^ In Ictu Oculi, by Greta Alfaro 2009. Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound). Duration: 10’35
“From its title (meaning “in the blink of an eye”) onwards, Greta Alfaro’s In Ictu Oculi is concerned with the viewer’s experience of time: the eye is yours. The work’s title, which alludes to the brevity of human existence, is shared with a number of vanitas paintings from the seventeenth century, and, like them, Alfaro’s video treats the stuff that surrounds us as coded references to our own demise. A dinner table, laden with plates of food and wine bottles, its chairs waiting to be occupied, stands in a scrubby, semi-mountainous landscape, a breeze flickering its tablecloth. The table’s placement, in the centre of the frame (the shot is still), makes unmistakeable allusion to painted conventions – the Last Supper, the Supper at Emmaus. And yet the occupants, when they arrive, transform the table’s Biblical and epicurean suggestions into something nightmarish and deathly. The stilled moment of the painted meal becomes subject to cinematic time: movement is change. Vultures descend, from nowhere, their bulk and scrabble bringing instability to the implied order of the scene. Yet the meal’s duration, and its strange quietness (aside from the flapping of wings and chink of claw on plate) lend it a human quality: this might be the soundtrack to a medieval banquet. The birds here, like Hitchcock’s, act out repressed human desires (to gorge oneself): they’re us, with the mask off.”
Yesterday’s tasty presentation of ‘Displaced Soils – The Geopolitical Cooking-Performances’ at Elia Zenghelis Workshop, Bartlett School of Architecture, London.
A collective performance, where guests have to eat and drink without hearing, brings clinical and territorial space together.
G O V ‘ T cocktails are served using 3 ingredients originated out of herbal medicine – Gin, Vermouth and Tonic – as well as the very essence of Mediterranean landscape: Olives. It takes place at the new building of the Bartlett School of Architecture, built in 1927 to house the first Ear Hospital in the UK.
Gin became popular in Dutch and Flemish modern era for treating stomach, kidney and muscular diseases. Dry vermouth was used as a medicinal libation in the 18th century. And tonic water was created as a carbonated soft drink to prevent Malaria in British colonial India through the quinine it contains. The existence of these three fluids was subject to a physical menace to the invaders’ physical health.
Olives impersonate Mediterraneanism, through which sovereignty over a territory has been linked to olive groves and the human presence they can empower or disempower. If for the Romans, olive trees were the most practical weapons to colonize non-fertile and vacant land, Israel today is uprooting Palestinian olive trees to erase any trace of historical villages.
Spain, Italy and Greece, main olive producers worldwide, have experienced intense corruption concerning EU subsidies for agriculture. These subsidies have constructed both real and fictional terrains. The amount of planted trees has often been faked through photoshopped aerial imagery to receive more financial aid. Recent formulas of re-thinking how to add speculative value to land go through the demarcation of new food landscape boundaries. The European Protected Designation of Origin Act (PDO) came into existence to certify that olives, amongst other products, belong and are produced in a certain area. Paradoxically, this process of ruralization has been happening simultaneously to the destruction of nature by the recent urban boom of the noughties. The microscopic essence of the olive kernels connects to a global dimension of territoriality and capital flows. Nature is mobilized as a contemporary war machine.
During the performance, guests will be required to use earplugs for their experience of eating and drinking, as a ‘voluntary violent act’ to amplify the experience of swallowing; they are invited to reorient themselves in space with an edible political map.
Many thanks to Adrian Lahoud and Beatriz Aragón for their kind support!!
‘Isabella Rossellini’s critically acclaimed and provocative online series, GREEN PORNO covers both land and sea! The series features Rossellini as she acts out the reproductive habits of marine animals and insects, both scientifically accurate yet extremely entertaining. Green Porno is produced by Isabella Rossellini, Jody Shapiro and Rick Gilbert in association with Sundance Channel. The series is conceived, written by and features Rossellini. The films are directed by Rossellini and Shapiro.’
