nhonhô, 2020
HD video and algorithmic composition
Audiovisual project made in collaboration with Giselle Beiguelman and Ilê Sartuzi.

nhonhô is a possible biography of a palace that attests to the delirium and social isolation of the São Paulo elite at the beginning of the 20th century. The tittle refers to Baron Carlos Leôncio de Magalhães, one of the main figures of the "Western Paulista" coffee empire. The Baron built his mansion in Higienópolis neighborhood – where the bourgeoisie took refuge from the growing city – with ideas, techniques and materials brought from Europe, to reflect all its earthly glory. After all, he died before the completion of the work.

The nickname Nhonhô is a trace of the treatment the enslaved reserved to the children of the masters.

Without showing any human image, the nhonhô narrative starts with the reconstruction and virtual deconstruction of architectural elements of a house suspended between the ruin and a restoration that will artificially be incorporated into the ideal of beauty in the neighborhood, almost a century after its completion. The temporal arcs that are established between architecture and society serve as a connections for reading the character's story in relation to Sao Paulo city past.

Sharing interests and researches related in different ways to the digital aesthetics, architecture and acoustic phenomena, Giselle Beiguelman, Ilê Sartuzi and Gabriel Francisco Lemos worked together for the first time in nhonhô. Without access to the entire palace (due pandemic restrictions), the artists "re-enact" the house with fragments of photogrammetry – “surrounded by a gap of lack of information”, according to them – and elements of randomness (via artificial intelligence and machine learning photo coloring). In relation to the building itself and aiming for an immersive sonic experience, Lemos composed an algorithmic soundtrack based on resonance frequencies calculated from the actual spatial measurements of the depicted 3D rooms. 

Without traditional narrative structures, conceptual choices and formal decisions were determined to contextualize this piece in our present. An example is the tempered, autumnal and pearly palette, produced by algorithms that search for colorization parameters in European and American archive image databases. The “deviation” in the color of historical images of the tropics ends up echoing the distorted idea that the coffee bourgeoisie had of itself, when projecting, in São Paulo, a kind of personal Europe.

With an additional reflection on the neighborhood, whose name literally means hygiene city, and where the most favored portion of the population could breathe without fear of the diseases that raged in the workers tenements, nhonhô was premiered in the beginning of the second year (2021) of the Covid-19 Pandemics, during the Videobrasil Online Festival. From it, the platform systematically opens space, between exhibitions and curators, for the first exhibition of works that bring new, powerful and pertinent audiovisuals about our complex national and international realities.