quarta-feira, 8 de julho de 2020

"all blue after eyes closed in the bright" and me

"I wipe it away and breathe" by Rhiannon Inman-Simpson

On the 03rd of July 2020, with some friends that are part of a writing collective, I went to Rhiannon Inman-Simpson’s powerful and bold exhibition. She chose to call it “all blue after eyes closed in the bright” after one of her sixteen exhibited paintings.
This is not a post that has the ambition of saying what her exhibition is. Rather, it is a humble sharing of how I experienced it. It is also my way of saying thank you for the gift that such an exhibition was for me.
Luckily, the ability gained a few days ago, during the workshop on Subterranea, allowed me, once more to enjoy art without the pressure of having to understand it. I went there to have an experience with those paintings.
I am a distracted person. I did not notice that in a corner we could find a piece of paper with the location and the names of all the paintings. Neither I saw the beautiful booklet that accompanies the exhibition. Thus, I had the chance to first see the paintings. No names. No words. Simply the paintings on the walls. Some of them were big. Others were small. Some of them seem to be in some kind of relation. Others were able to tell a whole story, by themselves.
I still remember how I felt when I stopped in front of the first painting. I stood there and suddenly my stomach was heavy. Through my process of digesting that painting, for a moment, it became hard to breathe. But after those seconds I felt understood. As if someone had been able to make visible an existential pain that I know too well. After walking around the exhibition and establishing my own conversations with the paintings I finally noticed Rhiannon’s words. They were presented without pretension and with care.
Her choice of giving the audience the chance of experiencing the paintings and the words separately if they choose to makes all the sense to me. They are indeed separate pieces of art that can be put in a conversation, or if one prefers, they can be juxtaposed. The words are not a description or an explanation of the paintings. Instead, they are art in themselves, an art that invites us to focus on certain aspects of the paintings and of the exhibition. How we receive such invitations of course depends on who we are and on where we are. If I would have entered that exhibition with my old abilities, believing that I first need to see with my brain, probably I would have had quite a different experience. I was open to let Rhiannon’s obsession with certain colors talk with my fears and anxieties. I am also aware that the fact that I am a woman, a foreigner, a mother, a writer, a philosopher, a storyteller, a feminist, and someone that had the pleasure of meeting Rhiannon before also played a part in how I related to her art.
The painting that I received as the most whole, the one that made my stomach heavy, it is called “I wipe it away and breathe”. This powerful and beautiful name, a name that I did not know before made a lot of sense for the way I experienced such painting. It is like the last line of a poem where a wise woman, from the pic of a mountain, exposes her knowledge about existence being inescapably painful and awesome. When we remember that the yellow is always there, on the first grain of earth, no matter the brown, the ugliness, the mess we can breathe with all that we are, and for a moment to be part of the world makes sense.
After experiencing and enjoying the exhibition, which for me and for the writing collective that I am a part of was also seed for creative writing, I had the privilege of talking with Rhiannon about her creative process. Because I am so obsessed with words and because her words were so whole and windy, I need to ask her if she knew from the beginning that her exhibition was going to be about the paintings and the words. She immediately replied no. She confessed that her writing is something that has been going on for a long while but in a private sphere. She was not sure if it would make sense to put the words in relation to the paintings. She was too aware of the risk of the audience receiving it as mere description, and that was not what she wanted to do.
When I heard the word private I remembered all the women that only had (and so many that still only have) their diaries, their private places to exist and to expose their voices, their knowledge, their dreams, and who they are. After remembering it, I got even happier about the fact that Rhiannon’s art is starting to find its place in the public sphere.
When I asked Rhiannon about her obsessions as an artist, she said out loud the words body and place. She further explained that she prefers the word ‘place’ instead of ‘landscape’ because in visual arts landscape is a very marked word, (and I forgot to ask if it is also a pretentious one). She explained that in her painting process she was engaged in exploring the fact that we feel with our bodies, and that, in her view, is a way to understand immediately.
Listening to her words (the written and the spoken ones) I could piece together my feelings and my thoughts, what made me relate to the Mayas’ idea that we also think with our bodies. For the Mayas the center of our thought is in our heart. The sociologist Silvia Cusicanqui retrieves the Aymara cosmology according to which knowledge is something that we build not only in our brains but also in our superior entrails (heart, lungs, and liver). While experiencing Rhiannon’s exhibition I understood or at least embraced such ancient and deconstructive ways of knowing.
I could not resist my own obsessions. I asked Rhiannon if she thinks that the fact that she is a woman matters regarding the obsessions that she embraces as an artist. She said that yes, it is part of her place in this world, as a person and as an artist. She was generous enough to share with us a story marked by our ongoing struggles for gender equality. She remembered that one time, she received the ‘compliment’ that her art looked like it was painted by a man. It was a woman who ‘complimented’ her in that way. Rhiannon explained that throughout art school she was repeatedly told to avoid being emotional, or delicate. She was told that she needs to be bold. And what I heard (thanks to my own obsessions) was that in the European painting universe, still predominantly a male scene, it is accepted that in order to be bold one can not create as a woman.
For me, “all blue after eyes closed in the bright” is a warm, colorful, odd, and bold exhibition. And it is all of that not because it is the result of the efforts of a woman trying to adjust to the accepted norm of what defines a good painter, contrarily, it is bold because it is marked by real struggles of an artist that is aware that being a woman is definitely a part of her process of finding her voice, her language, and her place.
I left the exhibition exhausted but in a good way. Rhiannon put all those powerful colors in front of my heart, my stomach, and my chest. All my pieces left full of pink, yellow, blue, brown, and green. The distracted me was shaken by a new awareness that there is a lot of life to gain if we open our skins to all the colors that constitute this world. I left that big and white room carrying with me the original yellow that was always part of this chaotic world, and that speaks of the power of new beginnings that the sun knows so well. With me also the messy brown that the artist reminds us with words and with images that we cannot escape. The blue, that I always carry with me, suddenly felt less heavy and even dared to tell me that I don’t need to label it all the time. Neither I need to hide behind it. The green I did not quite digest, however, I accept it in the pile of all my pieces that I still cannot name. Most of all, I left deeply moved by Rhiannon’s hopeful gesture that “there is a hint of pink out there”. I walked and let that fragile certainty “there is a hint of pink out there” find it space inside of me. One step, then another, a drop of pink in my lungs, another in my brain, my broken heart, a bit pink as well. After all the steps needed, I set down with my writing group at Hordaland Kunstsenter and wrote about that pink. I established my own conversation with the pieces of art that Rhiannon’s so generously shared with us.
Hugs and until next time.

quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2020

"ostra feliz não faz pérola": conversando com Rubem Alves

“Ostra feliz não faz pérola” (Rubem Alves)
um outro eu, mais jovem
obcecado com o fogo e com a escuridão
teria abraçado essa provocação como seu mantra
mas hoje essa verdade não me serve
ao menos não sem porquês e descontrução
vamos a todos os seus pedaços então

no começo uma ostra
Rubem está a falar de ostras que criam
ostras são fechadas
existem no fundo do mar

eu hoje tenho forças pra admitir que é mentira
eu não quero existir ostra
escolho ser do mundo
quero criar no mundo e para o mundo
e pra fazer isso tenho que aprender a conversar com mais alguém além de mim mesma

Rubem questiona se ostras felizes são capazes de criar pérolas
hora de abraçar a velha pergunta então
o que é a felicidade?
um estado temporário
desconfio eu
imagino que sim
Rubem está certo
provavelmente na hora exata
em que a felicidade toma conta da vida da ostra ela não cria pérolas
nem nada
afinal está ocupada demais sendo feliz

Rubem continua
“pessoas felizes não sentem a necessidade de criar”
criação é questão de necessidade então?
coincide com a minha experiência, sim senhor
sinto um comichão que me me manda agarrar o caderno ou o computador e insiste que é preciso lembrar
a minha existência desbota sem o ato de escrever
sem a escrita
eu minguo

mas quiçá Rubem está falando de outra coisa
ele insiste
“O ato criador, seja na ciência ou na arte surge sempre de uma dor”
qual dor?
será a dor de existir?
ele explica
“não é preciso que seja uma dor doída.
por vezes essa dor aparece como aquela coceira que tem o nome de curiosidade”
o que me faz pensar que sim
é a dor de existir que nos move à criação

Por fim Rubem confessa
“este livro está cheio de areias pontuadas que me machucaram e para me livrar da dor, escrevi”
Também eu “para me livrar da dor, escrevi”
no passado meti-me no lugar da ostra e vomitei minhas dores
enquanto mantinha-me fechada
hoje também de algum modo escrevo para me livrar da dor
o que distingue o eu que escreve hoje do eu que escrevia vinte anos atrás
são os lugares a partir dos quais falamos

muitos dos meus textos do passado
paridos por minha versão ostra
separada do mundo
só sabem falar com o meu próprio umbigo
sofrem de uma incapacidade aguda de ser do mundo
são muito cheios de si e de mim

para me livrar da dor, escrevi
O meu eu de dezessete anos e o eu de hoje
ambos escrevem por essa mesma razão
para me livrar da dor
a diferença entre eles é que o eu de hoje já não quer ser ostra
talvez haja gênios capazes de existir isolados, separados do mundo e ainda assim criar algo do e para o mundo
esse nao é o meu caso
aprendi que preciso estar com os outros e no mundo para criar

antes de dormir
continuo a rezar às deusas do caos
mas já não imploro-lhes para que me guiem na construção de textos pérolas
peço para que abram a mim e a minha arte para que ambas possamos alcançar mais do que eu mesma 

um abraço e inté a próxima

terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2020

Subterranea experienced through the body and the body experienced through Subterranea

