This article compares the video Reinforced Concrete (2012) by Lucas Ferraço Nassif, begun during Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki's 2011 workshop-based project Labour in a Single Shot in Rio de Janeiro, and the performance Bustox (2014), which was carried out by the Brazilian experimental theater collective ERRO Grupo in Florianópolis. Each artwork can be read as an attempt to defetishize an idol of Brazilian capitalism, former billionaire Eike Batista. Moreover, Ehmann and Farocki's workshop can be seen as an attack on the process of fetishizing products of labor, fetishization being one of the main characteristics of capitalist society. Ehmann and Farocki's project, and consequently Nassif's video, are connected to the work of theoreticians such as Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben concerning the themes of improvisation and profanation. The concept of the fetish is also revitalized by taking into consideration Latin American thinkers Fernando Ortiz and Osório César.


This article seeks to analyze two cultural artifacts from Brazil: a video by Lucas Ferraço Nassif titled Reinforced Concrete (2012) and the performance Bustox (2014) by the experimental theater collective ERRO Grupo (Error Group). The main argument presented here is that both works aim at the defetishization of Eike Batista, a former billionaire who was once depicted as the ultimate icon of Brazilian capitalism. The argument begins by showing how Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki's project Labour in a Single Shot, begun in 2011 and from which Nassif's video emerged, is essentially a criticism of fetishism in contemporary society. This article shows how the project uses the tools of repetition with difference and improvisation (that is, to find a solution creatively departing from a given model) to reach its critical objectives. Such apparatuses can be clearly seen in action in Nassif's video when it dialogues with both the writings of Walter Benjamin and the work of the Lumière brothers in order to attack the notion of progress from the perspective of a peripheral country.

To understand how repetition and improvisation play a role in Ehmann and Farocki's project in general, and in Nassif's video in particular, theoretical texts dealing with topics in education, dance, music, and philosophy are employed. Moreover, Nassif's video has as its singularity the voice-over that fills its soundtrack, making the video stand out among the hundreds that stemmed from Ehmann and Farocki's project.

The last part of the article has a historical purpose. It reconstitutes both ERRO's performance in which they manufactured a bust of Batista and the very history of success and demise of that businessman, which is an important chapter in recent Brazilian history. One of the main intentions of ERRO can be described as the defetishization and profanation of a public figure who in the era of the society of the spectacle takes the place formerly occupied by simple commodities. The article also brings to the discussion Latin American intellectuals in order to shed some light on the Marxist concept of fetishism.


Labour in a Single Shot is a video-cinematographic, creative-investigatory, activist-political project (meant also to be exhibited in galleries and museums) conceived and organized by the German filmmakers Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki.1 The concept of this project (which ran from 2011 to 2014), according to the authors/coordinators, was to undertake production workshops in fifteen cities worldwide:

The task of the workshops is to produce videos of 1 to 2 minutes in length, each taken in a single shot … cuts are not allowed… . The subject of investigation is “labour”: paid and unpaid, material and immaterial, rich in tradition or altogether new… . The task as set leads straight to basic questions of cinematographic form and raises essential questions about the filmmaking process itself. Almost every form of labour is repetitive… . We draw on the method of the earliest films, made at the end of the 19th century (such as the Lumière brothers' Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat) in order to regain something of their decisiveness… . The project also involves the production, in each workshop city, of contemporary remakes of the Lumières' film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory. What kinds of workers do we still see leaving their workplaces, and where?2

The cities in which the workshops took place until 2014 are Bangalore, Berlin, Boston, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Geneva, Hangzhou, Hanoi, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Lodz, Mexico City, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv. Since 2017, the workshops have been restarted at Ciudad Juarez, Marseille, Vilnius, and Chicago. The resulting videos were published on the project webpage as “an archive that includes all the completed videos from all the workshops”3 and, later, a number of those works were curated and selected for official exhibitions including the 55th Venice Biennale (Latin American Pavilion) in 2013, and at art venues such as Boston's Mills Gallery and Sherman Gallery in 2014. The exhibitions in the latter two venues were accompanied by an academic conference at Boston University bearing the project's title, in which cinema critics reflected on various contexts and interpretations of Ehmann and Farocki's enterprise.4 When thus placed side-by-side on the internet or in art galleries, the four hundred or so short videos produced by 261 filmmakers in so many urban spaces between 2011 and 2014 generate the impression of what Susan Buck-Morss, following Walter Benjamin, calls a “constellation.”5 Those single-shot works have to deal with the modes of how to capture labor and the achieved solutions were often singular and novel. At the same time, they aim partly to replicate one of the initial experiments of cinema, undertaken by the Lumière brothers: the foundational, single-shot film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, first shown publicly on December 28, 1895.6 The workshop videos, however, are a copy with a difference: they aim to imitate and expand upon the Lumières' original in a creative and innovative fashion. They are also part of a collective endeavor rather than the product of a single filmmaker or filmmaking company. Ehmann and Farocki in fact define themselves as “producers.”7 With this in mind, to use the words of Frederico Benevides, one could say that Ehmann and Farocki “giv[e] up the full authorship of the work.”8

The project Labour in a Single Shot thus involves a certain degree of repetition: repetition of the Lumière brothers' film, but also a degree of repetition of another film by Farocki himself, 1995's Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik (Workers Leaving the Factory), a title signaling Farocki's intention to sample and remix the Lumière brothers' piece, if I borrow the characterization of the film by critic Volker Siebel.9 Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik, however, inserts itself into a chain of other repetitions that can be traced back to the nineteenth century. When composing it, Farocki reported having had the “impression that for over a century cinematography had been dealing with just one single theme.”10 To strengthen Farocki's impression, one could have added the 1896 Portuguese film Saída do Pessoal Operário da Fábrica Confiança (Workers Leaving the Confiança Factory), which was made by Aurélio da Paz dos Reis, a businessman and an ally to the Republican movement from the city of Porto.11 However, “the screenings done in Portugal by Paz dos Reis—perhaps for technical deficiencies—did not arouse more than a brief movement of curiosity.”12 In the film, the workers leaving the factory (now a motif) are momentarily superposed by carts with their horses and oxen that cross in the foreground, and in the Lumière brothers' film the horse/horses are what close the now historical documentation in two of the three versions that reached us. Paz dos Reis's film is an “imitation of a model,” already presenting its variations, which is “[necessary] in the growing and maturation of any technology, particularly of all those that involve communication. ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ said Arthur C. Clarke … and magic is learned by studying, imitating and, only later, creating new illusions.”13

In other words, could Ehmann and Farocki be undertaking the task of developing a technology/technique by searching for its limits inside an old, given model? I refer to the cinematographic production technique in general terms, which until recently was in dispute among several models including a Hollywood one, and from which Ehmann and Farocki seem to try to expose its “magic” by repeating the gesture of the Lumière brothers through the subversion of former “illusions.” To use another term, closer to the theoretical intentions of this present essay, Ehmann and Farocki appear to be attempting to reveal the cinematographic technique's “feitiço” (a Portuguese word for magic from which the English word “fetish” is derived). However, all these degrees of cinematic repetition are transformed within Labour in a Single Shot in a collective dialogue. They help to open space for the new inside the previously known, in an act of “causing no more illusions”—to apply a term of Lia Raquel Oliveira and Elías Blanco to a different context, the pedagogical experiment of Ehmann and Farocki's workshops. In sum, the several degrees of repetition have a “collaborative” character with the intention of “uncovering fabrications” (“desvendar a fabricação”).14 And “uncovering fabrications” seems precisely to be one of Ehmann and Farocki's main objectives in this project.

