Performance by Marvin Muniz
Text by Artur Dória
Translation by Danielle Cascaes
Behind a table with a large red ice block, the performer Marvin Muniz removes one of the many shirts of various sizes he is wearing and begins to rub and wrap it compulsively in the ice. A siren sounds, he interrupts what he was doing, stands in front of the table, squeezes the shirt, holds it up in front of those present, and loudly announces a name and an age. Finally, he hangs it on one of the clotheslines that fill a good part of the courtyard of Escola de Teatro e Dança da UFPA (School of Theatre and Dance of UFPA)/ ETDUFPA. The action resumes as he takes off another shirt and rubs it on the block of ice; a block of blood. The performance continues for an indefinite period and only ends when there are no more shirts to be hung; he, now shirtless, leaves.
It is known that “wipe the ice” (or “wiping the ice”) is a popular expression indicating futility, an action or work without apparent results, devoid of meaning. But if that is the case, is this action, made literal by the performer, also a futile act? For those who witness the performance “h(A) sangue frio”(There’s cold blood/In cold blood) , what is there to be seen there? Who are these names called out for? Who are these people, and what is their relationship with this wiping process?
First of all, what can be noticed is that the repetition of the gesture allows the performance to expand in space in a way that creates and marks its own ambiance; the action flows, the action spits, the action splatters, the action permeates, and thus unfolds like a chamber of echoes capable of producing vertigo-inducing moments. The action highlights its own persistence, and beyond what one might assume, the performance does not focus on the act of wiping the ice, but rather on how it is inscribed and articulated in this space. This is because it is always accompanied by a moment of interruption (the siren), which is enriched with other actions (squeezing, showing, saying, stretching), forming a complex social panorama. Furthermore, it must be said that his action are not about wiping the ice; it is precisely the opposite. In fact, he is soaking these shirts. Thus, he carries out at least two coinciding movements: the first, more raw, is to expose the blood, and by exposing the blood, he ends up restoring a body to these shirts in a way that his action resembles a pumping action and raises questions about the possibility of blood circulation. This is a crucial characteristic of his performance, as he operates certain ambiguities in which an action or some element within the action can be thought of (or remembered) as another.
This way, the desire of those who bear witness the action – and I say this as an implicated white man – is for all of this to come to an end, for there to be no more names to be pronounced. This is the wish, but the performance does not end when it concludes; it merely enters an interval, a sorrowful silence. It does have an ending, yes, an exhaustion, not of the performer’s body, but of the action itself that he carries out because the desire is for all of this to end, something that is of the unbearable order, something that can no longer go on. However, the entire action, in its configuration and merit, was not meant to narrate or indicate an end (or ends) to what has happened but to speak of an ongoing act.
This vertigo, therefore, is the never-ending roulette of names to be spoken – and we know very well that these names could succeed one another endlessly. Names, crowded together, forming an amorphous and anonymous mass, are now mentioned one by one, each in its time, guided by the performer, who becomes a channel of speech to utter them and remove them from their common grave. It is precisely for this reason that the body of the performance has the ability to distort the senses, because what Marvin does is reverse the logic that governs expression. It is not the act of wiping the ice that is futile there; it is precisely the succession of events and actions that place him there to supposedly dry the ice that is futile. In other words, it is the entire apparatus that eagerly devotes itself to erasing these names, to liberating and concealing these bodies, to cleansing this blood, to forgetting them as if they were disposable. However hard they try – and at times they succeed – they will never fully succeed; there is always a trace, even if it’s a trace of blood.
Indeed, it is true that the bloody ice block will not run out before the shirts on his body are exhausted, but it is important to emphasize that, in the end, when he is left shirtless and departs, what he leaves behind is a display of lives that now hover to reverberate their names and voices, a clothesline that serves as a memorial for the victims of an insatiable death machine. Marvin continues forward and presents himself toward a future.
The action of “h(A) sangue frio” begins with the conjugation of space. He prepares everything in front of everyone; there is nothing to hide, everything is in plain sight, nothing should come as a surprise. The precise and meticulous way he organizes and occupies the space, how he creates and allows himself to be created by this space, sets the pace of the performance. In doing so, he effectively discusses the modus operandi that permeates these deaths. It is not a matter of chance or accident; there is calculation and method that always leave room for this type of action. In this calculation, it’s evident: there’s always room for one more.