Visualização da imagem
picture by Daniela Ramos Arias

On the 28th of June 2020 I had the chance to join a very cool workshop in Hordaland Kunstsenter.
The dancer Noam Eidelman Shatil guided us through a different way of experiencing art.
In the room the exhibition Subterranea by Lene Baadsvig Ørmen.
Lene’s art was put in relation to Noam’s art thanks to the initiative of Daniela Ramos Arias, the curator of the mediation program for Hordaland Kunstsenter.
It was announced that the the workshop aimed at being a medium through which we could experience Subterranea and the space where it is installed. But for me, it was much more than that. It was also, a medium to relate to my own body and seed to invite reflection regarding the places of human bodies and the function of art.
Visualização da imagem
picture by Daniela Ramos Arias
Noam invited us, six diverse women, to put our bodies in the center of that experience. For me, it was the first time that I went to an exhibition of sculptures without letting my brain be the first one to have the right to see (and to be seen). I don’t know about you, but I often felt misplaced, at times even displaced, as an audience of visual art. I often felt like a pretender. “I need to look smart” _ I would tell myself. This uneasiness and this mistaken idea of how one must relate to paintings or sculptures, this assumption that after seeing art I must have something deep or smart to say, got on the way of me been able to truly see the art. And by ‘truly’ I do not mean that there is one right way to relate to art, one truth to be accessed. Instead, I mean the possibility of being able to be in the moment and experience the art, instead of pretending to do so. During the workshop in Subterranea I had a real experience.
It did not start easy, because I arrived there with all my prejudices and old habits. My brain was fighting to be the first one to enter the room again. But this time an unknown activity was on the way, and my tendency to overthink was going to be challenged. Noam first invited us to walk around the room for a few minutes and see the exhibition, collect our first impressions. Then she asked us to stop and close our eyes. Next, she asked us to try to visualize what we just saw. In her guidance, she created awareness not only to the pieces of art but to other elements of and in the room. The walls, the ceiling, the windows, the other bodies. Noam invited us to move. She gave us directions on how to move, but without making us feel too constrained. Among her invitations were the invitation to exploring our bodies becoming heavy and then finding ways to be light again. She introduced the concept of wind and invited us to move with it. One of the directions that were more meaningful to me was the one about moving our focus from the space in the room to the space inside our bodies.
I felt like I had time to truly arrive in that space, to truly forget what I left behind me. All the pieces of my life that were not happening at that moment could be paused. The invitation to let my body exist in that room, in relation to Subterranea and to Noam’s obsessions as an artist, slowly was accepted by me. At first, just my feet, then my hair, my legs, and my hands started dancing a few minutes later. At some moment I realized that I had embraced that invitation as a whole. My body was no longer simply a vehicle that I was using to carry me to places. I was seeing with my whole body. At that moment I was in my body. I was my body. I was in the world in and as my body.
            The workshop in Subterranea gave me four gifts. As I already mentioned [1] it gave me a chance to truly experience art, and not fake it. Also, [2] it enabled me to let my body see the art. More than that, [3] it also interfered in how I see my body; and [4] it invited me to re-start thinking about what does it mean to be a body instead of having a body and why art is relevant. To make it an even more fruitful experience the workshop ended with us around a table eating cake and sharing our thoughts about what we had just experienced.
            Drinking coffee and eating a banana cake I had time to listen to what the other women had to say. They mentioned that the workshop made them more curious, more engaged, less bored, more aware, more playful, more present… Listening to them I felt understood. I was not the only one to had experienced in the past that heaviness born from “pretending” that you understand the piece of art. Perhaps art is not something that one might “understand”, but instead, experience, appreciate.
            For a long while, I held the fragile certainty that art should have a social function. In the sense that it should be about social problems like inequality and that it should help us to see and understand such issues. Then, this summer I joined a philosophical workshop on art and otherness. A recurrent argument there was that art is not supposed to teach us anything. They insisted that it is dangerous and useless to engage with art in this way. They also argued that from that does not follow that art is useless. Art has a fundamental function in helping us to think and to create (including to create a better world). Art serves to remove us from our everyday places. Art has the power to enable us to experience time in a different way. For a moment, while we experience art, we are removed from our functioning mode. Such experience creates space inside of ourselves. It makes it possible for us to remember that we are more than machines that function from 8.00 to 17.00 and that need maintenance. Art then has the power to interfere in how we relate to ourselves and to the world, and because of it, it has the potential of helping us change the world. During the workshop in Subterranea, such ideas somehow resonated inside of me. Perhaps because for the first time in a long while I focused on experiencing art instead of understanding it.
            For today that is all. I will be writing more about points 3 and 4 in the future.
Hugs and until next time