As in an act of contact improvisation—a term that is here being adopted from the dance field to be applied in the sense of a method that ideally “[makes possible] the egalitarian participation of people in a group … in a structure for the improvisation that did not lead to the isolation of any participant”—participants in a Labour in a Single Shot workshop end up making a similar and at the same time different gesture toward the Lumière brothers, unconsciously passing through Paz dos Reis, and perhaps consciously passing through Ehmann, Farocki, and even their workshop colleagues, creating a potentially infinite number of readings from a primordial scene.15 The phrase “degrees of repetition” is used here because many (if not most) of the videos produced focus on several instances of actual labor and not just on workers leaving a factory after their labor, which is effectively absent in the Lumière brothers' piece. Repetition is already subverted. The Lumière brothers' film is still a cinematographic primordial scene and one that reflects the quintessentially modern transfer of labor from rural to urban environments, especially to the factory. Nevertheless, as in contact improvisation dance, the workshops give the impression of bearing something of a general appeal, “for [there is] no vocabulary to be learned [in contact improvisation] … [with the possibility of it] being taught, at least in the beginning, rapidly.”16 By taking the cinematographic medium and emptying it of possibly complex tools such as the cut and the montage, by making it regress to a primeval simplicity while it remains linked to the advantages of current digital technologies, Ehmann and Farocki open this cinematographic medium to exploration by filmmakers at various levels of skill.

From this perspective, the Labour in a Single Shot project could be seen as an assault on “feitiço,” or better, fetish—fetish being that which can be isolated from the rest of a body or corpus (in literary and artistic terms) and therefore worshipped without being attached to what remains (if one departs from the ideas of Cuban writer Severo Sarduy17). At first sight, it is possible that the initial gesture of the Lumière brothers is being fetishized by Ehmann and Farocki: it would be at the most an homage to the inventors of that art. However, the focus by the project's filmmakers on contemporary labor (on labor itself and not only on the departure from the factory)—precisely a focus on what is incorporated and manifested back by the commodity as its “quasi-physical properties,” which, according to a reading of Karl Marx, would help to give its “mysterious,” “magical,” “fetish-like character” (feitiço-like, if one goes back to the etymological origin of the word) not only to commodity but to capital itself—is a present retake of the discussion, a retake within the society of the spectacle.18 Reading the words of Hans G. Ehrbar: “Capitalistic social relations can only maintain themselves if most of the people most of the time ‘forget,’ in their practical actions, that the powers of the things which they are trying to take advantage of originate in their own activity… . Marx calls this false consciousness ‘fetishism.’”19 Labour in a Single Shot becomes an updated, Debordian criticism of fetishization.20 When Ehmann and Farocki say that contemporary labor cannot be even imagined, this can be interpreted as labor entering into the zone of the mystical, of the religious.

In 1924, the Brazilian Modernist and communist psychiatrist Osório César, who dedicated part of his career to the relationship between mysticism and the art of the insane, wrote an article entitled “A arte primitiva nos alienados: manifestação escultórica com caráter simbólico feiticista num caso de síndrome paranóide” (The Primitive Art of the Alienated: Sculptural Manifestation with a Symbolic Fetishist/Magical Character in a Case of Paranoid Syndrome).21 He highlights and actually offers a correction for the term “fetish” (in Portuguese, fetiche), explaining its origins. In Portuguese, a correct variation would be, for example, feiticista, a word closer to feitiço, “and not fetishist [fetichista], as people wrongly use[d] to write. This word has a Portuguese and not a French origin, as many people think. It comes from feitiço.”22 Feitiço, in turn, could be rendered in English as “magic” or “spell”; the English spelling of the word blurs the immediate religious reference of the Portuguese term. As an expression of his interest in themes related to African-derived culture and religions, César reproduces a long passage from a book published in that same year, 1924, by the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz: a kind of encyclopedia with the title Glosario de afronegrismos, in which Ortiz connects the Spanish word fetiche not only to the Portuguese word feitiço, but to the historical encounter of the Portuguese people with African religions.23 According to César's reading of Ortiz, the term feiticista “was employed for the first time, much before the French used it, by the first explorers of Guinea [Guiné].”24 Elsewhere in his book, Ortiz makes a connection with the Spanish expressions fascinador and fascinación, whose English cognates include “fascination” and “fascinating.”25 These connections cast some light on the cultural consequences of Marx's choice to use a term in expressing a character of commodities that comes from the astonishment that the Portuguese colonizers presumably experienced during the encounter with African religious manifestations. Religious fetishism would be the attribution of an external power to an object, a power that is neither necessarily related to its material usability, nor essentially attached to the labor employed in its making.26


Stills from Reinforced Concrete (2012) by Lucas Ferraço Nassif.


Stills from Reinforced Concrete (2012) by Lucas Ferraço Nassif.


The proliferation of results from Ehmann and Farocki's Labour in a Single Shot, namely the hundreds of videos that have been accumulated on the internet, produced by authors mostly unfamiliar to film critics (unlike the coordinators of the project), makes it difficult to choose a piece that could be seen as representative of any part—for that matter, that could be separated from the whole, fetishized. The videos become purposefully diluted and, many times, the visualization of them by an interlocutor will happen by mere chance. This article proceeds with a cut inside the group of works regarding Brazil, considering it a product of Brazilian cinema. I focus on one video in particular, Nassif's Reinforced Concrete, in which these discussions about fetish and labor are brought to light, in a piece of only one minute and nineteen seconds.27 Reinforced Concrete will also have the role of highlighting some actors in the debate intended here. It contraposes the centrality of labor and the human being. But new actors can bring contradictory perspectives: in the place of the human being, for instance, there is in the video now the machine. Is the machine capable of laboring as human beings? Is its labor of greater, lesser, or equal importance to human labor? In the place of the factory, as the locus of construction, generation, and creation, we can also place the discussion of ruins by means of utilizing also that specific video on an apparent, at-first-glance demolition. How is labor also connected to destruction and catastrophe? Let us use the words of Michel Callon, who is one of the main exponents of Actor-network theory.28 I specifically want to run Reinforced Concrete through Callon's 1984 article “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay,” in which one can understand that it is necessary to approach some events with the principle of “free association,” in which there is no “a priori distinctions between natural and social events.”29 This means the use of terms such as “actor” to designate a range from “human beings” to “institutions or natural entities,” passing through instruments and nonhuman lives.30 Still, according to Callon, “To speak for others is to first silence those in whose name we speak. It is certainly very difficult to silence human beings in a definitive manner but it is more difficult to speak in the name of entities that do not possess an articulate language.”31


Stills from Reinforced Concrete (2012) by Lucas Ferraço Nassif.


Stills from Reinforced Concrete (2012) by Lucas Ferraço Nassif.

