Performance by Odin Gabriel
Text by Karine Jansen and Larissa Latif
The main theme of Censored is the artistic nude, common in the universe of art, present in most of museums, galleries, schools and artistic movements in the most diverse styles and traditions, whether in the west or in the east. The variation in the treatment of the theme occurs according to the moral and aesthetic standards of the time and the place where each work was produced. An example is that of ancient Greece, where an idealizing component sought the perfect balance when portraying the body of the gods: “the Greek artists of the sec. V and IV BC reached a style of representation that conveys the idea of balance and harmony ”(CORK; FARTHING, 2012, p. 51). Today, thanks to feminist debates, women claim to be present in museums as authors and not just as models of the artistic nude.
Two special works, containing nude, mobilized Odin Gabriel for his performance:
Wagner Schwartz used the work Bichos, by Lygia Clark, as an inducer for the construction of La Bête. The performer from Rio used one of the animals while waiting for his naked body to be used by the public, with the same purpose that Lygia idealized when building his work. Schwartz’s performance was presented in several places, including the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) of São Paulo, in 2017, where the repercussion was much greater after the registration of a child, interfering in the performance, be shown on social networks, accusing the artist of pedophilia. (GABRIEL, 2018)
In La Bête, the performer manipulates a plastic object and presents himself naked. Then himself becomes the animal, the manipulable object, available to those who appreciate the work, so that they can experience the object-body. The presence of a child among the audience on one of the days of the artistic experiment totally changed the direction of the project. Schwartz suffered what he calls a “lynching on social networks” (SCHWARTZ, 2018) and the Public Ministry opened an investigation into what happened at the Museum of Modern Art.
The second motivating work for Odin Gabriel, was the performance Melindrosa, by Ana Luiza Santos, presented in the streets of downtown Rio de Janeiro, in 2014:
Ana Luiza Santos walks through downtown Rio de Janeiro with Flapper performance, where she wears a dress of 10 reais bills. Within seconds, the performer is completely naked. Nobody there was concerned with the indecent assault. (GABRIEL, 2018)
In Gabriel’s opinion, “people were only looking to earn another 10 reais, the performer could be arrested for being naked on the street, in the center of the city, and even then, no one cared”. (Gabriel, 2018).
A question is raised here about the differences in the treatment given to these two performances, pointing out the contradictions regarding the spaces and bodies that must be controlled and where and how this control occurs. Reflecting on the censorship applied in the gallery, officially justified by the need to protect the child, as opposed to the apparent freedom of the naked body in the public space, Gabriel asks:
Does every naked body necessarily have this sexuality character? Do children in your homes not have contact with their parents’ naked bodies? Is there an evil built in the eyes of children? We do not deny pedophilia, this overwhelming evil that affects the country, but how to protect our children by educating them to build a sinful look at the body? (GABRIEL, 2018)
We can also ask: Is a female body stripped in public and by the public, on the street, more socially acceptable than a male body played in public, inside a museum? – examples of female artistic nude in museums are much more abundant than male nude, in addition to the constant presence of eroticized female bodies in contemporary forms of advertising, in cinema, on TV etc. A child touching a male body, manipulating it in an artistic experiment, according to previous and clear rules, in a controlled environment and in the presence of the legal guardian, will be more reprehensible or dangerous than to undress collectively and spontaneously, without previous inducers or established agreements, the body of a woman on the street? Is the male body socially understood as threatening, while the female body is seen as an object of socially consented violence? Is the symbolic construction of the naked body as something objectionable and untouchable an effective device for an anti-pedophilia pedagogy? Is there sexual objectification of the body already built in the eyes of children? Art, in addition to the art that focuses on the naked body, undergoes a process of demonization in the context of the conservative escalation that contemporary Brazilian society is going through? Will this demonization awaken the specter of censorship? However, what definitely mobilized Odin Gabriel to build the performance Censored, was the fact that teacher Karine Jansen, in the discipline of Performance, in 2018, instructed the class so that the works that contained artistic nude were carried out in the classroom. classroom and not outside the School, due to the presence of children in the institution.
