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After performing

24/11/2015

About “Ô de casa!”

[leia a versão em português aqui]

 

 

“Ô de casa!” is an expression used to ask if someone is home in case you turn up, unannounced, at their doorstep. It means literally “Is there anyone home?”. In small towns of Brazil’s countryside, it commonly replaces the absent doorbells. In 2014, in the context of the residence rural.scape in São José do Barreiro (in the countryside of São Paulo), Marit Lindberg developed the performance “Ô de casa!”. In this work, the artist invited people to open the windows of their houses to sing, play, dance and recite poetry before an audience that watches from the street. In “Ô de casa!”, as in previous Lindberg’s works, the community participation is essential to the narratives proposed.

Ô de casa!” is a development of Songs of Many Floors, a performance created with the residents of a single building in Sweden. In this version, Lindberg got to know the residents and invited them to take part in the project. Producers orchestrated the dynamics of the performance, each presentation carefully planned to occur immediately after the previous one.

In São José do Barreiro there were some changes: the public was surprised as they strolled along the streets of the small town center, like a religious procession. The spectators did not know which windows would open, relying on Lindberg to stop in front of a house, clap her hands, and shout “Ô de casa!”. Also, in this work, the houses where the performances took place not always belonged to the performers.

It is important to describe the creation process of the performance. The project’s initial goal was to construct a narrative that could rescue the town’s oral traditions. The artist published an open call for auditions and rehearsals. Children, teenagers, and adults attended, bringing different proposals: for some it was about reviving the collective memory of the region; for others, a chance to perform pop songs broadcasted in mass media. During the discussions and selection process of the presentations, there was an obstacle: language. Lindberg did not speak Portuguese and the participants did not speak English. Before the artistic process itself cultural exchanges took place and, on both sides, there was the search for translation, the discovery and understanding of the other.

In light of these exchanges between the participants and the artist, we can consider the common-sense meaning of performance. The Cambridge Dictionary defines performance as “the action of entertaining other people by dancing, singing, acting, or playing music; how well the person, machine etc. does a piece of work or an activity.” From this perspective, for participants unfamiliar with issues regarding Art History, to take part in the performance “Ô de casa!” was an unfolding related to the TV shows they watched or the concerts they attended.

Ô de casa!” can be considered a performative action in the context of contemporary art. The concept of performativity — which emerged from the philosophy of language proposed by John Langshaw Austin and has been developed since the 2000s by theorists of performance art such as Richard Schechner and Philip Auslander — requires the execution of an act. From this point of view, the narratives constructed by Lindberg together with the inhabitants of São José do Barreiro imply the action of making or establishing something. The concept of performance is thus extended to “moving” fields. The performativity emerges from the use of the body(ies) as a tool to activate the everyday experience of art and the socio-cultural context. The artistic production’s nature is “biopolitical, because it begins to use artistic means to produce and document life as a pure activity” (Groys, 2008, p.54)[1]. Lindberg’s proposition is distinguished because the community involvement in her work left the longing for continuity. Several members of the public later said they would like “Ô de casa!” to become a regular cultural activity.

The presence, the immersion, and the moving creative process are concepts that continually emerged during the entire production of “Ô de casa!”. These features lead us to ponder the possibilities of performance documentation. During the residence at rural.scapes, Lindberg and I often talked about the oppositions and confluences between experiencing and documenting, not to mention the bias and subjectivity of the latter. In “Ô de casa!”, the new narratives produced in each action, transitory and ephemeral in principle, were registered through photography and video.

For the viewer, however, the performance offers multiple apprehension possibilities and is always an experience carried out in a specific time. The bodily reception and the underlying sensations are not reproducible in the images or videos. In such documents, the living experience becomes a composition of fragments. Then again, the documentation offers the possibility of a new artwork, such as the video “Ô de casa![2] Lindberg produced. With this text I aim to document an additional viewpoint, through which the past is always built from the present, in the exercise of its potential reconstructions.

 

[1] GROYS, Boris. Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation. In: ______. Art Power. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008.

 

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