In Nassif's video, there is however a narrator in possession of articulate language. And he speaks in the name of the ruins (an inanimate entity); he faces such a difficulty. At the same time and as a kind of representative for the structure being partially demolished (in this case, Rio de Janeiro's Hotel Glória), he somewhat silences it as he is also conveying his own, individual perspective on the events. He is someone acting as a proxy for the building with all the limitations and contractions that this role implies. In those early silent films of the nineteenth century, from which Ehmann and Farocki depart, visuality seemed to be the only path available to filmmakers. In the project's videos, although the images are still captured and presented in a single shot, sound, especially the human voice, becomes an integral part of the discussion. Thus, Reinforced Concrete could be updating the work of the Lumière brothers, inserting the human voice, not as a musical addendum, but as a manifestation of narrative consciousness, taking a step beyond what the Lumières were able to achieve. Now voices can intervene in an activity and denounce its fetishist potentialities, as well as such contradictions as that residing in the destructive power of labor. Through its narration in English (not Portuguese), Reinforced Concrete approaches theoretical issues of modern labor and modern cinema with a certain precision enhanced by the filmmaker's choice to register the controversial demolition of parts of Hotel Glória. This process, initiated in 2010, was claimed as an architectural renovation after the acquisition of the building by the businessman Batista, which caused many conflicts with the hotel's neighbors.32 Nassif's video might be seen as an inversion of Gabriel Mascaro's 2009 documentary Um Lugar ao Sol (High-Rise) in which one bears witness to a vision of power over a city through the testimony of the elite who live in penthouses and speak without restraint in “interviews [that] are shocking and reveal a ‘segregationist’ and unembarrassed [décomplexée] way of seeing the world.”33 In Reinforced Concrete, on the other hand, one encounters the perspective of a spectator about the destruction that occurs at their feet from a still comfortable but impotent position—perhaps that narrator could yet be interpreted by the audience as possessing a degree of economic well-being, most likely belonging to part of the Carioca middle class (he is not living in the favelas; instead he speaks from an apartment located in the Glória neighborhood). However, even if one deduces such a class-belonging of the narrator from those cues in the video, one should be thinking about a part of the middle class that is disillusioned, to say the least, and that is consequently more socially conscious and aware of certain complexities inherent to modernity. This is the text proclaimed by the narrator in the video:

There was Brazil's first five-sta[r] hotel. This hotel was opened in 1922. There was also the first building made of reinforced concrete here. Every day I wake up with the sound of its rebuild. I wake up. I am on the eleventh floor. I look and I face that scene. What exactly is happening there? I am on the eleventh floor and I see that all. I see destruction mixed with construction. I am on the eleventh floor, sky high, on top of the remnants of an old Rio. Ruins that actually are the new. I can't close my windows. There's a storm coming. It is called progress.34

Reinforced Concrete can be understood as a short, compressed, and contemporary dialogue with Rio de Memórias (River of Memories), a 1987 documentary by José Inácio Parente, which depicts—among other topics—the transformations in the city of Rio de Janeiro around the turn of the twentieth century, with the inherent destructive aspect of urban remodeling.35 For, at least at first glance, Nassif's video suggests a certain nostalgia on the part of the narrator toward a historical and cultural patrimony that is being wrecked. But there seems to be more to the story, as the voice-over is clearly an adaptation of the following passage by Benjamin (his famous ninth thesis on the concept of history):

There is a picture by Klee called Angelus Novus. It shows an angel who seems about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned towards the past. Where a chain of events appears before us, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows towards the sky. What we call progress is this storm.36

In Reinforced Concrete, there is double repetition and copying (with variation)—both from Lumière and Benjamin. The narrator starts with the voice-over that could make the spectator imagine him as simply the consciousness of the filmmaker or of an invented character and slowly transforms himself into a tropical incarnation of Benjamin, who had himself already undergone a metamorphosis into Paul Klee's angel in his “Thesis IX.” Just as the Angelus Novus cannot close its wings and thus stop being carried by the storm of progress, the narrator of the video is unable to shut the window of his apartment: a similar, metaphorical wind impedes both of them. Reinforced Concrete repeats Benjamin's ideas in Rio de Janeiro in order to improvise, that is to say, to comment creatively on the subject of both catastrophe and progress in the Third World.

Jacques Derrida's comment to the American jazz musician Ornette Coleman applies the idea of musical improvisation to the use of language in a way that might help to explain the video's gesture: “Perhaps you will agree with me on the fact that the very concept of improvisation verges upon reading, since what we often understand by improvisation is the creation of something new, yet something which doesn't exclude the pre-written framework that makes it possible.”37 Derrida adds that repetition already contains in itself the very gesture of improvisation and vice-versa, as during improvisation every originary act is repeated “in its very structure.”38 The videos in Labour in a Single Shot are readings that do not exclude a previous body of visual texts: cinematographic improvisation. Just as Coleman defends himself in the interview saying that his style, “free jazz,” does not consist in absolute freedom for the musician to do as they please, without any responsibility, but has its own limitations, Ehmann and Farocki's workshop set limitations on the participants' practice as well.39 In a 2015 paper about the Labour in a Single Shot project, Selina Blasco points out that the project's formal requirement that the videos be taken in one “single shot also incorporates the possibility of improvisation, the unexpected.”40 This improvisation needs to have labor as its theme then, in a single shot of two minutes maximum, obviously without cuts. According to Farocki, the “limitation of working with only a single shot … opens a lot of space to imagination.”41 However, what appears significant, as Blasco posits, is that the German filmmakers “think about the formal constraints as a liberation, and not so much as a formal liberation, but … as something linked to a search for extraordinary and unexpected situations that allow the viewers to connect the filmed scenes with their own life.”42 As for Nassif's improvisation (in the sense of creatively constructing upon a previous model), it also exists in the voice-over of Reinforced Concrete: the narrator effectively speaking “over” the destructive machine that collapses the hotel's beams. The filmmaker himself revealed part of the video's conceptualization—and its connections with Brazilian life—in an exchange we had via email on November 16, 2014:

The voice-over was the first to be made in the videos of Harun and Antje's project and, when I presented [this] desire … they promptly accepted it. I thought … it was necessary and that it broadened the dimensions of the work. It is the Glória [Hotel] indeed. And Eike Batista went bankrupt soon after.43

One point to mention here as well is that the audio of the voice-over is momentarily covered by a hiss—similar to a strong radio-frequency interference—when the narrator is about to pronounce the word “reinforced” and we see the arm of the demolition machine obliterating a beam of concrete. The defect in its audio adds to the video a sense that the building no longer keeps its force, that the spectator is just witnessing old concrete being destroyed: weak, it is being reduced to debris by progress, a progress conducted by the force of a businessman, Batista. This force of progress, however, will also develop into a catastrophic one, concerning Batista's imminent economic decay, which coincided with the beginning of a political crisis in Brazil that is still dragging on.44

The approach of Nassif in Reinforced Concrete seems to have paid off. Not all the videos produced—and there are hundreds of them—were exhibited in galleries, museums, or festivals. Only a selection from the online archive is curated and displayed publicly.45 From the more than twenty exhibitions listed on the project's website so far, Nassif's video emerges as one of the most frequently included pieces.46 Among so many options, why was Nassif's video one of the works selected by the curators of the project to be included in so many of the official exhibitions? From this writer's perspective, what makes Reinforced Concrete stand out (at least in the Brazilian section) is its range of improvisations on the given theme: machine-centered work, insertion of a voice-over short-circuiting Labour in a Single Shot's historical basis in the silent film, and destruction and not construction through labor. Improvisation is a gesture close to reading, as already affirmed by Derrida, but it could be perhaps said that improvisation is also a gesture of profanation: i.e., to touch an anterior repertoire and to take it from the sphere of the sacred (to make use of the ideas of Giorgio Agamben).47 Here the sacred is understood in its broadest possibilities, including the cinematographic, literary, or even architectural canon—the sacred as that which encompasses all objects that go through a process of institutionalization, which removes this particular object from the possibility of regular use, that is to say, from the possibility of being copied, transformed, remixed.48 According to Agamben, to profane something is to touch it, to bring it back into human use. Consequently, such profanation is an answer to the idea of the fetish, which is a thing detached from use in order to be worshipped.49

I thus believe that Reinforced Concrete incorporates a political profanatory characteristic that goes beyond the narration and the sound of the voice-over, which are added as a strategy toward the subversion of fetish as the absence of labor's signs on the commodity (and a building such as the Hotel Glória can be understood as a commodity). There is touch in the video: the mythical Hotel Glória is touched and destroyed by the machine, whose tip resembles a human finger—and as the demolition worker or a strong representation of the working class are not actually shown in the video, the machine is even more anthropomorphic and consequently disturbing.50 Meanwhile, one bears witness to the annihilation of a cultural patrimony that should be preserved. But there is also the profanation of businessman Batista as a symbol of the spectacle.