The names freeze and interrupt. They are children, young people, and adults, predominantly Black, and residents of the outskirts of Brazil. Of all the names mentioned, the only one that is female gendered was of 8-year-old Ágatha Vitória Sales Félix, who was murdered in 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, in the Alemão Complex, a famous favela. Some of these individuals were close to Marvin, among his friends, neighbors, and acquaintances from the neighborhood where he lives, Tapanã, on the outskirts of Belém. In common, they were killed as a result of police murders, i.e., deaths motivated by revenge. In reality, revenge is just a circumstance, a permission – a renewal of that permission, if not an incentive – to kill. And killing, in this case, is nothing more than an institutional mission, a mission embedded in the daily war waged against black and poor people.
His performance highlights an extermination that he himself, a young black resident of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, on the outskirts of the world, has witnessed day after day. To those who hear them, these are not entirely unfamiliar names. Some may have appeared in skewed news reports here and there, while others received wider, albeit fleeting, attention. Nevertheless, these names hardly hold their ground. They are names uttered that do not imply any apparent significance; they are names distant from our daily lives, at most a blur, a stain, or just noise, at most. All of them are linked to the same fact, a fact that mixes them and treats them in the same way; killable names, just names.
These names are fundamentally linked to the name of the performance, “h(A) sangue frio,” which points to a dual process, both a past and a future, both without a present, since the present is always the same common denominator. They are cold-blooded deaths that continue to occur, deaths that seem stagnant, frozen in time, destined to repeat incessantly in an unstoppable performance. The systematic manner in which Marvin performs the piece is only the systematic way in which these deaths occur and overlap with one another. His mechanical and repetitive action is just the everyday portrayal of the banalization of these deaths.
The blood is so cold that it has frozen, turned into a block of ice, and the ice is the thing in a state of forgetfulness, the decay that denotes and documents our own coldness: many of us who are here are also part of this ice. The coldness of those who lose their lives, lives that slip away before us, day after day, lives of which there are no news, or lives that the news does not recognize as worthy of note. Thus, when it thaws, all of this flows along the edges, through the air. It doesn’t take long for the blood to spread throughout the environment where the performance unfolds. Its presence, notably through the smell, is strong and reinforces the spiral of agony activated by the performance. Yes, because it’s blood, more precisely blood from slaughtered chickens that Marvin collected from the slaughterhouses in his neighborhood. The connection is implicit; these are equivalent bodies, bodies that are just meat for consumption, and that’s why they are killed without mercy; their death sentence. It is, however, a profitable business, a “means of survival for the state to ensure the survival of others,” as Marvin points out. It’s a way to sell a product: “death must exist for the security of others to exist,” he adds. In this perspective, they all seem to belong to a single entity, revealing nothing but a multiple failure of lives. The difference is only sectoral; death is practiced and administered in different areas and is always at the service of those – a minimal portion – who can be considered human.
As he describes, his performance serves as “a way to remember, to remember people that the world forgot, forgot when they were alive and killed them because no one misses them.” In this sense, his action is to unfreeze or release the senses: by rubbing each of the shirts, the heat from each of these symbolic bodies initiates a fusion process. He literally acts to change the physical state of these bodies. By remembering them, he makes them active, present, not talking about the facts but about the victims, making them foregrounded, making them move within us. It should not be insignificant that by talking about these victims, he is also pointing to himself as a potential victim. In the end, when he is also without a shirt, one might ask: was his shirt also hung? Maybe not, perhaps he simply went shirtless, as if questioning the possibility of a life in which he can walk without fear of being killed.
In fact, when we see him with all these shirts, there is a hesitant image that he, Marvin, is exposed to an inflammatory state. His body is swollen, loaded with other bodies, and his action is directly linked to an attempt to bring his body back to a normal state, or at least return to what should be normal. So, by removing the shirts, he also goes through a wiping process. But he knows there is no going back; those who were lost will not return. However, if that’s the case, they can at least echo as images and memories that don’t allow us to forget.
The stretched-out shirts – shirts chosen for their aesthetics associated with the outskirts, according to Marvin – signify a difference that the ongoing action cannot convey. They are there as presences that stand out from the mechanical anesthesia of the consecutive action. They are there, but they seem to come from another time, a time before they were just a name, a number, a statistic. These shirts emerge as specters in the air and claim their presence and history in the world. As such, they signify a political force that haunts us or, at the very least, should haunt us.
His performance creates a space for testimony that ultimately triggers a force of memory motivated by what he himself witnessed and can no longer bear to witness. It’s not a matter that he alone can resolve; he cannot remember alone. This is not a personal or private form of remembrance. It is a memory that must be collectively recognized and repeatedly heard as an act of a collective body and memory, remembering so that dreaming becomes possible.
 TN: The performer makes a pun in the title, because in Brazilian Portuguese, “a” and “ha”, have different meanings, but the same vocal sound.