The artists saw a connection between the chances gamblers take in the hope of monetary luck and the gamble that migrants take when they leave their home in the hope of a better life. They delved into the gambling scenes of three different cities – Rio de Janeiro, Helsinki and Rotterdam – where they talked to migrants about their motives and their lives. In an intensely personal and disarming way, Gil & Moti unleash poignant stories about lacking perspective, the longing for home, new and sometimes-hostile environments, and the parallel world of the gambling hall – or gambling as a possibility of escape. They processed these stories into immersive installations, in which they play with the specific atmospheres and settings of these three cities’ gambling scenes. Videos feature predominantly, in which they exacerbate documentary’s abrasive reality with burlesque mimicry or soften it with loving attention.
Three years of field research preceded Wild Bet. In Rio de Janeiro, Gil & Moti went on the trail of ‘Jogo de Bicho’ (animal game), an illegal gambling game played everywhere on the street. Here, they made a film with Gustav, who puts himself forward as their gambling instructor and guide. He reveals the genesis of the game, shows the harsh daily reality of the favelas and shares his dreams and concerns for his children.
In Helsinki, Gil & Moti learnt about the government-run slot machines that are in every supermarket and how the most popular games represent a folkloric fantasy land. The idyllic Finnish landscape, cheerful farmers and gold diggers from the gambling games are starkly contrasted with the stories of the various migrants Gil & Moti met there.
In Rotterdam, Gil & Moti found both commercial gambling halls with their seductive gold and glitter aesthetic, as well as informal card tables in the back of brown cafés. Here the artists began an intimate collaboration with Shari, who came to the Netherlands 24 years ago to get her son back but couldn’t afford the return trip. From the many encounters, they create a stratified image of life on the edge of Dutch society, where the sometimes-stifling experience of exclusion and loneliness is punctuated by moments of happiness in the gambling hall.
Wild Bet was made possible by the Mondriaan Fund; Capacete, Rio de Janeiro; the Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP); and CBK Rotterdam’s O&O scheme. With thanks to all participants.