One should remember that 2013—the year Nassif's video was exhibited in the 55th Venice Biennale—was a critical time for Batista: falling from grace, he had to see his conglomerate being shattered in a process of “cannibalization.”51 In March 2012—the workshop in Rio de Janeiro in which Reinforced Concrete was made took place in November of the same year—Batista was still being considered as a super-myth of advanced capitalism. He had experienced an astounding rise to the small realm of the world's mega-rich: his fortune was estimated at $30 billon and he was ranked 7th by Forbes in its list of the world's billionaires.52 At this point, Batista was still “nurturing the dream of becoming the richest man in the world.”53 As he declared, “My objective is to surpass Bill Gates.”54 But the history of one the world's richest people changed over a very short period of time. By June 28, 2012, Batista had “lost more than 50% of his wealth. Worth $14.5 billion as of [that] morning, according to Forbes' calculations, Batista … [was] no longer among the 10 richest people on earth. In fact, based on that figure, he would have ranked at only number 46 back in March.”55 In September 2013, Batista was removed from the world billionaires' club.56 Toward the end of the same year, Batista's assets “were negative at minus US $1.1 billion.”57 And in the second half of 2014, “his return to the middle class” was announced.58 It is estimated that a total close to US $65.1 billon in value money vanished in 2012 due to Batista's problems.59 And from the mythical and admired image of a genial entrepreneur, he became the target of attacks by the media.60 Nassif's video thus becomes linked as much to the profanation of Batista as a capitalist icon as to that of the Hotel Glória.



Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Pedro Bennato.


Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Pedro Bennato.

In March 2014, a performance by the avant-garde street theatre troupe ERRO Grupo included an image of Batista as one of its main characters. In Florianópolis, ERRO carried out an urban intervention called Bustox, which belonged to a larger public exhibition called ERRO EX POSTO.61 Apparently without asking for permission in every bureaucratic office of the municipal administration (which in Brazil can be an ordeal), a bust of the businessman created by the artist Gustavo Tirelli was to be placed by the group in the city's central square, Praça XV de Novembro, in substitution of a sculpture representing the painter Victor Meirelles (first installed in the 1920s). As ERRO explains, “In August [of 2013], four bronze busts in homage to Jerônimo Coelho, José Boiteux, Victor Meirelles, and Cruz e Souza were stolen from the Central Square of the capital city. The absence was noticed only two weeks after the fact and the case has not been resolved by the police until today.”62 The four historical busts were never recovered despite investigations, and Batista's new bust, made of glazed ceramics, was officially and “affectionately” donated by ERRO to the city administration [prefeitura] as a temporary substitute that should later receive its own, permanent display site:

We are positive that … once Your Excellencies put back the official busts on their pedestals, our City Administration, in an act of valorization of the art and the culture of the past, the present, the avant-garde, and the future, will also create a space of prominence for this work, BUSTOX.63

With this urban intervention, ERRO desired to call attention to “the negligence of memory and the necessity of taking advantage without measuring the (real or symbolic) damage with the much vaunted ‘preservation of the immaterial and material cultural patrimony’” and “to question the new historical personalities often celebrated (either by the media or in formal ceremonies) for their little-questioned actions and betterments.”64 They also wanted to “bring into the discussion … the people who stand as examples to the youth of today.”65 The title of the urban intervention, Bustox, plays with the words “bust” and “Botox,” a toxin injected in order to paralyze facial muscles and thus reduce the severity of wrinkles—a treatment that sometimes results in stiffness or artificiality in facial expressions.66 Thus, the title Bustox clearly refers to vanity; it also suggests the names of Batista's companies, whose acronyms each ended with an “X” to offer the idea of “multiple returns” and which were under control of the bigger group EBX: OGX, MPX, LLX, MMX, OSX, and others.67 Two of the many companies Batista created throughout the years in fact participated in the beauty industry (both in partnership with his romantic companions during the respective periods, and both ill-fated): Beaux, a $15 million investment “aesthetic clinic,” and FLX, which operated the franchise Clarity, which sold beauty products.68 It is important here to note that ideas of “aesthetics” and “cosmetics” played an important role in Batista's trajectory, a historical fact upon which the name given by ERRO to the bust in Florianópolis clearly comments. It was even reported that Batista used Botox himself.69 According to Pedro Bennaton, ERRO's director, the act of erecting Bustox was “like an operation of rejuvenation of the city.”70 It could additionally be interpreted as an exposition of vanity. Meirelles was a “visual artist, that is the reason why [they] chose to place [Bustox] in his place.”71 In the place of an artist, now the city had a businessman whose oeuvre was to concentrate as much money as possible and to expand his companies on a national and, eventually, a global scale. Batista even tried to construct a shipyard in Santa Catarina (the home state of ERRO), but this was fiercely opposed by environmentalists who were concerned about dolphins that inhabit the sea nearby. The project had to be abandoned as a consequence and was moved to Açu, Rio de Janeiro.72 The resultant conflict with the local community, caused by the possible ecological effects of the attempted project, could have contributed to a negative image of Batista in the lands ERRO hails from, perhaps another factor in their decision to represent him as Bustox.

To complicate things further, in 2009 Batista had declared himself to be “mega nacionalista” and “a Brazilian soldier.”73 Later, in a 2013, post-fall letter to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, he defended himself by exhibiting a patriotic stance again, which in a country of colonial and neocolonial history had the potential to attract an understandable degree of sympathy:

In recent months, my business obituary has occupied the pages of blogs, newspapers, and magazines. I can only say that I see myself very far from this retired Eike. I am 57 years old and have a lot of energy to roll up my sleeves and get new projects off the drawing board. I am a Brazilian entrepreneur, I believe in what I do, love my country.74

This letter was later criticized for other reasons.75 However, what I would like to consider here is that his display of patriotism (coupled with developmentalism) could at least partly explain why he was once seen positively by then-president Rousseff, with whom he used to speak directly by phone, and whose predecessor, Lula, would try to help him in negotiations with foreign investors and in the effort to save his collapsing empire.76 João Freire Filho and Mayka Castellano argue that “president Dilma Rousseff's inauguration speech, in which one of the goals announced was ‘to transform Brazil into a country of a solid and enterprising middle class,’ leaves no doubt as to the propagation of the entrepreneurship mystique that pulsates in Eike Batista's journalistic profiles.”77 Batista's demise can be understood as a prelude to that of Rousseff and the PT (Workers' Party) national project, which reached its critical point with the ultraconservative 2016 removal of her as the country's executive head.78 Thus I agree with Malu Gaspar when she suggests, “the history of the rise and fall of Eike Batista is an epitome of a period of Brazilian capitalism.”79 And Bustox came to life precisely when Batista was disappearing as a billionaire; it thus functions as a virtually posthumous homage to a national and nationalistic icon similar to the case of Meirelles.80

