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Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, A Thousand Ways to Kill a Monster, 2016, Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo

A Thousand Ways to Kill a Monster

05/28 2016 – 08/06 2016

Mendes Wood DM has the pleasure of presenting the exhibition A Thousand Ways to Kill a Monster the first solo show by Cibelle Cavalli Bastos at the gallery. In her new series, the artist works with video installations, latex sculptures, ceramics, paintings and other media, bringing to the center of discussion issues related to constructions of identity, whether they be gender, cultural, social or political. The monster addressed by the artist is every and any act of normativeness which divides human beings, which separates the body from the essence.

Interdisciplinarity is a key pillar in Cibelle Cavalli Bastos's studies. Her narratives break any possible dichotomy between image and sound, unite mass and space and relate the issue of the body and the concept of multimedia. Her iconographic construction is based on a process with no borders between beginning and end and between concept and conception.  

Non Binary Paucetas:
A Conversation between Cibelle Cavalli Bastos and Pablo León de la Barra

PLB Cibelle, I met you about 12 years ago when we were both living in London. At the time you were (and still are) a successful singer and performer. What made you decide to expand your practice towards the visual arts?

CCB The thing is, the visual arts were always a part of my process. The way I dealt with sound was always as if it was matter to be molded, something to paint with, to create space, imagery. People tend to identify sound art as being noise, or spoken word, sound collages, frequency play but as soon as there is a sung voice, it's automatically seen as music, even more so if it originated from a female body. In that case, and most cases, sound art is read as music, and the audience defines the one with the sung voice as a singer.
I am not a singer, however, I sing. 
I am not a painter, however I paint.
I am not a sculptor, however I sculpt, and so on...

I was never into any of those kinds of definition, because that would be defining someone by form, and not by what gives form. I work with that which gives form, with concepts, ideas, philosophy. Whatever I've worked with has always responded to its conceptual demands. I'm always working with the simplest gesture for what I must attain, placing restrictions to rationality, and in a conversation with materials because they show the way every single time. So I haven't exactly decided to expand on the visual, it was more of a need to take my body out of the work and have other vehicles for communication and at the same time some sort of coming out of the closet with the visual work that had been going on for years, pretty much since I was a teenager.

Thinking about it again, to be fair, there is another aspect that perhaps answers your question more clearly, and it's about language. Because at the time I saw nothing like me in art, no language for my practice, so back then I thought that maybe that wasn't my place. Much like a woman with internalized misogyny, who positions herself according to the other's gaze, in this case, the male gaze and patriarchal norm. I, with the internalized formality of the world, with the gaze of others upon my production, seeing it by form only, I thought I should just go into the music world, and music industry with what I identify as sound art, but the thing is that I never truly belonged there. My conversation, at its core, wasn't relating to that world and industry harmoniously. 
It felt progressively more and more out of place, so I had to move on.

PLB Which other artists inspire you or relate to what you are doing? While having this conversation I was trying to think of other artistic practices in Brazil which are as upfront regarding their exploration of sexuality. You might want to think of Ligia Clark's Bichos as attempts to free the vagina from conservative repression, or of Helio Oiticica's Parangolé's as being trans. Mostly I think that although Brazilian sexuality is sometimes used and abused as a marketing cliche, in reality it is very rare for Brazilian artists and works of art to discuss sexuality which in most cases remains repressed under post-Neo concrete politeness. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on all of this.

CCB Any artist who is working with deconstructing identity on any level, or simply questioning it, as well as decolonizing thought, any artists that put our cognition into check will also always be inspiring to me. I like Fannie Sosa with her strategies of body decolonization via a combination of web presence, lectures, conversations and twerkshops, and Aleta Valente with her (ongoing) instagram performance piece, Ex-Miss Febem, which intersects gender and classism, pushing the limits of what is acceptable for a female to do and so forth. These are the first two that come to mind, maybe not so clearly related when one looks at our works, but they are my contemporaries and we deal with a lot of the same issues from different angles. What I love about them is how unapologetic and assertive they are with their subject matter and their own bodies. They are truly embodying their research and putting their whole selves out there for better or worse, willing to expose themselves and take risks. That behavior inspires others alike to do the exact same thing. I’m inspired by their approach.

