“Brazil is an opened colonial wound. Every 21 minutes a young black person dies murdered in Brazil.”
Within the next three weeks and ahead of the exhibition “Hands” (opening on 2nd of July, curated by Ala Younis und Madhusree Dutta) Cologne based Akademie der Künste der Welt is hosting a three event symposium dedicated to “Times of Hands”.
The first symposium is happening on 28th and 29th of May (3-6pm, cet) in Rio de Janeiro, co-hosted by Muda Outras Economias, Núcleo Experimental de Performance (NEP – ECo / UFRJ) and Ylê Asè Egi Omim– you can participate via the Youtube channel.
The next two online symposiums gonna happen on 4th/5th of June (“Covid Glossary”, from Mumbai) and on 11th and 12th of June (“Gamification vs. Play).
Thomas Venker and the two curators of “And Paws and Leaves and Wings and Fins and,” Eleonora Fabião and Adriana Schneider Alcure exchanged some questions and answers.
Eleonora Fabião and Adriana Schneider Alcure, the symposium is inspired by the idea of partilha, a cultural understanding of economy as a place and practice of giving and sharing. What is the last thing you received from and that you gave to someone with your hands?
ELEONORA FABIÃO: Yesterday, for the first time in 14 months, now that I am fully vaccinated, I was able to go for a walk with a friend and hug her. Before leaving the house, I thought – “I want to give her something!” So, I gave her a package of Brazilian coffee. It was really wonderful to be able to walk together in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. At a certain point, she gave me one of her hands and rubbed my back with the other. It was absolutely wonderful to feel Liz’s loving touch. I am still feeling it now.
ADRIANA SCHNEIDER ALCURE: I live in the apartment next to my daughter. She lives with her boyfriend and my 17-month-old granddaughter. I just had breakfast with them and shared some grapes with my granddaughter. While I put a piece of grape with my hands in her mouth, she puts a piece of grape with her hands in my mouth.
What do you sense as the most valuable act you practice with your own hands?
ELEONORA: Thinking here… I don’t know what is the most valuable act I practice with my hands… What I love about hands in general is their kind of intelligence. Hands are antenna and tool, sophisticated receivers and givers, they are spiritual and mundane, weapons and seeders, sensual and sensitive and discursive and precise and imprecise and strong and delicate and. They grip and grasp and give. They are, simultaneously, creative and receptive like the whole body. They are highly connective.
ADRIANA: I am not skilled at handwork. But I feel a strong connection between writing and cooking. So I think my hands flow well when I write and cook. In the house where I live, my desk is very close to the stove.
Of course the symposium is not only about your own experiences, it reflects on such different fields as labour work, healing rituals and artistic performances. Are you able to take us by the hand and share your thoughts behind the roster of the people invited to participate and the topics placed?
Please, hold Adriana’s hand and Eleonora’s hand. What you will see on may 28th and 29th is a program collectively prepared for you. Both days start with drumming – our way to align the multiple forces and people involved (including you) and open the work. Then, you will have the opportunity to hear voices and stories of different people associated with three distinct collectives. These three collectives were born and live in Rio de Janeiro: NEP (Experimental Performance Nucleus) – a group of artists-researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a collective of BA, MA and PhD students and their professors advisers (Adriana and Eleonora); MUDA – a network of activists in search of other economies, of other modes of living, of alternative ways of resisting neoliberalism and neofascism; and the Ilê Asé Egi Omim, a Candomblé House, an Afro-Brazilian religious community. In both days, the symposium will end with a live Q&A section with the ones that participated during that day.
To develop this project during pandemic times – six hours of video material including lectures, performances, conversations, three hours per day – was, on one hand, extremely challenging and, on the other hand, very energizing for us. We have been talking a lot about the importance of developing artistic practices precisely now, of doing collective inter-generational, inter-institutional, inter-national artistic work precisely during the pandemic and, specifically, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Of doing politics in our own poetic terms right here and now. So, this symposium is a counter-force in the middle of so many destructive forces. It is an alternative mode of relating being generated in the midst of the collapse. So, for example, NEP participants received two amazing baskets of organic vegetables offered by MUDA during the past month. Today was the second day of the MUDA’s seminar on “Money’s Cosmologies” and the NEP collective followed online the wonderful lectures presented by Ailton Krenak, Antonio Bispo dos Santos, Karla Córdoba and Flávia Macêdo. The gift economy is our common ground. We are united through the project and this is extremely healthy. So, we thank the ADKDW for the invitation – it opened subjective and objective paths for us and our communities. We have been articulating decolonial thinking and matters of all sorts in our endless search for consistent and collective aesthetical-political ways.
The detailed schedule of the symposium “TIMES OF HANDS – and paws and leaves and wings and fins and” + the bios of all participants can be found here.