Additionally, Batista was known to be “open-handed with money.”81 As a philanthropist for the arts, he donated to names with connections to Brazilian cinema novo—Luiz Carlos Barreto (to produce 2009's Lula, o filho do Brasil [Lula, Son of Brazil]), Arnaldo Jabor (to direct 2010's A suprema felicidade [The Supreme Happiness]), and Cacá Diegues (to produce 2010's 5 x favela, agora por nós mesmos [5 x favela: now for us]).82 Batista even hired Conspiração Filmes to produce his institutional videos, “for an estimated total cost of at least R$6 million.”83 The company is responsible for Brazilian national blockbusters, such as 2 Filhos de Francisco (Two Sons of Francisco) (2005, directed by Breno Silveira) and A Mulher Invisível (The Invisible Woman) (2009, directed by Claudio Torres).84 He also wanted to be an important benefactor to Rio de Janeiro. According to Sergio Leo, Batista “len[t] his airplanes” to governor Sérgio Cabral, helped “finance the installation of the Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora [Pacifying Police Unities]” in the favelas, gave R$23 million to Rio de Janeiro's candidacy to be an Olympic city, and “promised investments by his real estate group to rebuild two hotels (in which he spent almost R$120 million only on the acquisitions), [and] to create a convention center and a waterpark.”85 The Hotel Glória alone was reported to have been bought for R$80 million (approx. US $47.2 million) in 2008.86 Batista even formed a company named IMX to stay active in the field of “cultural events,” investing in activities related to Rock in Rio and Cirque du Soleil.87 Of course, his philanthropy received its own share of criticism as “self-promotion” and “blandishments [agrados] to power,” arguments he refuted with assertions of generosity, independence of his business from the state, and patriotic duty.88 Whatever the case may be, what one should be concerned with is that he was not totally disconnected from the artistic world—at least, not from the entertainment industry—and these historical factors add to ERRO's intended or effective irony and the complexity of using Batista as a model to replace the image of an important national painter. Is the successful and generous archetype of the patron more important than the artist? Is it possible to separate art and business, especially in the age of the spectacle?


Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Gustavo Tirelli.


Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Gustavo Tirelli.


Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Gustavo Tirelli.


Bustox (2014) by ERRO Grupo; photograph by Gustavo Tirelli.

Even though there exists documentation of the bust being created with the use of several photographs of Batista as a model, it is correct that ERRO did not explicitly and unequivocally state that Bustox was indeed a statue of the businessman himself, preferring to give the idea it was a “similar representation.” More than to protect themselves from a lawsuit or similar juridical attempts to censor the performance, their intention was also to avoid limiting possible readings of the work.89 In any case, and if one tries to dive deeper into the cultural consequences, Bustox seems ultimately to denounce the intimate relationship between fetish and capitalism: ERRO propagated that in fact “the protest [was] also a criticism ‘against consumerism [sociedade do consumo].’”90 Bennaton asked rhetorically: “In 50 years, whom will the monuments be about? We imagined the consumer society [sociedade do consumo], with the current and market-driven configurations.”91 According to Fabio Salvatti, ERRO's urban intervention will “remain as a ghost to haunt a public administration of insufficient cultural politics and an artistic production oriented by the society of the spectacle.”92 The connection with Guy Debord and the Situationists is clear, as noted by Manuel Delgado, who made a very precise statement of how ERRO's practice of street theater is linked to a criticism of the current economic system that has as its “objective … to show the traces of capitalism in the most insignificant elements of everyday life and to do it by highlighting the urban space as a living framework for and of artistic creation.”93


To bring capitalism's marks from invisibility to visibility is something that connects ERRO's project with Nassif's video. Labour in a Single Shot as a whole, according to Thomas Elsaesser, “is conceived as a way of reversing invisibility …”94 Bustox highlights not the product of labor but the figure of the capitalist as something supposedly to be worshiped in the society of the spectacle, a figure that sometimes leans more toward the role of destroyer than creator, a point also made by Nassif's video. The two artworks try to be an antidote to abandonment and disappearance. The Bustox performance did not represent praise and nostalgia for “official culture and history” but a realization that, with such an administrative “negligence” toward figures accepted by the establishment, a “marginal culture” [cultura à margem] would be difficult if not impossible to achieve.95 Both the Hotel Glória and the bust of Meirelles were inaugurated in the same decade, the 1920s.96 The Hotel Glória has not yet been rebuilt; the remains were sold to other investors, and the building is even mentioned as a stop on a possible urban “tour [passeio] through Eike's ruins in Rio de Janeiro.”97 Meirelles's original bust apparently has never been recovered and was replaced with a new one.98 Already in April 2014, Florianópolis's administration declared that displaying Bustox in such a way “does not make sense” and it would be “removed from the square, but without a definite deadline.”99 A few days passed and the municipal bureaucracy appeared to warm to the project, declaring that it “has an artistic character and, as such, should not be removed from there.”100 Less than two months later, however, Bustox “disappeared.”101 Just like the four historical busts, it was stolen.

The group ERRO subsequently found Bustox being sold in the underground art market, and bought it back, ironically referring to it as having “inestimable value for humanity.”102 Bustox was included in the group's 5º Bloomsburied as part of the 11ª Mostra de Performance Art—Verbo 2015, organized by Galeria Vermelho, and scheduled to be auctioned with an initial bid of R$10,000.00 (the equivalent of US$3,109.16 at the time).103 The amount of money asked by ERRO for Bustox in that auction was infinitesimal compared to the value of Batista's fortune at its pinnacle, when he owned Hotel Glória and started to rebuild it as depicted in Nassif's video. With such a low value, Batista as an icon became accessible and usable. Even though in the end Batista was paradoxically transformed into yet another product circulating in the market, he at least was turned into a work of art that is critical of capitalism even if not totally outside the system. The important lesson is that, through art, Batista was touched and used by ERRO in the process of such criticism, rather than being separated from common human beings and adored like an idol or hated like a demon.104



The idea of Labour in a single shot as “activism” comes from Rui Matoso, “Harun Farocki, trabalho e cinema em rede: o projecto colaborativo Labour in a single shot,” presentation at the II Congresso Internacional de NetAtivismo, Universidade Lusofona do Porto, 2016,; the view of it as an “artistic investigation” and the questions raised by the exhibitions regarding the character of the project is present in Selina Blasco, “Investigación artística y reverberación. A propósito de ‘Labour in a single shot’, un proyecto de Harun Farocki y Antje Ehmann,” presentation at II Congreso Internacional de Investigación en Artes Visuales, ANIAV, 2015,


Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, “Concept,” Labour in a Single Shot,


Ehmann and Farocki, “Concept,”; the list of the workshop cities come from Labour in a Single Shot,


See Ehmann and Farocki, “Concept”; Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, “Exhibitions,” Labour in a Single Shot,; and Labor in a Single Shot Conference: An international, interdisciplinary conference on the global video workshop curated by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, November 13–15, 2014, Boston University, The closing discussion was undertaken by Jonathan Foltz, Doreen Mende, Geoffrey Poister, Kim Sichel, and me, in which I had presented very early ideas now developed here. The full conference schedule is available here:


For Susan Buck-Morss's use of the concept of constellations in her work, see Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000).


Jacques Aumont, “Lumière Revisited,” trans. Ben Brewster, Film History 4, no. 8 (1996): 416,


See Richard Langston, “Eyes Wide Open: The Look of Obstinacy, the Gaze of the Camera, and the 24/7 Economy in Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki's Labour in a Single Shot (2011–2015),” Studies in Twentieth & Twenty-First Century Literature 40, no. 2 (2016): 6,


Frederico Benevides, “Harun Farocki, raiva poética e planos únicos,” Passagens 5, no. 1 (2014): 51, Another concept/idea that could be further developed with Ehmann and Farocki's project is the radical potential of the “uncreative” as seen by Kenneth Goldsmith if applied to the characteristics and nuances of the case here presented; see Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).


Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik (Workers Leaving the Factory) (1995, directed by Harun Farocki, trans. Michael Turnbull), Volker Siebel writes, “Just as the most advanced musical tendencies in contemporary pop music sampling techniques and re-mixes, dub and hip hop, respond to the daily increase in acoustic debris with formal minimalism, [Workers Leaving the Factory is] Farocki's answer to the same problem in the area of the visual.” Volker Siebel, “Painting Pavements,” trans. Roger Hillman, in Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004), 51.


Harun Farocki, “Workers Leaving the Factory,” trans. Laurent Faasch-Ibrahim, in Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004), 242.