I do agree that, paradoxically, there has been a repression here in Brazil to do with sexuality, and probably that may have had an influence like the one you describe, as well as strong classism, which manifests itself in the drag everyone wears and the daily performance in gestures and lexicon. But, at the same time, I feel that Ligia Clarke’s Bichos may be going beyond pussies and straight into the fluidity of being. The shapelessness of a subjectivity encased in a body, with the Bichos manifesting that subjectivity embodied at any given shape or form and Helio going beyond trans and drag, highlighting that any sort of clothing is in fact a form of drag. Male drag, female drag (in a binary) or posh drag, city worker drag, basically insert before the word drag whatever may be the identity performance needed to interact intimately and socially and any given time for however long.  So the Parangolé comes as a form of non-binary, non-gender garb, to unify people, to take people out of gendered shapes as well as class, or whatever clothes may mark in a body and so forth. But then that may be the way that I am reading it.

All of this that I may have read into their work is what I’m actually aiming at. The difference is that due to the repression we’ve had and still have is rubbing up against the liberation that I see arising in São Paulo. It’s a very fertile time, an urgent time also, so the paucetas [literally dickpussies] have become very necessary.

I know I’m repeating myself but every time I think about genitalia to assign a gender situation, I want to laugh out of a pure meltdown. It’s ludicrous to me that a bit of one's body can be that important in determining someone’s life in do’s and don’ts, oppression and so forth. It’s just ridiculous really, so any work coming from me which deals with that  will have to be like that. Actually, anything of a body should not be serving as a context to classify and regulate a subjectivity. Not genitalia, not skin pigmentation, not the geolocation of one's birth nor whatever may surface from/on that body, such as its presentation or performance. The body is not the being. We must go beyond that and be present regardless of whatever we see as a body in front of us. Be present not to be triggered pictorially by what(who) we encounter into a bunch pre-programmed concepts from society that have colonized our thinking and that harm us so much, such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, classism and so forth. Presence and lack of assumption sorts that out. De-program our thought, our gaze.

PLB You talked before about being non/binary, can you tell me about your rethinking of sexuality and how the works and the exhibition relate to this ideas?

CCB The exhibition starts with a neon piece that says thou art, which in old English translates to you are as a simple reminder to just be, that before any programming by society, any construct, genitalia, gender identity, skin color, class, one is. One is constantly transforming, and that one is not the body one inhabits, that one is a subjectivity that is vast, forever evolving, transforming, not an object, not a mere body. You are not Are nor are, but rather you are being, since in English one only uses the verb to be to say you are fluid as much as you are here. After entering the exhibition the first thing that takes place is subjectivity confronting  the body itself, pixelated by mirrors. You can see your own presence, performativity, your gestures. In the mirror, a text, an invitation to think about your own body, your movement throughout the space and the temperatures of gender that we carry, that we perform. This is an invitation not only to think about your own body, but also an exercise in perception and internal conscience, and in this process having a port of entry to a process of identity deconstruction beginning with the body and performativity, at this stage, linked to gender. I like to think about the theory of the holographic universe and to constantly remind myself that vision takes place in a very dark place in the brain. All this that we have as reality can be a mere consensus. In a room with 10 people, there are 10 parallel realities present, and at least 100 identities. Being that for each person in the room, there is an internal reality of how each one perceives their surroundings, and  inwardly there is that which the person thinks is, therefore an idea of self, that which the person is being, and that which this person is for the nine others observing him or her.

To kill the monster of identity, of attachment/ego, it is necessary for us to overcome the notion of gender. Gender, in the first room, is the Imperial Pauceta. For me, the pauceta reflects a buffoonish, boastful attitude of mine of turning anything that makes me laugh into something epic, because for me laughter is the best outcome. I cannot believe that in the world we live in today people are still so burdened by their genitalia. A person who, like myself, was born with a pussy will therefore be socialized and programmed for a life that is geared inward, toward the home, to not occupy space, to close the body, to not demonstrate anything that displays the so-called masculine, to exert only delicateness and smoothness, to attend the demands of others gazes. Meanwhile, anyone born with a dick will consequently be socialized and programmed to be outward, geared toward the world, to conquer and occupy spaces, to go outside the home, to open the body, to share the body, to exert assertiveness, aggressiveness, to hamper his emotions, to not display anything that shows part of the so-called all of us