^ Colonganos. Austis, Sardinia, Italy. All photos by Charles Fréger.
The Wild Man is a legendary creature, son of a bear and a woman, a sort of medieval superman. The tradition of celebrating once a year the return of the Wild Man spreads all over Europe and adapts the myth into different materials and hybrids. Costumes use local plants, hey, tree branches; goat horns, cow horns, bullhorns; bear fur, sheep skulls, twisted deer bones, skins, hair, and gigantic cowbells… Landscape acquires a humanoid dimension through a fiction character that wears portions of its natural surroundings, and dances, scares, swarms around the forest, celebrating a new season, and marking time cycles as a living calendar.
Charles Fréger’s photograph series Wilder Mann compiles a long tradition of European masquerades of outstanding liminal zones at the edge between civilization and wilderness. As he explains, the anthropomorphic figures can be divided into two categories: those who belong to another world and represent a different kind of state or moment of change and transition (the devil, strangers, beggars, madmen, dead men), and those that need to be supplemented by an additional figure and create atypical couples because they represent only half a reality (the beauty and the beast, the human and the animal). Meanwhile, the zoomorphic masks use the most powerful beasts of the area in order to be grateful to the fertility of the soil, fecundity of women or the benignity of weather.
dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary.
dOCUMENTA (13) is driven by a holistic and non-logocentric vision that is skeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth.
_Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Artistic Director
After the unexpected disappointment on the excessive correctness of the pieces at dOCUMENTA (13), including the ones by my heroes Francis Alÿs and Roman Ondák, as well as urban Time-Bank systems from Berlin – not to talk about the over-engineered and completely out-of-place ‘sustainable-green-building-white-cubes’ spread all over Kassel and used as (mis)exhibiting pavilions, I will compile below a selection of my top immaterial moments and spatial ecstasies:
^, ^^ Airflow-velocity study for I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise (The Invisible Pull), 2012. By Ryan Gander.
‘[…] A light breeze is blowing through the Fridericianum’s entire ground floor, whose rooms are left almost empty. […] It is not a strong wind, not immediately recognizable as artificial, but physical enough to create a moment of wonder in the viewer while standing in what is considered “the heart” of documenta. […]’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ In one of the main and larger exhibition rooms we can only find non-participant Kai Althoff’s non-piece: a letter to Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, explaining his reasons to withdraw taking part in dOCUMENTA (13). Photo>deconcrete2012
^ Apples,1912-1960s. By Korbinian Aigner. 372 drawings. Each ca. 10×15 cm. Photo>deconcrete2012
‘The fruit once known as KZ-3 and now renamed the Korbinian Apple was cultivated by Korbinian Aigner, the Apfelpfarrer – the “apple priest” – when he was an inmate in Dachau concentration camp. […] In this unlikeliest of places – the concentration camp – Aigner succeeded in creating new life in the form of four new strains of apples. Aigner developed a strain for every year of his internment, secretly naming the apple sorts KZ-1, KZ-2, KZ-3, and KZ-4 – “KZ” being the German abbreviation for “concentration camp”. […] Even if Aigner’s cultivation of new apple strains was a poetic act of resistance in the face of genocide, the names that he gave to them suggest that no manifestation of life could remain untouched by fascism’s abuse of enlightened thought. […]’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ Sleeping Sickness, 2012. By Pratchaya Phinthong. Fertile female and sterile consort. Each ca. 1 cm. Photo>deconcrete2012
‘[…] Africa’s epidemic disease, and how Europe and the rest of the world try to control the deadly tsetse fly in Africa. [Tsetse flies] yearly infect and kill thousands of people with sleeping sickness. Together with local people [Phintong] invests in simple, inexpensive traps with which tsetse populations can be monitored and effectively controlled – as a possible alternative to the method of sterilizing male flies by irradiation.’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ Picasso in Palestine, 2011. By Khaled Hourani. Installation view, International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP) in Ramallah.