Alves Costa, Breve história do cinema português, 1896–1962 (Amadora, Portugal: Instituto de Cultura Portuguesa, 1978), 9–16.


Costa, Breve história do cinema português, 15. That film was later exhibited with the filmmaker (and his business partner, magician José Avelino) in attendance in the Lucinda Theater in Rio de Janeiro—on Thursday, January 14, 1897, for the press and on January 15 for the public—during the launch, in Brazilian lands, of the then-called “Kinetographo Portuguez.” See Vicente de Paula Araújo, A bela época do cinema brasileiro (São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1985), 78–79; see also Costa, Breve história do cinema português, 9–16.


Lia Raquel Oliveira and Elías Blanco, “Apresentação de informação educativa na web, no contexto universitário português: análise de disciplinas online de suporte à leccionação,” in Actas do VI Congresso Galaico-Português de Psicopedagogia Vol. 1, ed. Bento Duarte da Silva and Leandro Almeida (Braga: Centro de Estudos em Educação e Psicologia da Universidade do Minho, 2001), 429,; the authors cited Arthur C. Clarke as translated into Portuguese while the English original sentence used here was from Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984), 36. “[Lumière's] film has three surviving versions, all very similar.” José Gatti, “(In)visibilidades de Labour in a single shot,” Significação 43, no. 45 (2016): 25,


Oliveira and Blanco, “Apresentação de informação educativa na web, no contexto universitário português,” 429.


The citation defining the contact improvisation method comes from Fernanda Hübner de Carvalho Leite, “Contato improvisação (contact improvisation) um diálogo em dança,” Movimento 11, no. 2 (May/August 2005): 91,


Leite, “Contato improvisação,” 94.


Severo Sarduy, La simulación (Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1982), 57–58; Severo Sarduy, “Fetiche,” trans. Rodrigo Lopes de Barros, Sopro, no. 13 (July 2009),


Hans G. Ehrbar, “Annotations to Karl Marx's ‘Capital’: Class Edition,” August 2010,; Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, “Volume One”; “Book One: The Process of Production of Capital”; “Part I: Commodities and Money”; “Chapter One: Commodities”; and “Section 4: The Fetishism of Commodities and The Secret Thereof,” trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, 47–59,; for the concept of the society of the spectacle, see Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1995).


Ehrbar, “Annotations to Karl Marx's ‘Capital,’” 442.


When Thomas Elsaesser describes Farocki as a “Marxist materialist,” there is a description of the filmmaker's view regarding modern capitalism and fetishism that could have very much been an outline of Debord's: “[Farocki] realized that, at some point in the 20th century, images began to take on a life of their own, rather than being representations of some reality outside them, or distinct from them. But he also knew that images were circulating as commodities that absorb both social reality and human labour, in the Marxist sense of being ‘phantasmagorias’ and ‘commodity-fetishes.’ It led him to a fairly sustained critique of ‘representation’ as our dominant image paradigm.” See Thomas Elsaesser, “Simulation and the Labour of Invisibility: Harun Farocki's Life Manuals,” Animation 12, no. 3 (November 2017): 218, A direct link between Farocki's “critique of representation” and Debord is also present in Hollyamber Kennedy, “Labor, in the Visible Recursive: Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki's Eine Einstellung zur Arbeit,” The Avery Review, no. 8 (May 2015),


See Osório César, “A arte primitiva nos alienados (1924): manifestação escultórica com caráter simbólico feiticista num caso de síndrome paranóide,” Revista Latinoamericana de Psicopatologia Fundamental 10, no. 1 (March 2007), (originally published in Memórias do Hospício de Juquery 1, no. 1, 1924); Rodrigo Lopes de Barros, “From Underworld to Avant-Garde: Art and Criminology in Cuba and Brazil,” Comparative Literature Studies 49, no. 2 (2012): 236,; Osório César, within Brazilian intellectual history, is also known by his legendary 1931 trip to the Soviet Union with the Modernist painter Tarsila do Amaral; for an example of the importance of the intellectual relations undertaken by Amaral and César during her journey to Russia, see Bruno Barretto Gomide, “David Vygódski: modernismo e política no Brasil e na União Soviética,” Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros, no. 58 (June 2014),


César, “A arte primitiva nos alienados (1924),” 118.


Fernando Ortiz, Glosario de afronegrismos (La Habana: Imprenta “El Siglo XX,” 1924), 204–5 and 547; also cited in Rodrigo Lopes de Barros, “Notas sobre Criminologia e Literatura em Cuba e no Brasil,” presentation at the XII Congresso Internacional da ABRALIC, July 18–22, 2011,


Osório César, “A arte primitiva nos alienados (1924),” 118.


Lopes de Barros, “From Underworld to Avant-Garde,” 231.


As to the social version of fetishism: “Readers in the modern U.S.A. often interpret the term ‘commodity fetishism’ to mean an excessive devotion to material goods. I have no evidence that Marx ever used it in this way. And today's often-heard admonition that one should not ‘overemphasize’ material goods is most of the time merely an attempt to console oneself about one's poverty by thinking poverty is desirable. For the minority who are affluent enough that this is an issue, however, this overemphasis derives from the fetish-like character of commodities. Material possessions become too important because they are the individual's only link to society: conspicuous consumption compensates for the paucity of direct social relations. People feel how much power things have, and they want to retrieve some of this power for themselves by owning these things.” Ehrbar, “Annotations to Karl Marx's ‘Capital,’” 444–45.


Reinforced Concrete (2012, directed by Lucas Ferraço Nassif), part of the project Labour in a Single Shot (2011–14) by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, Rio de Janeiro,


Together with John Law and, of course, Bruno Latour; see Darryl Cressman, “A Brief Overview of Actor-Network Theory: Punctualization, Heterogeneous Engineering & Translation,” conference presentation, April 2019, I had contact with Callon's text through Jacques Fux, when he sent me the syllabus and reading material of a course he developed with the title “Grandes Desafios da Engenharia,” which was taught with Fernando Ribeiro at INSPER, 2016; Rui Matoso would, in 2016, point toward a possible path of reading Labour in a Single Shot through Latour's ideas (Matoso, “Harun Farocki, trabalho e cinema em rede”).


Michel Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay,” in Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge, ed. John Law (London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986), 200.


Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation,” 201.


Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation,” 216.


See Valmir Moratell, “Não aceito nem cheque em branco do Eike,” IG, October 20, 2010,; Célia Costa, “Projetos hoteleiros de Eike Batista empacam e atormentam vizinhos na Glória e no Flamengo,” O Globo, January 16, 2014,; “Eike vende Hotel Glória, no Rio de Janeiro, a fundo suíço,” Veja, February 1, 2014,


Pedro Butcher, “Brésil: le Nordeste à l'assaut de Tiradentes,” Cahiers du cinema, no. 655 (April 2010): 52,; Um Lugar ao Sol [High-Rise] (2009, directed by Gabriel Mascaro),; “Um lugar ao sol,”,


Reinforced Concrete (2012, directed by Lucas Ferraço Nassif).


Rio de Memórias (1987, directed by José Inácio Parente),


Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” trans. Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings, Vol. 4: 1938–1940, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 392.


Jacques Derrida and Ornette Coleman, “The Other's Language: Jacques Derrida Interviews Ornette Coleman, 23 June 1997,” trans. Timothy S. Murphy, Genre 37, no. 2 (2004): 322,


Derrida and Coleman, “The Other's Language,” 322–23.


As to Coleman's defense, see Derrida and Coleman, “The Other's Language,” 320–321.


Quotation from: Blasco, “Investigación artística y reverberación,” 2 (my emphasis).