What can you tell us about the origin of the title: “AND PAWS AND LEAVES AND WINGS AND FINS AND”
We were invited to participate in the symposium “Times of Hands” and, as soon as we started dialoguing, we felt the need to include other-than-human bodies, to dislocate an anthropocentric perspective. So, we added to this very suggestive title – “Times of Hands” – the paws, the wings, the fins and the leaves. And, also, we added the repetition of “ands”, a connective pulse we are very much interested in. This “and” this “and” this “and” this “and”. This connective movement is the poetical, political and magical principle that articulates the three collectives that collaborated to compose the event: a network of activists in search of other economies, a group of artist-researchers working at a public university and a Candomblé community. These three groups and the ADKDW and the other institutions participating from India and Germany – the School of Environment and Architecture in Mumbai and the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne – and the public that will be with us during the symposium and and and. Even if distant we want to “get in touch”, to connect, and to valorize all bodies – human and other-than-human – that compose the event together.
The symposium is the summary of a two month workshop and seminar of the students of the NÚCLEO EXPERIMENTAL DE PERFORMANCE – you bring in the realizations of those into performances, text and objects. I like a lot the idea to bring together already established cultural workers and theoretics with younger students as this hopefully helps to moderate a process of exchange between the generations. Is this a common practice in Brazil?
Our view is that when you enter a lab of creation or a classroom, everyone present turns into a teacher and a student – everybody is there to share their perspectives and knowledge, and to learn from the others’ viewpoints and experiences. The university is such a fabulous place because the intergenerational encounters are part of its, let’s say, dramaturgy. But Brazil is too big and extremely diverse. What we can say, for sure, is that traditional cultures in general have a specific interest in transgenerational knowledge transfer. Sometimes it is a matter of cultural survival.
Many programm items of the symposium reflect about the history and ongoing effects of colonality as well as afrobrasilian traditions like abayomi puppets or the already mentioned healing rituals. I am curious to learn more about the state of those debates in Brasil. Do you feel that those important matters are reflected the way they should be in your home country?
Brazil is an opened colonial wound. Every 21 minutes a young black person dies murdered in Brazil. Last Sunday, May 16th, 15 boats with prospectors (gold miners), attacked the Palimiú community in the Yanomami indigenous land in the Amazon rainforest, dropping tear gas and shooting. The environment minister is an agribusiness lobbyist. A black LGBTQIA+ councilwoman named Marielle Franco was murdered in a street downtown Rio de Janeiro in 2018 and, to date, the case was not solved. Brazilian government is openly far-right. The president publicly praises the military dictatorship and advocates torture. So, in our project we are not just talking about cultural traditions. In our project, we are bringing some experiences from the indigenous peoples of our land and the movements that resulted from the African diaspora. These experiences are, above all, ways of life that have remained alive and active in the breaches of an economic, cultural, social and political system that claims to be universal, and that operates with the complexity of neoliberal devices. This universal claim is one of the most striking effects of coloniality, which is still active among us all, whether Latin Americans or Europeans. These other ways of life do not dichotomize humans from nature. And this issue is at the heart of the global health crisis that we are experiencing now. So, artistic creation connected to these other ways of life can lead us towards other possibilities of political imagination and action.
You will hold tea ceremonies during the symposium and drink holy-medical herb tea with the other participants. Can you tell us a bit more about this ritual?
We are not calling them “tea ceremonies” because these kinds of ceremonies have their own cultural backgrounds. We have been, let’s say, “herbing our waters”, drinking teas during our on-line weekly encounters with the Experimental Performance Nucleus’ students. So, in these occasions, we have been dialoguing about the healing powers of specific plants, sharing recipes, creating combinations together, celebrating and studying the richness of the native Brazilian plants, honoring the sacredness of our forests, learning more and more about our ancestors, the African diaspora and the native indigenous populations in their ways of relating with plants, food and the circulation of matters in general. So, yes, it is a kind of ritual but a very experimental and playful one. We love the tastes, the colors, the smells, and we love to drink tea together while creating performances based in the title “times of hands – and paws and leaves and wings and fins and”.
The brutal and sad pictures from the curent pandemic situation in Brazil are all over the media right now. What do you think will the long term socio-cultural effects of the pandemic be for the country?
We are facing two articulated situations, the covid-19 pandemic and the far-right government. Yesterday the president declared to his supporters that “there are still idiots who are at home, in social isolation”. More than 440,000 people, in official figures, have already died of the disease in the country. About 20 million people in Brazil are again at risk of hunger. The impacts on the artistic and cultural sectors are immense, the ministry of culture has been extinguished and there are no mechanisms for projects subsidies. Public universities and public research institutions are mobilized even with brutal budget cuts in the middle of a pandemic. The health situation is not worse because we still have the SUS, the Unified Health System structured in previous governments, that provide free health care to the population. We need to focus on what is going on right now. The country is resisting the pandemic crisis thanks to independent solidary actions. And, perhaps, these solidary actions can allow political mobilization. This would be the best socio-cultural effect of the pandemic.
“Times of Hands – And Paws And Leaves And Wings And Fins And,” is happening on 28th and 29th of May, from 3-6pm (cet).
You can participate via the Youtube channel.