‘[…] What would normally be a standard loan procedure between two institutions had to be rethought due to the exceptional nature of the Palestinian reality and protocols had to be adjusted and legal frameworks reset relating to insurance, transportation, and imports into the West Bank. On its journey, watched over by a delegation of museum experts from Eindhoven, the work passed Israeli military checkpoints, and during its exhibition, in a room custom-built to provide appropriate temperature and humidity levels, it was guarded by Palestinian soldiers. […]’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ Til I Get It Right, 2005. By Ceal Floyer. Audio installation. Photo>deconcrete2012
‘[…] A sound piece created from the refrain of the classic song of the same title by Tammy Wynette, also embraces notions of vulnerability and the potential of failure. Floyer digitally excised the words “falling in love” and looped the remaining “I’ll just keep on / ‘til I get it right” in eternal repetition. […]’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ Public Smog, 2004-ongoing. By Amy Balkin. Photo>deconcrete2012
‘[…] Balkin drafted a list stating all the criteria that identify the atmosphere as a unique property and therefore appropriate for consideration to be protected and preserved as a natural World Heritage Site. One of the project’s major challenges is that while the atmosphere is a borderless realm, only state parties can nominate sites within their own borders or offshore sites they claim politically or co-nominate. At the time of writing, dOCUMENTA (13) has sent support requests in six languages to 186 UNESCO countries, inviting them to act as leading state parties – individually or in a coalition committee – to facilitate an extraordinary procedure. The amount of paperwork gathered during this process reveals the gaps and obstacles of international law in the collaborative action against climate change.’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ The Worldly House, 2012. An Archive Inspired by Donna Haraway’s Writings on Multispecies Co-Evolution, Compiled and Presented by Tue Greenfort. Installation inside the former birdhouse of Kassel’s Karlsaue Park. Photo>deconcrete2012
^, ^^, ^^^ Untilled, 2012. By Pierre Huyghe. Installed at the composting area of Kassel’s Karlsaue Park. Photos>deconcrete2012
‘The place is enclosed. Elements and spaces from different times in history lie next to each other with no chronological order or sign of origin. What is present are either physical adaptations of fictional and factual documents or existing things. In the compost of the Karlsaue Park, artefacts, inanimate elements, and living organisms…plants, animals, humans, bacteria are left without culture. The set of operations that occurs between them has no script. There are antagonisms, associations, hospitality and hostility, corruption, separation and degeneration or collapse with no encounters. These are circumstances and deviations that allow the emergence of complexities. […]’ [Text> Pierre Huyghe]
This Variation, 2012. By Tino Sehgal.
Since pages 438 and 439 about this pieces are brilliantly missing from the dOCUMENTA guidebook, I will also simply recommend going, navigating, touching, breathing, smelling, seeing the space.
^, ^^ Raptor’s Rapture, 2012. By Allora & Calzadilla. Single-channel HD video projection, color, sound. Screened inside Kassel’s WWII bunker.
Flautist Bernadette Käfer, specialized in prehistoric instruments, was invited by A&C to play the oldest musical instrument ever found – a flute carved from the wing bone of a griffon vulture 35,000 years ago by Homo Sapiens – live in front of a live griffon.
^ Forest (For A Thousand Years), 2012. By Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. Photo>deconcrete2012
Thirty speakers hidden in the forest move the audience.
J: You can hear the ocean today.
G: The tide must be coming in, or maybe it’s just the wind or the highway.
J: How long are we going to wait?
G: I don’t know.
J: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a very normal woman in an apartment surrounded by many other apartments and no trees. One day she fell asleep and never woke up.
A: Maybe she slept for a thousand years and a prince came and found her and woke her up.
J: She just lay in bed. Nothing happened. She just slept and slept. That’s the end. […]’
^ 2012, By Aníbal López (A-1 53167).
