The investigation of the presence of absence
Revisiting feelings, then
About my video work
Através do sentimento eu exploro. The duality present in my everyday life traverses my work. The challenge of counterbalancing two very different cultures is reflected in my art. From exploring linguistic differences, to accepting the seemingly dramatic way Brazilians express themselves I dissect the meaning of saudade.
The feeling of longing hovers the content, transforming saudade into a visual sentiment.
I am a filmmaker and video editor born in Brazil but currently based in the U.S. My films use observation and documentation of my (and our) reality.
I depict the presence of absence, the silent connections within relationships and unspeakable feelings. I miss. I shape. I reshape.
Utilizing primarily spontaneously shot digital footage, I share with the audience my complex view of the world in a vulnerable way. Through bilingualism and biculturalism, I explore possibilities. I travel between cultures. I create new words. I expand my vocabulary. O seu vocabulário. I translate. I try to give people time to pause and reflect. With the intention of creating a circular intimacy and trust for those who let themselves embark on/ in/ into/ upon/ under and above my art.
Eu os desafio a olhar e enxergar. I seek the audience’s commitment to dive into themselves through my shared raw feelings in hopes of provoking an empathetic exchange.
The intention is to translate into visuals sentiments that seems untranslatable and find the un-worded connection.
An informal talk
I am Vanessa Reuter. I am from Brazil but I have been living in the U.S for the past four years and producing content in English for almost six years now.
I’m a filmmaker who is still in the process of understanding how to describe their art. My work has been variant throughout the past six years, it has reflected my life changes and my better understanding of who I am as an artist. Understanding and acceptance.
I was accepted into film school at the Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. A 17-year-old kid, with the dream of becoming a video editor by the end of the four year program.
Up to that point I hadn’t had ANY contact with experimental films. It wasn’t even in my mind to think of this as a part of the film field, much less my own body of work.
Back in Brazil while I tried to conform to the university’s understanding of film, the will of producing social justice content was evident in my work.
But my time in Rio wasn’t all about feeling like a misfit. I co-created a production company to explore a side of my interests that had been overshadowed by my practice: the music industry.
I’m very connected with the music and the dance field. At the beginning of my career I wanted to become a music video editor.
In 2014 I started Pomar (a production company) with five other women with the intention of giving a platform to independent bands in South America. It was great, the project ended up helping move the independent music scene in Rio forward.
We put together two small music festivals and created a webseries that went on for three seasons, amongst other projects.
A lot of my experience as an independent filmmaker is connected to this time of my life. Then I built and perfected my skills as a director of photography and video editor. And since I was part of the entire process of conceptualizing, producing and making the work, it trained me to be an independent filmmaker and to be present in all the steps while creating videos.
I left the production company in 2016 after moving to the United States and since then I have dedicated my time to my own films.
I started film school with the idea of changing the world little by little with my art. I had dreamt of exposing the problematic sides of our society and opening a discussion for change through documentary. And although this thought has matured, I believe the sentiment is still present in my work. It is just a different format, aesthetic and way more personal than I expected.
When I started I had no idea my films would mainly talk directly about my experiences.
But coming to the US shifted my perspective about my own life. I had to come to an understanding of who I was as a person in this new society.
My perceived race changed from White to Latina, my privileges were transformed, and I had to overcome a huge language and cultural barrier. And that, of course, had a huge impact on my work. Then and now.
In Fall 2015, in my first semester as an undergrad exchange student at UWM I made a film called Blurred Lines; where I exposed my main thoughts about the life I was living in which I craved real life subtitles to fully comprehend it.
The film discusses how much power can emerge from the knowledge of a specific language. What can be trusted and how much mistranslation and a lack of cultural understanding can create a completely different experience. How control can be connected to what’s presented to others and not inner knowledge.
How dependent we are on the language we speak and the culture it is attached to.
During the same time period, I created a mini documentary trying to understand and share with Americans the meaning of the word Saudade. I was taught that this word was one of the hardest to translate in the world; a very universal feeling translated in different ways. A word that means a lot to Brazilians and it meant a lot to me at that time; and it still does. Saudade is present within me and it is all over my work.
What is Saudade, you want to know, right? You most likely feel or have felt it.
This word can be related to the feeling of longing or missing something or someone. The most explanatory meaning I have found is: the presence of absence.
Which can take its own meaning when translated. And can be connected with the work I do. Where I try to expose the silent parts of relationships, the unspeakable feelings and the unexplainable individual journeys.
I guess, what I try to do with my work is fill this void with this presence we feel when we think of longing. How can we explain that?
And that question leads to another one: how can we represent and share this voided presence?
I believe that is the hardest part of my work: how to aesthetically translate this untranslatable feeling.
Technically, I end up falling into abstract images. Using blurriness, reflections and lack of faces to represent feelings but also to expand personal stories. My films usually have specific characters, but it attempts to not completely define them so there is space to the audience to project their own feelings and connect with the idea of it.
There Here, which is my first film in grad school is the perfect example of dealing with the visual translations of feelings. The 14 minute film is a phone conversation between my mom and I about her visa situation in Canada. It explores mother-daughter relationship, but it also deeply exposes our feelings. The vulnerability and rawness of it becomes a visual challenge.
In this film you can also see the initial question I raised about the power of languages and the necessity of translations. With text on the screen I play with the understanding of translation. What is this common language between my Portuguese speaking mother and my English speaking audience?
Can we articulate the feeling solely through tones, voice reactions and outer language connection? Is true empathy translatable?
After this piece I understood that I needed to keep doing more personal cinema. I have been working on this new piece in which I reveal my fears and insecurities about the course of “my country”.
In 2018 Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil and he has carried with him messages of violence and clear hatred towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
This film tries to share my own narrative and perspectives while discussing my role as a privileged “outsider” of my own country. And induce a self-reflection on whether I have the right to feel this way. Bringing back the discussion of how I am seeing in different societies and how to connect with places that don’t see me as one of theirs. Pushing foward the artistic and personal search of who I truly am.
This past body of personal work has taken a toll on me. These works are very emotionally draining.
They take a lot from me and expect a lot from the audience. It craves for a safe space to fully feel, and to let it be.
In May 2019 I finished Don’t Drop it Joanna, a film that uses humor to criticize the commodity of love in our society. A montage that investigates my relationship with love and seeks to understand how I can express genuine love while consuming this culture and its content.
This new line of work was born in an attempt to counterbalance the heaviness of my films, without losing the core of my art: questioning society.
I am excited to keep making my art and uniting people through empathy.
Welcome to my website!