Burnt Tire in the Air), 2004-2006 © Rogério Reis.
This afternoon I came across this interview with Brazilian photographer Rogério Reis in the journal Public Culture. A significant portion of Reis's earlier work deals with carnival and reminds me in some ways of images made by Joel Peter Witkin. But Reis also has, more recently, done an installation consisting of a series in memory of people (including some of his friends and colleagues) who have been killed in what are called "microwaves" - murder weapons consisting of automobile tires soaked in gasoline and set ablaze. Drug dealers in the favelas of Rio de Janerio essentially use these tires to create a crematorium that burns the individual inside to death and, in the process, make it highly unlikely that authorities might identify the remains. This clearly is an effective, gruesome way to eliminate enemies and destroy evidence at the same time. (This seems like a 'perfected' version of the practice of 'necklacing' that became a relatively common way of summarily executing 'collaborators' in South African townships in the 1980s.) In the interview Reis, who himself began as a photojournalist, reflects on the pervasive violence in large Brazilian cities and, importantly, on the role of the media in perpetuating the violence - in particular he refers to the sorts of processes that will be familiar to those who've seen films like City of God or Bus 174.