November 18, 2005

Volta Brazil

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In the cold night air, Stephen Dean’s Volta surges with heat. Exhibited on the Johnson Museum’s east wall from sunset to 11pm, the facade projection is charged with color, illuminating the sky and enlivening the senses. With its extraordinary parade of unceasing movement, the projection electrifies, galvanizes and inspires.

There’s no need to worry about catching the beginning; the DVD plays continually and is entirely consuming at any point within its nine-minute duration. You can watch it over and over, welcoming the movement in which beginning and end are melded together into one indistinguishable act, or you can watch for just a moment and embrace one brief blast of human vitality erupting in the night.

The projection thrives on this vitality. Jumping, jerking and swaying with an impressively coordinated chaos, what we see are the fans at a Brazilian soccer game. As a rolling, flag-like material is reeled back, the awesome mass of people saturates the facade. Volta is a compilation of footage from several different games, spliced together in order to create the ideal fusions of color and cadence. The images of these fans are the fabric of the film. We do not ever see the actual soccer game, only the fans’ reaction to it.

Their reactions are explosive. They cheer with a crazed enthusiasm; they clap in perfect unison; they take off their shirts and wave them above their heads. They dance with large bright flags and send colored smoke bombs into the air. With a kind of controlled madness, the colors flow in mesmerizing, magnetic waves. In the silence of the night, you can hear them shouting. You can feel the rhythm of their movement.

At certain moments, the severity of the fans might be mistaken for that of a protest or riot. With burning torches and fervent roars of the voice and the body, it seems as though these fans are fighting for something as great and indispensable as their liberty. In a way, the soccer game and their obsession with it holds them captive. In the ardent cheers, the powerful salutes and the heated faces that can be seen only in the close-ups, each man is a part of the greater mass, devoted to the victory of a team. Their devotion is glorified.

In this glorification of soccer fan fanaticism, you can not help but feel the glorification of humanity. It is inspiring to see men so very alive, so zealously dedicated. The projection pounds with the continuous beat of life, vibrating and pulsating.

Stephen Dean has given us a work of art that stimulates and energizes, and by exhibiting it as a facade projection, the Johnson Museum has amplified its effect. As a glorious display of color against the dark night sky, Volta is pure rhapsody.

Archived article by Ilana Papir
Sun Staff Writer