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NOV 2020

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NOV 2020 Issue
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Oceanic, porous, and monstrous thoughts

Installation shot: <em>Lesbian Sauna</em> by Malú Avelar at Valongo Festival Internacional da Imagem, “The best of the journey is the delay,” curated by Diane Lima. São Paulo-Santos in 2019. Photo Marina Lima. Courtesy the artist.
Installation shot: Lesbian Sauna by Malú Avelar at Valongo Festival Internacional da Imagem, “The best of the journey is the delay,” curated by Diane Lima. São Paulo-Santos in 2019. Photo Marina Lima. Courtesy the artist.

What is repeated in the body and in the voice,
it’s an episteme.

–Leda Maria Martins.1

While squeezing us in the search to give you a perfect performance, another great chance, she reminded me that today I had forgotten, both my inner child and my love for having relearned with her two years ago, to be brincante,2 the one who plays and puts its toys on the street.

I went back to the question that got me here, and I thought that if I weren’t so exhausted of the white walls, with my eyes so red and swollen from digging the horizon, I would answer.

–Whoever hasn’t been at a crossroads does not know how to choose paths.

Nêgo Bispo3 once told me, while I found myself abandoned in the hegelian chant of curatorial criticism, to rehearse the character of the writer of a history that speaks. The one from whom I have learned not to answer what is expected to be heard and who, refusing the determination to judge from outside history, the history itself, says aloud in the text, that the time of the present is not the time of the modern and that the Black body always exceeds the text.

I remembered Gayl Jones saying that the best of her writings comes from having heard rather than having read. And also, the oralituras from the Queen Conga and scholar Leda Maria Martins, when they provoking us about “how to baste a history that is constituted in the time of the lived and the told.”4

I wondered why, every time my chest is strangled by deadlines or my fingers don't respond to the first line, I don't wind myself around to stay in that oceanic, porous, and monstrous instant that is the birth of form.

Rebeca Carapiá, Words by iron and air. Iron sculptures from the series
Rebeca Carapiá, Words by iron and air. Iron sculptures from the series "How to put air in the words" 2019. Photo Filipe Berndt. Courtesy the artist.

As a title-testimony that came at a time when I found myself having to explain an idea that could only be performed, I understood that “The birth of form: oceanic, porous, and monstrous,” besides being a provisional term to gather and narrate some experiences and learnings that I have been having in recent years with a group of racialized and dissident artists in Brazil, it is also based as a discourse on something that precedes it, which is my interest in also writing a history that takes place in language and through language.

Frustrating the logocentric tradition of modern linguistics, according to Martins, it would be inside this epiphany that the being becomes immanent, which makes me reveal that the exchange with the storytelling artists with whom I have fostered in relation, occurs in our mutual interest in performing a full-body narrative that escapes a self-referential and encyclopedic repertoire.

As a writer of a history that speaks, taking the pages by the mouth, I believe that from its formal dispositions, we are speaking of a narrative that incorporates the lived experience and everything that we do not know, in the words themselves, images, rhythms, and ways of telling. It speaks a history of artists and curators forged in a non-musealized knowledge, where ancestral and spiritual myth-poetic narratives perform and are updated in the present, thus breaking the modern rational and temporal linearity.

But how do we get rid of a mental geography that makes it impossible for us to produce entries and permanence in such an oceanic, porous, and monstrous thought? The rebound of the formless and the unspeakable and understanding curatorial practice as a performative statement beg the question of how to make-feel that the understanding of this collective creation occurs in action, in the lived experience, through the challenges of doing and, therefore, the ultimate goal of creation will it not be anywhere but within itself?

In the exercises to destroy the feminine that she and I play every day, we try from here in Salvador da Bahia to produce spaces of cognitive liberation to enjoy this soundscape that we are. As Denise Carrascosa’s5 performative criticism says, if “repetition is the driving force of a desire to play,” instead of “pretending to be doing,” choose to “do it again.” “And to do again and again is to risk making mistakes that are repeated, giving in to a flow of wandering that redraws your body gestures every day again and again.” Swinging with the compulsory fate of representational repetition, it is anchored in these spiralled choreographies that we play at the crossroads, the ancestral tradition of games that bathe our mytho-poetic performances, in order to escape the representational models that guide the modernist frame.

While it seems to me to be insoluble for contemporary art, the problem of financialization and privatization of the exhibition space, makes me leave this text with the following questions: How can we narrate the history of a non-musealized artistic working class? How have these workers been creating strategies to deal with an ultra-neoliberal and anti-Black government that has collapsed the very idea of what we understand as a public in the sector of art and culture?

What is at stake? What will have to be relinquished for us to unleash the imagination’s radical creative capacity and draw from it what is needed for the task of thinking of The World otherwise? Nothing short of a radical shift in how we approach matter and form.
–Denise Ferreira da Silva.6

In the tracks that Denise Ferreira da Silva talks about, if the question focuses precisely on ways of creating a world that is not yet historically available to us, I see that it is our challenge to create the possible conditions so that what is trying to take shape in the world reaches its significance. Not to help us describe the world, but to help us build one: the performance of a political body where its saying takes place in its own gesture removes the need for a descriptive and categorical way of talking about it, a moment when we see the birth of form.


  1. MARTINS, Leda. Performance do tempo espiralar. In: RAVETTI, Graciela, ARBEX, Márcia (org.). Performance, exílio, fronteiras: errâncias territoriais e textuais. Belo Horizonte: Fale, 2002. 
  2. “Bricante” is a term derived from the word “brincar” (play), that means the one who plays. Brazilian street manifestations such as caretas, cavalo marinho, the mamulengo, the bumba meu boi, the frevo, the reisado, among other myth-poetic narratives, are living toys. The player is therefore the one who plays the toy and puts his toys on the street.
  3. Mestre Nêgo Bispo is a farmer, thinker and quilombola leader, resident of Quilombo Saco-Curtume, located in the state of Piauí. A quilombo is an ancestral term for settlements of fugitive and formerly enslaved peoples.
  4. Seminal concept coined by Leda Maria Martins. In: Martins, Leda. Performances da oralitura: corpo, lugar da memória. Letras. Santa Maria, v, 25, p. 55-71, 2003.
  5. Carrascosa, Denise. Crítica performativa: Nem se incomode... É só brincadeira de ères. In: Fólio – Revista de Letras, v. 10, n. 2, 2018, jul./dez, p. 76.
  6. da Silva, D.F., 2016, ‘On Difference Without Separability’. 32nd Bienal De São Paulo Art Biennial: Incerteza viva, pp.59.


Diane Lima

Diane Lima is a Brazilian independent curator, writer, and researcher. Based between São Paulo and Salvador, she is currently co-curating the Third Frestas Triennial of Arts at SESC São Paulo.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

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