Harun Farocki and Inge Stache, “Negarse a una producción manifiesta de significado: un diálogo con Harun Farocki,” in Harun Farocki: Desconfiar de las imágenes, ed. Inge Stache and Ezequiel Yanco, trans. [into Spanish] Julia Giser (Buenos Aires: Caja Negra, 2013), 288; see also “Despite the visual standardization of the videos by restricting their length and by excluding editing, the videos offer quite different approaches as to how to play with these formal constraints” in Florian Hoof, “Labour in a Single Shot. Harun Farocki/Antje Ehmann,” Aniki 2, no. 1 (February 2015): 171,


Blasco, “Investigación artística y reverberación,” 2.


Lucas Ferraço Nassif, e-mail to the author, November 16, 2014.


Roberto Freire, “O tombo de Eike Batista, símbolo da era petista,” Brasil 247, July 12, 2013,


As, for example, registered in Blasco, “Investigación artística y reverberación,” 3.


The full and growing list of venues can be found here:


See Giorgio Agamben, “In Praise of Profanation,” in Profanations, trans. by Jeff Fort (New York: Zone Books, 2007), 73–92.


See Agamben, “In Praise of Profanation,” 73–77 and 83–84.


For a brief view of the fetish of the commodity in Agamben's text on profanation, see Agamben, “In Praise of Profanation,” 81–82.


For an in-depth approach to the nuances of visibility and invisibility of the working class in Labour in a Single Shot, see Gatti, “(In)visibilidades de Labour in a single shot,” 18–43.


Sergio Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 2014), Loc 2446 and 2638, Kindle edition.


Lilian Venturini, “Eike Batista condenado: os negócios bilionários, a política e o Youtube,” Nexo, July 4, 2018,ócios-bilionários-a-pol%C3%ADtica-e-o-Youtube; Redação Carta Capital, “Eike Batista é o 7º homem mais rico do mundo,” Carta Capital, March 8, 2012,; “Workshops,” Labour in a Single Shot, Eike Batista, in the pinnacle of his fortune, was frequently cited, as the example of a capitalist to be followed, by college students, other businessmen, high executives, an important association of industrialists, and common people (Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 112–124). As to the admiration and reverence caused by Eike Batista, see also Carolina Rangel, Julia Carvalho, and Laura Diniz, “Eu quero ser Eike,” Revista Veja, January 14, 2012,; and Malu Gaspar, Tudo ou nada: Eike Batista e a verdadeira história do grupo X (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2014), Loc 6715–6747, Kindle edition. He also became an icon in popular culture, being the subject of gossip columns and internet memes, and was featured in humor publications; see Paula Crespo Halfeld, “A produção do humor na rede social Facebook,” SOLETRAS 13, no. 26 (July–December 2013),; and João Freire Filho and Mayka Castellano, “Eike Batista, ‘o bilionário popstar’: um estudo sobre a celebração midiática do empreendedorismo,” in Acontecimento: reverberações, ed. Vera França and Luciana de Oliveira (Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2012),


Redação Carta Capital, “Eike Batista é o 7º homem mais rico do mundo”; see also Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 5531.


Eike Batista quoted in Venturini, “Eike Batista condenado.”


Anderson Antunes, “Brazil's Richest Man Has Lost Half His Fortune, or $15.5 Billion, Making Him Year's Biggest Loser So Far,” Forbes, June 28, 2012,


Anderson Antunes, “Brazil's Eike Batista, Onetime the World's 7th Richest, Is No Longer a Billionaire,” Forbes, September 2, 2013,


Álvaro Fagundes, Renata Agostini and Raquel Landim, “Eike ostenta o título de bilionário às avessas com patrimônio negativo em US$ 1,1 bi,” Folha de São Paulo, December 1, 2013,


Anderson Antunes, “Former Billionaire Eike Batista Bemoans His Return to the Middle Class,” Forbes, September 18, 2014, See also Samantha Lima, “'Voltar à classe média é um baque gigantesco', afirma Eike Batista,” Folha de São Paulo, September 17, 2014,; and Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 10353.


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 10224.


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 9397–9412.




“BUSTOX,” ERRO Grupo; “Busto de Eike Batista surge na Praça XV, em Florianópolis, para gerar discussão sobre cultura e história,” Hora de Santa Catarina, April 10, 2014,; 1929, as the year of installation of Victor Meirelles's bust, comes from: Paulo Clóvis Schmitz, “Um ex-bilionário na praça 15 de Novembro,” Notícias do Dia, April 12, 2014,; however, 1926, as the inaugural date of Meirelles' statue, is given in Everton Nazareth Rossete Junior, “O teatro agenciando ocupações urbanas: a atuação do ERRO Grupo em Florianópolis” (MA thesis, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 2015), 85,, and Anita Martins, “Quem são e onde estão os heróis que ganharam bustos e estátuas em Florianópolis,” Notícias do Dia, April 30, 2011, In a news article, ERRO's director Pedro Bennaton confirms that he asked for authorization to place Bustox in the Praça XV de Novembro through Fundação Cultural de Florianópolis Franklin Cascaes (a public, municipal art foundation)—however, in the same piece, Fundação Franklin Cascaes washed their hands and stated that he should have actually asked permission through the Department of Public Services [Secretaria de Serviços Públicos], “Busto que lembra Eike Batista é colocado no lugar de imagem furtada,” G1, April 10, 2014,; the superintendent of IPUF, the Instituto de Planejamento Urbano de Florianópolis (Florianópolis' Institute of Urban Planning), was apparently “surprised” to find out through a local media outlet about ERRO's bust: “We were not informed of anything, they could not have done that.” Róbinson Gambôa, “Bustos de Jerônimo Coelho e Victor Meirelles reaparecem na Praça XV,” Tudo sobre Floripa, April 2, 2014,


ERRO Grupo, “Declaração de doação à cidade de Florianópolis,” March 28, 2014, (their emphasis). The original passage in Portuguese contains a peculiar linguistic construction, “uma vez que as Vossas Excelências recolocarem os bustos oficiais sob seus pedestais,” which could simply be a grammatical error (which was corrected in my English citation above) or, instead, it could carry a great ironical remark: “once Your Excellencies put back the official busts under your pedestals”; Rafael Martine, “Pedestal vazio de Victor Meirelles ganha busto de grupo de teatro,” Visor, April 1, 2014,,2,18,,,67; “Busto de Eike Batista surge na Praça XV,” Hora de Santa Catarina.




Nelson Lima Neto, “Eike Batista vira ‘monumento’ em Florianópolis em protesto contra a prefeitura,” O Globo, April 11, 2014,


The reference to Botox is so clear that it was already noticed in the contemporaneous news about the performance. See “Busto de Eike Batista surge na Praça XV,” Hora de Santa Catarina. Opinions are mixed on the matter of side effects of Botox; see Loek Habbema, “Facial esthetics and patient selection,” Clinics in Dermatology 22, no. 1 (January–February 2004): 16–17,


Venturini, “Eike Batista condenado”; Redação Carta Capital, “Eike Batista é o 7º homem mais rico do mundo”; the meaning of the “X” as “multiple returns” in Batista's companies comes from Anderson Antunes, “Former Billionaire Eike Batista Bemoans His Return to the Middle Class.” See also Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 111; Marcio Orsolini, “SIX é a 14ª empresa de Eike—conheça todas elas,” Exame, October 5, 2011, For ERRO's acknowledgement of the “X” referring to the companies of Eike Batista, whose “countenance” [semblante] was “similar” [parecido] to the bust, see Pedro Diniz Bennaton, “Proto-colo-performance: ‘vimos por meio desta’: a burocracia como campo de ação do ERRO Grupo—o choque entre as ruas e os gabinetes das instituições de poder,” in Persistência, ed. Pedro Bennaton and Luana Raiter (Ilha do Desterro: ERRO Grupo de Teatro, 2016), 49,


Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 701–735; “Eike Batista inaugura megaclínica dermatológica e estética ao lado de Flávia Sampaio,” Glamurama, October 20, 2010,; “Beaux, clínica de estética de Eike Batista, suspende operações,” Exame, February 7, 2012,; “Justiça condena Eike Batista por falência de dez empresas,” Consultor Jurídico, June 12, 2006,; Reuters, “Luma de Oliveira é condenada a pagar R$ 1,6 mi a empresários,” Folha de São Paulo [Folha Online], April 4, 2002,; Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 5518.