So I thought, what if we had hybrid genitalia? And look, I'm not talking about intersex, people who suffer from everything I mentioned above in even more complex ways, but I mean, what if people didn't care about this, if each person had something different between their legs, even in their sexual relations, and what if we had a vibrational orientation, instead of a sexual orientation, for example? It doesn't matter what kind of genitalia the person we're attracted to has. This surprise present would cause more presence. Anyway, to sum up, the actual body that people have and the genitalia that comes with the body, just like the skin, the shape of the body or what have you shouldn't matter as much as it does in society, to the point of dictating what kind of life this subjectivity is going to have.

After crossing the first room into the second, we begin to encounter the carcasses of clothing and latex, which I have christened CAS(C)A / \ CARNIÇA [“SHELL/HOUSE / \ CARRION”] .

I'm very interested in the relationship we have with clothes. For example, when someone is going to change their gender, the first thing they do is change their clothes. I consider all clothing a form of drag. All this drag inside the latex is a shell of identity, and here we are no longer taking about gender, we're also talking about individuality through one's own style, we're talking about class, about representation of culture as signals where identity is rooted. In the corner near the bathroom you find the work, a, not I, or rather a this not an I, which reflects a search to transform oneself into this essence of being, merely an existence without the so-called I having importance, having less and less of the I in this body. It was made out of my clothing from several periods, in which I was clearly several different people, clothes which I owned for nearly 10 years and which I should have let go of long ago. Through the detachment from these identities they are able to remain forever alive, pulsating and in the present.

The video in the second room, SUR-FACE, which deals with makeup, is a work where the deconstruction continues. Since my adolescence, I have seen my body and face as a blank screen for the projection of the next opera, as well as my own projection, and felt that this body and face can be anything at all, that this body and face are not me, and as such can be abstracted. Scattered throughout the room are ceramics. They are linguarudas [literally long tongues], mouths and tongues, as well as assholes, which everyone has, which unite us and which also signify our wants, repressed desires to be worked out. The canvas at the back of the second room, the enormous colorful one, is a portrait of subjectivity, without all the constructions, without the body that was left behind like the shells. Right above it is another convocation: run naked with the wind dressed up in courage, in other words, run off stripped of concepts of self, of constructions, let it all fall to the earth, with courage, you have to have courage to let the ego crumble and just exist in presence, without prejudices regarding others and yourself, since everything you encounter is the great unknown, and this unknown is outside the box in which the big lessons – growth, transformation – live. So, take courage to no longer be who you think you are, take courage to leave behind the person that no longer vibrates with the person that you are being from now on. Take courage to turn everything upside down, since those who take no risks make no gains and don't expand and as long as our ego and attachments keep judging, it's hard to have unity among people. So take courage

[("CIBELLE"{CAVALLI)BASTOS}] (São Paulo, 1978), is an embodied collective in flux. Residing in London, the artist has released four albums since 2003. Las Venus Resort Palace Hotel (2009), interpreted by Sonja Khalecallon, was expanded into performances at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madridand Miami Art Basel in 2014. AVAF (assume vivid astro focus) 28th Bienal de São Paulo (2008); Marathonat the Serpentine Gallery in London (2009); Schemes for a Tropical Ode (2012); 31st Bienal de São Paulo, (2014); Música.Performance, CCBB, São Paulo (2015); With the theme Contamin.AÇÃO, she won the award La Muta – Altre il Silencio in Urbino, Italy.

Pablo León de la Barra (born 1972 in Mexico City) is an independent curator based in London and New York. He is currently a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for the Latin American phase ofthe Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. León de la Barra received his Ph.D in Histories and Theories from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He has curated and co-curated exhibitions at several international locations including Apexart, The Architecture Foundation, Art in General, the Centre d’Art Contempora in Genève, Centro Cultural de España, the David Roberts Foundation, the Kunsthalle Zürich, the Luis Barragán House and Studio, and the Museo Tamayo. In 2012, he was the first recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean.

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