Performance by Ismael Souza
Text by Artur Dória
Translation by Danielle Cascaes
In “Every street corner has a piece of me: memory lane”, the unfolding action is simple and direct: Ismael Souza, dressed in white pants and shirt, holding red roses, visits a series of locations on the streets of Belém that are irrevocably linked to personal memories that have been and continue to be part of his experiences and self-development. Upon arrival – all locations are outdoors, mostly recognizable to Belém residents – he makes a small bow, touching his forehead to the ground, places one of the roses he carries, and then continues on his way.
Ismael Souza’s walking performance has a straightforward goal: to explore emotional memories that cannot be denied or forgotten. He regards these memories as turning points, decisive moments, or crucial experiences that have shaped the paths he has followed and continues to follow. They are life markers, fleeting presences that, when brought together, become imbued with new meanings and speak to how he sees and understands himself through them. This performance is a selection, a clear proposition for a path that leads to a deeper self-comprehension.
These memories, however, are not accessible except through the physical space to which he pays his respects, as his action primarily serves as a tribute to what he experienced. In the video where he narrates and poetically presents the performance, there is no indication or mention of what happened at that location. This is because this memory is brought forth and witnessed as a space, not as a specific event, so it remains intimate without the need for elaboration. This isn’t because it’s a secret, but because the nature of the action doesn’t manifest through personal storytelling or factual explanation. Instead, it emphasizes the possibility of creating a ritual gesture that reinforces and underscores the significance these spaces hold for him.
By choosing the streets, by staying in outdoor public spaces, without entering enclosed locations, this memory gains an opportunity for expansion as it can blend with other memories, perhaps our own, those of the audience, and those who recognize those places. These memories are highlighted because that space is not the sole repository of his memory; through his action, they become larger than their specificity. Memories, by nature, cannot be confined, they are always evolving and open to interpretation, and they are never the same and affect individuals differently. In this way, his action serves to release this memory and allow it to spread to others.
To achieve this, Ismael draws a map in the city, a very personal way of accessing the city and immersing himself in the body of the city itself. By selecting these memories, Ismael suggests another perspective on the relationship with the city. His walk towards points that have left a mark on him unfolds as an encounter with himself, primarily in the sense of acknowledging and collecting integrity and dignity that speak of paths he alone can follow. These are paths that, it should be noted, constitute a two-way street: paths that have made him, shaped him to some extent, but paths that still awaken him. They reconstruct these memories to the extent of awakening, because reviving memory is reviving one’s own existence, it’s about knowing how to access these pieces of oneself, pieces that sometimes extend far beyond one’s own body.
Learning to read these memories. Learning, above all, to coexist with them, open up to them, and allow the arrival of others, which are, after all, inevitable. He creates a way for himself to read the city based on what has become an unavoidable moment, and thus, his journey is an active way of writing the city, a city that is already irrevocably inscribed in him.
As he walks, he constructs an intimate map in which each rose left is like a spark – fragments of his heart, he considers – expressing things that cannot be left unsaid, no matter how much one might wish to do so. According to him, the roses represent feelings that have become associated with these places. As for the white clothes, they speak of the purity and innocence of the time when these moments occurred. These are details that, in general, function as traces of vitality and suggest small prayers. It’s no wonder that his walk can be described as a prayerful experience, characterized by both requests and expressions of gratitude, as well as a profound search for forgiveness and reconciliation. Returning to and turning towards these places, allowing themselves to be renewed by them, blessing them with a fresh perspective, glimpsing another view of the city, and reaffirming their humility in the face of facts over which they have no control or had no control.
He traverses space to meet with time; this is the strength of the journey. He stitches together these fragments of himself in an exercise of learning in which he recognizes the cycles and experiences through which he has passed. By walking and stopping at specific places that hold some significance, he is asserting himself as an intangible part of the city. Amidst conflicts and contradictions, he affirms himself as an inevitable part of the city.
However, the ambiguity of this belonging lingers in the air because these fragments scattered throughout the city speak both to the ever-changing nature that defines us as beings in the world and the city’s ability to dismember bodies, to spread pieces at the cost of many erasures. In light of this, it’s important to say that his walk also serves as an act of reassembly, a way to compose a body that can strengthen itself in the face of the city’s hostility. It’s a body that knows how to locate itself according to its own demands, one that understands its paths and how to tread them.
Thus, oscillating between things that could be relived or forgotten, as he crosses corners, visits and revisits them, Ismael reveres and celebrates his own history. He places them on the surface of his own body, creating, beyond the selected memories, a remembrance of himself in the present. He does this without making concessions because it would be easier not to return. However, as his performance-walk practically demonstrates, one cannot move forward without carrying the vital points that sustain their path.