The performance lasted three days, being presented four hours a day, that is, twelve hours of censored! In addition to this real time, there is a symbolic time in Censurado, in this case revealed in the reinstatement in the current space of a past time, through the performative use of the body and the objects that modify it. The word censorship is no longer used formally by official bodies, what we now have is the term “inadvisable for minors of that age”. The censorship is historically linked to the culture of the Brazilian military regime that lasted 25 years between 1964-1989. Based on AI-5, military censorship was devastating for both the media and the Brazilian arts, controlling and persecuting the country’s culture makers. The word Censored alludes consciously and unconsciously to this dictatorial project.
On the first day of the presentation, in a cardboard box open on the top and bottom, painted in black, Odin wrote the word CENSURE in white ink. Supported on the shoulders with cotton string, the box formed a kind of three-dimensional black stripe, made to dress and hide the entire region of the lower abdomen, covering Odin’s genitals and buttocks, while the torso remained exposed. “I chose the thin and fragile string to represent the censors’ fragile and questionable arguments”, says the performer (GABRIEL, 2020).
With the naked body under the black box with the word CENSORSHIP, the performer walked around the School, observed the other performances, was observed. A whirlwind of sensations passed through his body: “on the first day it was difficult, I was terrified, I was naked, distant from people, I wanted to stick to the walls. Someone told me that it was not a performance, it was an embarrassment, that I had no reflection on the subject, after all, it all passed…” (GABRIEL, 2020).
On the second day, there were some technical changes and the participation of new participants:
I made the black stripes with cardboard, which would mean the fragility of the censor’s criterion, the mobility of the paper. Maurício Franco helped me in the making, and so I said to my classmates – whoever wants to, take off your clothes and put the stripe on! (GABRIEL, 2020).
Alyce Cardoso joined the work, Ingrid Gomes and Wagner Guimarães and the word written in the new stripe boxes became censored.
On the third and final day, all four already integrated, the performance was maintained, and new stripe boxes were made available to anyone who most wanted to join the presentation. Alice Maria, Celso Cabral, Lívia Oliveira and Matheus Gomes thus participated in the final work development. There was an obvious rule: under the black stripe box, it was necessary to be naked. But Odin made exceptions, as some girls were menstruating that day and thought it better to be with the pads. Yet another exception was José, the 1-year-old son of Sidiane Nunes, also a student in the class, who should be wearing diapers, as he could urinate in people.
On that last day, the first stripe box, with the saying “CENSORSHIP” is now arranged in a rotating manner by the School. Just like the censored censorship moves, it seeks new “infractions”, closed, like a great mystery, she seeks a moment of encounter with the, now 8, censored. As the final culmination of the presentation, all participants make a great circle around the CENSORSHIP, and tear it. They tear away the censorship that wears them, the censorship that surrounds them. They use balls, balloons and glitter to show that a naked body cannot always needs to be sexualized. They play for several minutes, and each censor is allowed to show something of their choice. Some speak, others sing or play (GABRIEL, 2018).
And so, in the middle of a round of play, the censors’ stripe was torn, leaving the naked and playing bodies in the parking lot of the UFPA School of Theater and Dance, performing a world free of pedophilia, censors and false moralism. And the teacher, since then, no longer has criteria of place for the artistic nude.
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BRASIL. Decreto-Lei Nº 2.848, de 7 de dezembro de 1940. Código Penal. Diário Oficial da União, Rio de Janeiro, 31 de dez. de 1940. Disponível em: http://www2.camara.leg.br/legin/fed/declei/1940-1949/decreto-lei-2848-7-dezembro -1940-412868-publicacaooriginal-1-pe.html. Acesso em 14/06/2018.
FARTHING, Stephen; CORK, Richard. Tudo sobre Arte. os movimentos e as artes mais importantes do mundo, editora Sextante. 2012.
GABRIEL, Odin. Entrevista concedida a Karine Jansen em 07.06.2020. Não publicado.
GABRIEL, Odin. Memorial da performance Censurados 2018. Não publicado.
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SANTOS, Ana Luiza. Melindrosa. Ana Luisa Santos. Disponível em: https://anasantosnovo.com/MELINDROSA-1. Acessado em 07/06/2020.