Horizogon, the new album from São Paulo, Brazil-based artist Babe, Terror, depicts his native city in its current form – a ghost town haunted by the specter of COVID-19. Midnight jazz reveries blend with brushstrokes of blurry ambient shadows, and a choir of the undead howls like a cold wind throughout the album, mourning the empty streets, the city’s paralyzed circulatory system.
But this project isn’t just an album, it’s a film series as well. For each of the record’s six tracks, Babe, Terror (born Claudio Szynkier) and his associate Cauê Dias Baptista took to the streets of São Paulo with a handheld camera, capturing scenes that might seem everyday at first, but reveal the same tragic beauty upon closer inspection.
Today we’re happy to present to you the video for Horizogon’s closing track, “Horizogon Catalase.”
Like the others, the “Horizogon Catalase” video comes off as excerpts from an extended walk through the city streets with a handheld camera. The dark lanes and alleys are free of almost any pedestrians, but in places the sidewalks are lined with tents. At a construction site, a few men pick through the demolition rubble, searching for meaning. Things conclude in breathtaking fashion, as animated projections of dancers glide across the dark buildings’ faces like it’s Time Square, swaying together to the delicate jazz piano and somber saxophone.
“That was the day before the quarantine is enacted. Night in the deserted city, people in fear, but the luminous neon dancers are making their party, as if they had forgotten to turn them off and they’ve been set free without control. There is a walk in Crackolândia too, the place that by day is a commercial maze, and at night is where young homeless addicts get together, look for drugs and sleep.”
This segment emphasizes that COVID is only the latest affliction for Brazil, a country currently under authoritarian rule. The wealthy may be content, but the poorer citizens of São Paulo are being ignored, and often mistreated and persecuted. “This was already an apocalyptic moment in Brazil…to the point where you walk on a street, go to the supermarket and people really feel free to attack whomever they consider ‘bearded vagabonds’ and ‘communists’” Szynkier says. For his outspokenness on these matters he has lost jobs and opportunities, to the point where Horizogon had to be “crowdfunded against authoritarianism,” a process that he says just made the album feel “more alive.”
So what is ‘Horizogon’? It’s a word without concrete meaning, but Szynkier ponders that it might be:
“A New São Paulo after authoritarianism fever, after Coronavirus, without so many buildings, with 60’s buildings reborn, some demolition too (demolition always brings some kind of beauty), and this large piece of urbanistic art in the middle of a park [that] can be seen illuminated at night and many kilometers away. Maybe this is Horizogon. Or a planet, a new São Paulo as a new urban place with more respectful humanity, the city reincarnating more beautiful, I have a lot of hope. Horizogon is the new old town.”
While the sound of Horizogon is practically funereal in mood, and while for many the situation is grim in São Paulo, Babe, Terror still sees a chance of a great future. After all, demolition always brings some kind of beauty.