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 4617.


Pedro Bennaton, quoted in “Busto que lembra Eike Batista é colocado no lugar de imagem furtada,” G1.


Pedro Bennaton, quoted in “Busto que lembra Eike Batista é colocado no lugar de imagem furtada,” G1.


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 4700–4714 and 6178; Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 1781 and 1814.


Eike Batista, interview on É Notícia, Rede TV, September 13, 009, quoted in Freire Filho and Castellano, “Eike Batista, ‘o bilionário popstar.’” In regard to Eike Batista's earlier patriotism, see also Eike Batista (with collaboration of Roberto D'Ávila), O X da questão (Rio de Janeiro: Sextante, 2011), especially chapters 22, 27, 33, 40 and the preface (with an emphasis on that topic) by his father, former president of Companhia Vale do Rio Doce Eliezer Batista; and additionally, Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 5397–5410.


Eike Batista, “O Brasil como prioridade: ontem, hoje e sempre,” O Globo, July 17, 2013,


See Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 2235–2247.


See Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 1743; Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 8083, 8321–8353, 8549–8581. It seems, however, that Lula was at some point, when still president, very skeptical of Batista, and the president's decision to take out regions in the Brazilian pre-salt layer from an auction to license areas for oil exploration would later prove fatal to the businessman (Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, chapter 5 and Loc 2997).


Freire Filho and Castellano, “Eike Batista, ‘o bilionário popstar.’” See also Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 7203–7216.


For a cinematic account of president Dilma Rousseff's removal, see O processo (2018, directed by Maria Augusta Ramos); more information at


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 131.


For a brief initiation into the complexities of nationalism and Brazilian nineteenth-century painter Victor Meireles, see Jorge Coli, “Pedro Américo, Victor Meirelles, entre o passado e o presente,” Caiana, no. 3 (December 2013),


Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 1823.


Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 1793; Ricardo Mendonça, “Lula, o filho do Brasil terá o maior orçamento da história do cinema nacional,” Época, February 19, 2009,,,EMI27244-15223,00-LULA+O+FILHO+DO+BRASIL+TERA+O+MAIOR+ORCAMENTO+DA+HISTORIA+DO+CINEMA+NACIONA.html.


Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 5229.


See Ancine (Agência Nacional de Cinema), “Filmes nacionais com mais de um milhão de espectadores (1970/2010) por publico,”


Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 1788–1800. See also Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 3885 and 5397.


Alessandra Saraiva and Roberta Pennafort, “Eike Batista compra o Hotel Glória,” O Estado de São Paulo, March 15, 2008,,eike-batista-compra-o-hotel-gloria,140814; the exchange rate used was 1.6947, as registered on Mar. 14, 2008, by the Central Bank of Brazil in the “venda” category; see “Cotações e boletins,” Banco Central do Brasil,


Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, Loc 2502 and 2638; see also Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, Loc 7277.


See Freire Filho and Castellano, “Eike Batista, ‘o bilionario popstar’”; Leo, Ascensão e queda do império X, chapter 13; Eike Batista, interview with Roda Viva, TV Cultura, August 30, 2010,; Eike Batista, interview with Conexão Repórter, SBT, August 13, 2018, Eike's independence from the government is another controversial and disputed aspect of the recent history of Brazilian capitalism, as many of his projects and his financial health were very much connected with or dependent on the interests of the country's political sphere and partially-owned state companies; see as an example Gaspar, Tudo ou nada, chapter 15, Loc 7699–7716, 7847, and 10239.


“Busto de Eike Batista surge na Praça XV,” Hora de Santa Catarina; in the same news article, Pedro Bennaton, speaking in the name of ERRO, had even to defend himself from the speculation that his theater group was in fact involved in the stealing of the four historical busts in the first place, given the tradition of ERRO's controversial and “mysterious” performances: “We wouldn't have such a genial ideal” (“Busto de Eike Batista surge na Praça XV,” Hora de Santa Catarina); Pedro Bennaton, email to the author, January 8, 2019.


Jeferson Bertolini, “Grupo usa busto de Eike Batista em protesto contra o consumo em SC,” Folha de São Paulo, April 11, 2014,


Pedro Bennaton quoted in “Busto que lembra Eike Batista é colocado no lugar de imagem furtada,” G1.


Fabio Salvatti, “O bronze de que são feitos nossos heróis,” Diário Catarinense, May 5, 2014,


Manuel Delgado, “Sacudidas teatrales en la ciudad,” El País, March 5, 2018,; I came to Delgado's article through ERRO Grupo, “Artigo de Manuel Delgado publicado no El País sobre paralelos entre o trabalho do ERRO Grupo e os Situacionistas,” Facebook, March 5, 2018, Fabio Salvatti, in another of his articles, had also made the connection of ERRO and Debord once more: “Um ERRO indispensável,” Caixa de Pont[o]: Jornal Brasileiro de Teatro, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 13,


Thomas Elsaesser, “Simulation and the Labour of Invisibility,” 224.


Bennaton, “Proto-colo-performance,” 49.


“Hotel Glória é ‘abraçado’ por cariocas em ato pela valorização de prédios históricos do Rio,” O Globo, August 18, 2018,


Mário Magalhães, “Passeio pelas ruínas de Eike Batista no Rio,” Blog do Mário Magalhães, UOL Notícias, January 31, 2017,; see also “Hotel Glória é ‘abraçado’ por cariocas em ato pela valorização de prédios históricos do Rio,” O Globo; Luciano Ferreira, “Hotel Glória passa por reforma na fachada para evitar acúmulo de lixo e deterioração,” O Globo, July 9, 2019,


Felipe Alves, “Bustos de Cruz e Sousa, José Boiteux e Victor Meirelles retornam à praça 15, em Florianópolis,” Notícias do Dia, September 21, 2014,


Lima Neto, “Eike Batista vira ‘monumento’ em Florianópolis em protesto contra a prefeitura.”


Schmitz, “Um ex-bilionário na praça 15 de Novembro.”


“[BUSTOX] ERRO GRUPO,” Ateliê Desinutil,; ERRO Grupo, “Comunicado oficial do ERRO Grupo sobre o furto do Bustox,” Facebook, June 6, 2014,


“5º Bloomsburied,” ERRO Grupo,


“5º Bloomsburied,” ERRO Grupo; ERRO Grupo, “Febrerro!,” Facebook, February 2, 2017, The exchange rate used was 3.2163, as registered on July 9, 2015, by the Central Bank of Brazil in the “venda” category; see “Cotações e boletins,” Banco Central do Brasil.


An early version of this essay was presented in Portuguese as “Fetiche, Demolição, Ruínas: Sobre um vídeo de Labor in a single shot, projeto de Antje Ehmann e Harun Farocki” at the 2016 BRASA XIII Conference. It had the support of the grant #2015/03207-0, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). At BRASA XIII, I shared the panel with Jack Draper, Gustavo Furtado, and Sarah Wells. I thank the panelists and the audience for their comments and ideas. I am also grateful to Victoria Saramago, Carolina Sá Carvalho, Inès Ouedraogo, Peter Schwartz, Roy Grundmann, and Gregory Williams. Of course, all errors are my own. All translations from sources originally in languages other than English are mine unless the translator is mentioned in the first full bibliographical reference.