‘[…] For dOCUMENTA (13), López has invited a Guatemalana sicario, a hired assassin, to come to Kassel to discuss and address the social and political circumstances in Central America and in armed conflicts everywhere. With his project, López aims to “penetrate the assassin’s mind” as a subversive strategy of “internalizing the reason and thinking behind the realities of people and ways of living. […]’ [Text> Eva Scharrer]
^ And finally, our Centre for Research Architecture roundtable discussion explored questions of political ecologies, conflict and human rights (31 July 2012). Curated and moderated by Chris Molinski within the programme of events organised by Critical Art Ensemble ‘Winning Hearts and Minds’ in their Free Speech Zone at Kassel’s Hauptbahnhof. Presentations included: Eva Dietrich, Irmelin Joelson, Steffen Krämer, Hannah Meszaros-Martin, Daniel Fernández Pascual (myself) and Corinne Quinn. On the image, my cooking performance Displaced Soils: A Geopolitical Gazpacho, introducing a series of contested places of real (e)state speculation and corruption in Spain through each ingredient of the Gazpacho, which had been carefully chosen and brought from the site; chopped in Kassel; and blended during the performance. After 20 min, the map of Spanish speculation was ready to be drunk.
<Play becomes celebration; celebration becomes work; work becomes play.
Our play should become work; our work, a celebration; and our celebration, play.
I regard this as the supreme excellence of the human tasks>
[‘our play, our party, our work’ was the title given by Johannes Itten to his lecture of 1919]
<Once established, the Bauhaus was held together as much by the social gatherings and festivities that masters and students organised collaboratively as by Gropius’s vision for a new art school. These celebrations served to promote contact between the school and the public, with attendance from locals and party-goers from further afield, making the school a lively cultural centre. Parties were also of central importance to Gropius’s educational vision and from the outset he stressed the significance of extracurricular entertainment with the ‘encouragement of friendly relations between masters and students outside of work’. Such festivities gave free rein to the masters and students to demonstrate their creativity and design invention, providing innumerable opportunities to conceive invitations, posters, costumes and decorations. An additional pedagogical aim of the festivities was the encouragement of play within teaching. Masters from Johannes Itten and Oskar Schlemmer to Paul Klee valued play as an essential ingredient of artistic creativity.
The Bauhaus parties moved from the imaginative improvisations and the rhythm of the seasons during Weimar, with the Lantern Festival in the spring and the Kite Festival in the autumn, to spectacular and monumental stage productions in Dessau. These large public parties were elaborately prepared around themes, such as the White Party (1926), in which everyone was instructed to appear in a costume ‘dotted, chequered and striped’, or The Beard Nose Heart Party arranged by the Bauhaus band. The highpoint of celebrations was in 1929 with the resplendent Metal Party. The school was given glittering look and guests came attired in metallic objects from tin foil to frying pans and danced to the sound of bells. They entered the building by sliding down a large chute that deposited them in the first of several rooms decorated with silver spherical balls and reflecting walls faced with white metal>
[source text: Barbican Art Gallery, 2012. Bauhaus: Art as Life. Koenig Books]
^ Bauhaus Stage Workshop 1928.
^ Oskar Schlemmer. Das Triadische Ballet 1924.
^ Oskar Schlemmer. Das Triadische Ballet 1924.
^ Bauhaus Stage Workshop 1928.
^ Andor Weininger. Mechanical Stage Revue 1926.
^ Oskar Schlemmer. Das Triadische Ballet 1924. Installation at Barbican Exhibition.
^ Walter Gropius. Drawing by Stefan Sebök. Total theatre 1926-27.
^ Hinnerk Scheper. Colour-coded orientation plan for the Bauhaus Building 1926.
^ László Moholy-Nagy. Kinetic constructive system 1922-1928.
^ Puppets for the Oskar Schlemmer Stage Workshop 1923.
^ Oskar Schlemmer. Metal Party 1929.
^ Nonsense Soldier. Costume for the Metal Party 1929.
^ Attributed to Irene or Herbert Bayer. Costume for the Neue Sachlichkeit Party 1926.
images from the Bauhaus: Art as Life exhibition at Barbican centre, London. Co-curated by Catherine Ince and Lydia Yee. 3 May – 12 August 2012.
