For the artist Elsa Leydier, it’s not about deciding if images are more potent than words, but rather about showing the power of the two together. Her latest series, #elenão, was created during the presidential elections in Brazil won by Jair Bolsonaro. The images, at first glance paradisiacal, are in fact fragmented and in places even oversaturated or discolored. The printing of apparent flaws or bugs is due to the image processing technique. Using images generated by searching for “Brazil” in Google, Leydier encoded some of Bolsonaro’s hateful statements directly into the images, producing several types of distortions.
Fractures & illusions
The series #elenão breaks stereotypes. By using Google search results, Leydier subverts utopian images of Brazil. From the Amazonia to carnival scenes, Leydier demonstrates that images one thought familiar may reveal another thing altogether, if one only looks close enough. Leydier is above all interested in the power of images and representations. Seaside landscapes and pictures of festivities conceal politics of violence, and Leydier’s work reminds us what’s really going in Brazil.
A message from Brazil
#elenão thus constitutes a critique of Bolsonaro’s politics, conducted for the most part on social media. Leydier explains: “showing specious visions of a tropical paradise (which is often the perception of Brazil, especially from the outside), seemed to me like an apt metaphor to comment on populisms and extremisms and the way they undermine peoples and territories.” By embedding messages of hate proffered by Bolsonaro since the beginning of his political career directly into the image code, Leydier suggests ways in which such statements are disguised, communicated, and revealed.
The art of the Anthropocene
Lastly, the series is a painful reminder that Bolsonaro’s words are not just capable of distorting images, but that the landscapes can really be fractured, or even destroyed, through irresponsible environmental and social policies.