censorship-the video was removed in a hurry from the show Mostra de Vídeo Jovens Realizadores Baianos-, which led to the departure of Sérgio Borges from his job as Director of Visual Arts and Multimedia at Fundação Cultural da Bahia.
After O Fim do Homem Cordial there was a string of awards in Brazilian festivals, as well as a wave of actions by Movimento Anticordial, a group of artists who organize actions in order to protest against the censoring of the film and to fuel public debates on politics, art, behavior, environment, urbanity, and communication. A watershed, the film put Lisboa on a trail that is closer to artistic creation than to militant documentary filmmaking. Freqüência Hanói, his next video, juxtaposes the speech of a man serving time in a penitentiary in Bahia, recorded during a phone call using a clandestine cell phone, and random images of a darkening sky, crisscrossed by high-tension wires and seen from inside a moving car. It seems as though the artist has returned from his radical incursion into fiction with increased freedom.
In 2007, Daniel won the Development of long-film Roadmap from the Government of Bahia, with the roadmap "Tropykaos", about a young man in crisis with your city. In 2008 the same project was selected for the international co-production workshop “Produire au Sud” developed by the 3continents Festival in Nantes, France. "Tropykaos" is in the fundraising to be filmed. Lisboa, also in 2008, won the award for Short Film Production of the Ministry of Culture with the project "The Sarcófago" about the underground artist Jayme Fygura. The short will be filmed in February 2009 and edicted in 35mm. Even in 2008 Daniel Lisboa was selected between 1500 artists and more than 3000 projects for the 15 Art Hall of Bahia in MAM(Modern Art Museum) with the installation “Material Bruto – Obra em Processo – Farpas Reluzentes” presenting the concept of "Brute material" which invites the public to lost in imagetic labyrinths not cut, not edited, brute. The work was awarded in the Art Hall with an International Artistic Residence.