^Barcelona Dark Rooms, 2007 by Pol Esteve Castello & Marc Navarro Fornós. Courtesy: the authors.
This plan atlas compiles 15 typologies of dark rooms in Barcelona for anonymous male sexual encounters, where fantasy and real pleasure operate in constant negotiation. Researched by Pol Esteve Castello & Marc Navarro Fornós (2007), the plans of these barely furnished homes include structural elements with semantic relevance for collective ecstasy. The audacity of revealing the otherwise invisible plans, for outsiders as well as for insiders, plays with the irony of an intentional desecration. Darkness is mapped here through the exact location of light spots and TV monitors screening porn movies. The intricate partitions (panels, columns, corners…) and elaborate width of each opening (aisles, thresholds, glory holes…) are the basic elements defining these labyrinthine liminal spaces of desire. Holmes, O’Byrne & Gastaldo (Setting the space for sex, 2007) define them as refusing ‘to function in and be part of what Deleuze (1992) calls “societies of control”. Public gay sex spaces, such as parks, alleys, restrooms, rest stops, adult theatres, video arcades, bookstores, bars and gay bathhouses are often thought of as being filthy and residing outside “the social”. However, it is the public nature of the location and its on-site sexual possibilities inextricably linked with risk that intensifies the power and pleasure of the erotic encounter (Leap, 1999). […] Desire is not an “absence” (a lack of something), but a force that makes us move (Colebrook, 2002) […] To paraphrase Bataille, gay bathhouses are necessary “architectures of excess” that permit desire to free itself from the constraints of everyday life.’
The Silence Project [& sons, 2011] is a compilation of gaps that refill a new meaning. Suddenly, the most referential lyrics are removed from iconic songs that everybody has in mind to be simply reduced to their negative breaks, the anti-song. During these uncomfortable visual silences, the performer needs to force a smile, invent a gesture, anticipate a facial expression or intensify a feeling previously expressed in her last sentence. The melody is deconstructed, decontextualized, and so are the dancing movements and the audience clapping. A mix of anxiety and eager to know what we have missed invades us. We are presented with multiple preludes and epilogues that use voids to build a new entity. But we can only guess the actual content through the sweat, breath, wrinkles or opening of the mouths.
The same images of naked women that the military had approved and openly distributed among soldiers during WWII – as a way to keep their souls more stable through masturbatory practices – were automatically stigmatised after the end of the war, for being utterly illicit pornography. The nation urgently demanded stable heterosexual couples producing kids for the future. The suburban house with garden, car and electric appliances became the American dream. But Hugh Hefner decided to shake the deep roots of society in 1950s when he founded a Disneyland for adults: the Playboy empire. Philosopher Beatriz Preciado, in her sharp analysis Pornotopia: Architecture and Sexuality in “Playboy” during the Cold War (only Spanish and Italian editions available), makes a necessary reading of the implicit domesticity of this new paradigm of modernity.
< Playboy was not merely a magazine featuring girls with or without bikini, but a vast media-oriented architectural project, which aimed to supersede the heterosexual dwelling as the nucleus of consumption and reproduction by new spaces orientated towards the production of capital and pleasure. […] In the same way that enlightened society thought of the individual prison cell as a means of healing criminal souls, Playboy envisioned the bachelor’s mansion as the way to construct the modern man. […] Inspired by pioneering sexual utopias conceived by Sade and Ledoux, this complex worked as the first multimedia brothel in history; a modern pornotopia erected from mass media and the architecture of the spectacle. It is a laboratory to study the mutations from Cold War to hot Capitalism, through sex, drugs and information as means of production, and where architecture plays the role of a stage on which male identity is performed. >*
As queer theoretician Preciado reveals, woman’s role – of an “imprisoned” housewife dominating the domestic realm – was something that Playboy magazine would try to end up with. It was not in favour of female rights at all, since the role of many suburban housewives as exploited sex workers did not differ much from the bunnies legally hired by Playboy. Quite on the contrary, it was all about the male recovering the sphere of the house that he had lost. The new masculine character should be sovereign of his bachelor urban refuge, where he would enjoy licentiousness while preparing exquisite cocktails. Modern architecture and design was used as a weapon to free 1950s American bachelors from their Victorian moral-led lifestyles. The aim was not to walk towards a more feminized man at home, but towards a more masculinized domesticity as a contemporary way of inhabiting space.
