São Paulo

View of “Roberto  Winter,” 2017. Foreground: Facebook Inc., 2017. On wall: “Ghost phone,” 2017–. Photo: Gui Gomes.

View of “Roberto Winter,” 2017. Foreground: Facebook Inc., 2017. On wall: “Ghost phone,” 2017–. Photo: Gui Gomes.

Roberto Winter

Mendes Wood DM | São Paulo

View of “Roberto  Winter,” 2017. Foreground: Facebook Inc., 2017. On wall: “Ghost phone,” 2017–. Photo: Gui Gomes.

Roberto Winter’s latest show, “Default,” took as its point of departure A role play, 2017, his new film work serialized over five weeks on the website aarea.co. In it, the character Joaquim K. claims to have assassinated the US president on June 28, 2017. Appropriating news footage; content from websites such as XVideos and LiveLeak, video games, corporate animations, and social media; and shots of São Paulo street scenes filmed from the artist’s studio window, Winter wove together a mockumentary on the legitimacy of violence as a form of political participation. Evoking Rupert Sanders’s Ghost in the Shell, 2017, as well as Lutz Dammbeck’s The Net, 2003, Winter’s savvy post-internet film sketches the Brazilian assassin’s journey through the digital realm. Convinced that his motivations for the crime have been manipulated by mass media, the protagonist makes his confession hoping to “reframe the entire spectrum of violence.” Such a change would “have the power to tip the scales of justice” in his own corruption-ridden homeland. While Joaquim K. leaves traces of himself across the internet so that he might be uncovered, he seems to perceive no boundary between the real physical violence he’s allegedly committed and the symbolic manifestations of it appropriated to illustrate his account.

Exiting the video presentation into the gallery courtyard, viewers encountered two concrete masks facing each other, separated by a two-way mirror. This work was Inimigo (Enemy), 2017, a nod to Lina Bo Bardi’s glass easels and Dan Graham’s pavilions, and a reference to a scene in A role play featuring found footage of mirror self-recognition tests administered to a monkey, a cat, a dog, a dolphin, and a baby. A formal exploration of play was pursued in the next room with Facebook Inc, 2017, seven found concrete masks arranged in an arc, representing social media’s dictate that we create ourselves as characters, in acts of self-design. The mask faces are looking everywhere except within. Greeting the visitor, they also seemed to gaze at selections from the“Ghost phone” series, 2017–, consisting of more than two hundred white-painted iPhones with cracked screens—a pinnacle of contemporary design seen in its ubiquitous damaged form. These surfaces have been further etched with commands such as SELL, UPLOAD, RATE, and ZOOM.

The rear gallery was laid out with a white nylon net stretched over a black-painted exhibition floor: Plano de obstrução vertical (em direção a mito de Sísifo Foxconn) (Vertical Obstruction Plane [Toward a Foxconn Myth of Sisyphus]), 2013, a reference to the industrial plant in Longhua, China, where security nets were installed in 2010 to prevent desperate workers from committing suicide. Tellingly, the blockbuster exhibition “Steve Jobs, o visionário”(Steve Jobs, the Visionary) was on view down the road from the gallery, at the Museum of Image and Sound—the Foxconn plant is working under contract with Apple. On the walls hung five ink-jet prints of 1,000-times-enlarged microscopic photographs of the screens of digital devices, each fragment marred by a single dead pixel. Oscillating between the material basis for communication technology and the ambiguity of representation, the spectrum of the RGB color sphere is further manipulated by a missing pixel in the artist’s camera, barely visible in the final series. The exhibition culminated with Decadência (antimonumento Ross Ulbricht) (Decadence [Anti-monument Ross Ulbricht]),2017, made up of a stack of sixteen chairs, tipped over so as to form an arching structure spanning the room. The piece comments on the arrest of Silk Road’s founder in a San Francisco public library. His fate—imprisonment—might also await the fictional protagonist of Winter’s film, who, like Ulbricht, is convinced of the righteousness of his controversial and illegal acts. The film is a chilling account of one man’s single-minded quest, but the exhibition as a whole elicited a sense of anxious doubt and ambivalence in the face of the mediated realities we continue to consume. 

Tobi Maier