There are people who are bridges: they are simply an undersea cable that irreversibly connects two geographies at the same time. Mauricio Ceppi is a visual browser that connects Caracas and New York, synchronizes your beats, harmonies consolidates, and manages to reconcile the two cities at the same bpm.
Mauricio was born in 1973 in the hospitable and wild Caracas. Two years after his birth, in 1975, the Museum of Contemporary Art was opened with Arte de Video: Nam June Paik, the creator of video synthesizers, arrives in Caracas accompanied by Charlotte Moorman, American avant-garde musician, for a multimedia performance in which Moorman’s costume reacted to cello sound waves.
With the exhibition Arte de Video, the MAC video collection begins. Peter Campus, a pioneer of chroma keys and monitoring, and Ian Hugo, a banker who dedicated his fortune to epic video dimensions (in addition to being Anais Nïn’s first husband) are present.
In 1967, eight years before the MAC opening, but in the same place – El Conde corner, at the end of Avenida Bolívar – the most important multitudinous multimedia event of the 60s, Imagen de Caracas, an indelible imprint on the moving image arts in the country. Journalist and researcher Ricardo Tirado stated: «There are 160,000 feet of film that collect in a vast panorama of centuries and facts the history of the city and the action of singular individuals… Eight projectors of simultaneous action, 48 projectors of fixed views with more than 10,000 slides synchronized with electronic music, spread through 60 loudspeakers, and mobile visual elements, give Imagen de Caracas exceptional qualities, not achieved by any country.
Before Imagen de Caracas, interest in new technologies of the image could be found in national television in the Show of Reny Ottolina that, in words of the critic Luis Angel Duque, «premiered the effects and the inventions of the new technologies of The image, of which were appropriated the video artists that would burst in the following years «.
Mauricio Ceppi was born in this context. Son of Conchita Bach, lead actress, along with Edmundo Aray, in the telenovela El derecho de nacer. Years later, Ceppi would be a musician supporting Seguridad Nacional and VJ (video-jockey). In addition, for more than 15 years, he was also the head of one of the most important audiovisual groups in New York: Funktaxi 1533. Mauricio begins to exhibit his work in New York and Caracas simultaneously, introducing in his proposal a novelty technique, videomapping: since the early 90s, modulates the shapes of light to build video-sculptures with 360-degree projection. His work with the so-called live cinema or vjing also begins in the early years of that decade: the live manipulation of moving images, simultaneously with music and before an audience in a real-time performance.
In 1993, the only way to do live cinema was with Betamax or VHS tapes and a video mixer. In the case of Mauricio, it was an NX50, his first «baby», and its process developed approximately as follows: recording, painting, scratching, solarizing, etc., 8 or 16mm films in TV studios, classrooms at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Then he took those 16mm recordings to UMATIC (remember that big video format that television and audiovisual departments worked with in the 80s and 90s). Subsequently, these UMATIC tapes were taken to VHS, to then connect the VHS to their mixer and to put together a set live.
As is to be expected, following Mauricio’s career fully is extremely difficult due to the «hyperactivity» that has characterized his process. His video sculptures are developed in ephemeral territories, which last a single night. Festivals, raves, releases, private tours (usually for example the visual consultant in Lil’Wayne’s blowouts), concerts, plays and design of pallets are some of the spaces of his works. However, since 1994 he has exhibited his work in iconic enclaves such as Artists Space, Independent Art and Purple Gallery; Is also part of the collection of Anthology Film Archives, and participated in the exhibition The Millenials in CBGB. In 1998, he designed the facade of the Limelight nightclub together with HR Giger (the artist in charge of materializing Aliens), and more recently he was in charge of the visual dimension of Un Deco Ensemble–a musical ensemble that combines Bernstein’s work with that of Kraftwerk in a philharmonic key.
Simultaneously, Ceppi is part of several exhibitions in Caracas thanks to the impetus during the 1990s and the early 2000s to strengthen the links between art and technology (which, as is obvious to any observer, have now been broken – One only need to check the last editions of Jóvenes con FIA, Octubre Joven or the Mendoza Award to see the lack of support for digital art). Mauricio participates in the III Salon Pirelli for Young Artists (1997) with a piece of video mapping in 360º, where a character travels by altered and circular realities. Both the work and the projectors he brought from New York to mount it were stolen weeks after the opening, so the only record left are these photographs (below this paragraph) in the MAC files. This was one of the first videomapping works to be exhibited in Venezuela.
In 1999, Ceppi again exhibits in Caracas, again in the Salón Pirelli – an edition for which there is no catalogue because «the money was stolen,» according to Richard, the director of the MAC Library. That same year, presents a work on the space race at the VI Biennial of Visual Arts Christian Dior: videos projected on the first prototype of suit with which the man stepped on the moon. In 2000, Ceppi receives an honorable mention of the Mendoza Award with the piece Guía para la vida cotidiana. Later, in 2011, she participates in Aleatorio, a show orchestrated by María Teresa Govea at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in which she seeks to promote moving image art and digital art. That same year, María Teresa takes the work to the Velada de Santa Lucía, and in 2016 a piece of her is part of the multimedia art section of the party-exhibition Bajo Techo at MACZUL. In another line, disconnected from the world of art but impacting strongly on it, Ceppi organizes, on two occasions, the visual design for the sassy debaucheries organized by Marlboro cigarettes that were called «Red Noise».
It is easy to understand why Mauricio Ceppi has established himself as a cult artist who has managed to connect Caracas and New York. His work never stops: just consult your social networks or make a few clicks on the portal Funktaxi 1533 to understand the difficulty of locating it in some clearly defined cultural space; Rather, its natural situation lies in a node where parties of electronic music, film, moving image arts and communal performance, articulated by photography and binary language.
As an invitation/incitement to know the work of this audiovisual explorer, we openly share a video of Ceppi that is part of the Sala Medoza collection. The video has been digitized by the NodoCCS team (María Bilbao, Diana Rangel, Iván Candeo and Yagu), who have turned to the task of revitalizing all the moving image files of the collection. The invitation is to enjoy a work that condenses all the humor, practicality and honesty of an artist that must be investigated in a careful way to expand the vision and, with it, the culture.
About the Author:
Nicolás Gerardi (1989) is a visualist who develops mutant projects between curatorship, live cinema, writing and digital creation. Currently, along with María Isabel Acosta Alfaro, he’s part of the blog TEXTVRA, dedicated to encouraging the Caracas tempo from Busca Tu Espacio and to cultivating memory through wild investigations.