Preciado (interviewed by Ibrahim B.) sustains that even today the models of producing subjectivity invented by Playboy influence our everyday life: our contemporary ways of meeting people and producing pleasure are prosthetic, mediatized and psychotropic. However free we are, we are still trapped in a virtual world of laptops, as well as Hefner was in his round hyper-connected bed. Our sex relationships are determined by pharmacological technologies (the morning-after pill, Viagra…) and surveillance (we fall in love via SMS, we record and document our meetings, we broadcast and share them via Youtube or Facebook…). Hence, she concludes, our way to love directly inherits the pornotopia of Playboy, being absolutely kitsch and telecommunicative.
Masking is one of the most complex and secretive, yet profoundly important, phenomena in Africa. […] Why, despite the changes that have taken place since the early 20th century, does masking persist in such vibrant form in parts of Africa and its diaspora? What is it that motivates the communities and individuals still so committed to the practice, despite the threats posed by the combined, if antithetical, forces of secularization, fundamentalist Christianity and radical Islam?[Chika Okeke-Agulu]
In Maske photo essay (Chris Boot 2010), Phyllis Galembo provides a visual platform to enter everyday African life through the politics behind masquerades. There are many functions of masking nowadays: planting and harvesting (Chi Wara masks, Bamana people); juridical functions (Glewa masks, Dan people); boyhood initiation rites, memorials after their owners’ deaths (Lukwakongo masks, Lega people); fostering gender and social harmony (Yoruba people).
But they also function as a way of protest in contemporary culture. In some cases, masks have been used as a means of complaint against enriched citizens abusing of power, oppressed people sending the most terrifying masks to their homes. As Okeke-Agulu describes it: “masks as agents of law enforcement and coercion”. In patriarchal communities, female masqueraders take the chance to reveal against imposed hierarchies through their costumes.
<Among the Ibibio and Efik people, all-male societies such as Ekpo and Ekpe still preside over social, legal, economic and political disputes, and this practice functions openly alongside the modern legal system.> [P.Galembo]
Built with local materials, performers camouflage with their surrounding constructions and vegetation. Costumes and houses, plants and stones, all mingle with each other: Woven plant fibre materials (sisal, cotton), painted wood, resinous materials (beeswax and tar), twigs, bushes, leaves, lizard excrement (white colour), boiled acacia seed pods (black), iron-rich hematite stone (red), grass, vines, feathers, fur, sugar syrup mixed with coal dust, roots, branches… Materials might be ever lasting or ephemeral. African expats in the US even send actual animal heads preserved by taxidermy back to Sierra Leone, whereas Burkina Faso masks are supposed to fall apart during every ceremony.
Urban space is profoundly altered during masquerades. In Eastern Nigeria Uzo-Iyi, no social event, market or funeral can be held during the festival. In Zambia, there is a spatial dislocation during boyhood initiation rituals; it is by leaving the settlement boundary during some months into the surrounding forest, that a new life calendar is set by the fact of returning to their settlement wearing Makishi masks. Boys leave the city to come back as real men. As Giorgio Agamben puts it, when talking about juridical identity and masks: <Persona originally means mask and it is through the mask that the individual acquires a role and a social identity.>
Masks also serve as a display of current issues. New technologies are applied on the motives of the masks, some including airplanes, helicopters or Hondas. Other masks in Benin, for example, provide moral lessons, ranging from “you can’t buy wisdom at the market” to prevention from AIDS.
