Vanessa da Silva presented solo exhibition Stranger than Paradise at London’s StudioRCA Riverlight which opened December 7, 2017 and ran to January 28, 2018. Curated by A- – -Z, the event is part the Displacement Exhibition Series which features work by artists who are exploring the “deconstruction of pre-conceived/imperialist knowledge” including Marianne Keating, Erica Scourti, Larry Achiampong and PioAbad among others.
The sculptural installation was activated by a choreographed performance that took place on January 24, which included an accompanying sound piece (featuring poetry spoken in both English and Portuguese against the backdrop of the birimbau – an instrument played in the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira). The poems were also written onto the wall of the space, with an excerpt that reads:
By internal waterfalls
I am consumed
Water in the stone
In collaboration with choreographer Mary Feliciano, the performance acts an extension of the object-based works which were produced during her time at Ox-Bow Residency, as well as recent editions made specifically for the space. Drawing from her “ongoing research on cultural identities through body language, spoken words and improvisation,” the Brazil born and raised, London-based artist also looks to her own lived experience as a way to explore a more embodied approach to the theory of movement and migration.
In a short Q+A about the recent work, da Silva speaks with us about the wider context of borders and nationality and the complex terrain of tradition that happens at the intersection of culture and identity.
** Your work has a bright aesethetic, and a vibrance to it – maybe you disagree, but is ‘joy’ something you’re interested in and is this a political act of resistance for you?
Vanessa da Silva: I am from South America and I believe growing up in Brazil will always influence my work and my aesthetics – the colours, the way I work with materials, my rhythm. Through my work I’m interested in exploring histories that are not necessarily related to joy but perhaps with the hope to inspire some kind of positivity through it.
** When static objects and a room are being activated through performance, are there certain narratives you are trying to play out – are characters being anthropomorphized and made into a bodily presence or is it more about abstracting and moving away from the ‘body’ as we understand it
VdS: I see the performance aspect of my work as a continuation of the static work – I use it as a way to investigate and explore further elements of my research – I have presented two performance pieces up to now and in both of them I worked with a narrative but also with an interest to investigate the body as an extension of the sculptures – with an intention for the body to continue the sculpture and vice versa.
** What is your process of translation and ’translating political resistance’ – does your choreography
and exploration of movement come from a memory, something abstract, somatic or from a
VdS: The exploration of movement is very much related to my research, and how I started thinking of the work as a way of political resistance or the body as a political tool. I have been specifically interested in the practice of Afro/Brazilian martial art capoeira which at the time of Brazil’s colonisation was practiced by the African slaves – as a way to keep their traditions and resist the coloniser. I believe that through my performances I’m able to give a ‘body narrative’ or tell a story that comprises more than just the physical/ material aspect of my practice.
** It’s hard not to think about exhaustion, energy and resilience when thinking about (political) resistance – are these states something you think about or translate in the work, the state/movement of emotion?
VdS: I think a lot about movement within my practice – that be my interest in the movement of cultures and traditions, the movement of people/ immigration histories. When it comes to making the work I specifically choose materials that can somehow ‘hold’ movement or a material that can translate ideas of movement – which I am interested in continuing through the body when it comes to the performance. In my 2017 performance ‘Resistance’ I was specifically exploring the flow of the body and thinking of it as a political tool through the mix of contemporary dance/capoeira choreography and engagement with the sculptures.
** What does a new geography look like for you, is it a place, an imaginary space, art?
VdS: For now, a new geography for me is still a utopian space, a more positive space where geographies mix and meet and where borders disappear.**
Vanessa da Silva presented solo exhibition Stranger than Paradise at London’s StudioRCA Riverlight which opened December 7, 2017 and ran to January 28 with a performance that took place on January 24, 2018.