African masks are wild and shapeless, and they reveal a whole society behind their powerful aesthetic appeal. In words of Okeke-Agulu, contemporary masking inhabits a space in which faith in new religions combines with residual beliefs in indigenous metaphysics to produce ontological uncertainties; this mixture of foreign and inherited cultural traditions is responsible for the complex, dramatic, rich and extreme social and cultural life in Africa and its diaspora today.
Parangolés and Penetráveis. The former consist of a series of complicate capes that only reveal their intricate nature to the viewer when the person who wears one moves and dances. The latter are labyrinth-like constructions waiting for the viewer to penetrate their boundaries and get lost in a series of tropical colourful panels. Hélio Oiticica’s works from 1960s Brazilian avant-garde contributed enormously to the world of interactivity. A Parangolé is both an object and the representation of its own movements; as long as the fabric waves in the air, it turns dancers’ changing trajectories automatically visible. They are able to visualize unstable spaces. As Simone Osthoff beautifully describes them:
<[Oiticica] created interrelations around the sensual body and the many spatial forms it interacts with. His participatory creations were based on two key concepts that he named “Crelazer” and the “Supra-Sensorial.” Crelazer, one of Oiticica’s neologisms meaning “to believe in leisure,” was for him a condition for the existence of creativity and is based on joy, pleasure and phenomenological knowledge. The second concept, the Supra-Sensorial, promotes the expansion of the individual’s normal sensory capacities in order to discover his/her internal creative center. The Supra-Sensorial could be represented by hallucinogenic states (induced with or without the use of drugs), religious trance and other alternate states of consciousness such as the ecstasy and delirium facilitated by the samba dance. For Oiticica, the Supra-Sensorial created a complete de-aesthetization of art underscoring transformative processes.
Oiticica’s work fused formal investigation with leisure activities, inviting viewer participation in the creation of “unconditioned behaviour”. In the cultural context of “the country where all free wills seem to be repressed or castrated”, the concepts of Crelazer and the Supra-Sensorial directly defied a pleasure-denying productivist work ethic, subverting it through activities that embraced pleasure, humor, leisure and carnivalesque strategies. Reverie and revolt were never far apart in Oiticica’s work, as Brett has pointed out. Leisure for him was first and foremost a revolutionary anti-colonialist strategy.
Oiticica described his relation to the popular samba, making reference to the intense experience provoked by dance: “The rehearsals themselves are the whole activity, and the participation in it is not really what Westerners would call participation because the people bring inside themselves the “samba fever” as I call it, for I became ill of it too, impregnated completely, and I am sure that from that disease no one recovers, because it is the revelation of mythical activity…Samba sessions all through the night revealed to me that myth is indispensable in life, something more important than intellectual activity or rational thought when these become exaggerated and distorted.”>
In New Orleans Carnival (Mardi Gras), citizens and trees alike dress up to celebrate earthly pleasures. Since late 19th century, there is a traditional use of beads in the parade among participants. The extreme inexpensive price of such colourful strings of fake pearls make them be thrown and hung everywhere, local trees becoming part of the joyful show. But at the same time, these customised trees become a direct result of globalised production. Where do all these beads come from so that they can be lavishly given away? are they almost free or rather priceless?
Their cheap production was originally set in Czechoslovakia. But some decades ago, plastic fever made factories move to new locations, at the same pace as all other production sites have been doing throughout the globe. First to HongKong, then Taiwan and today China and India. In Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005), David Redmon follows the path of Mardi Gras beads from the streets of New Orleans during Carnival – where revelers party and exchange beads for nudity – to the disciplined factories in Fuzhou, China – where teenage girls live and sew beads together all day and night.
“Mardi Gras” cleverly juxtaposes the apex of American bacchanalian excess with the politely sweatshop-like conditions that facilitate the fun, but rather than prissily lecturing the audience, the filmmaker mostly lets the people and images speak for themselves. [L.A. Times]