Performance by Thalia Santos
Text by Cláudia Gomes, Thalia Santos and Larissa Latif
In Belém, Pará, on a Wednesday, in a “cold” and gloomy environment, Thalia Santos is under a spotlight lying on a table, totally naked and apparently injured, tangled by barbed wires that penetrate her skin. This is your Epidermis Reminiscent performance.
The place of the presentation that we describe is room 5 of the School of Dance Theater at the Federal University of Pará. Epidermis Reminiscente was performed for the first time in this room, as a requirement of the Performance discipline, under the guidance of Professor Karine Jansen, and, later, at least five more times at the same institution. It was also presented at the National Meeting of Arts (ENEARTE) in João Pessoa, Paraíba.
The rules of the performance are: a dark room where only three people can enter at a time. There was only one exception, since all the spectators who waited to watch entered the room only once, leaving it crowded. Photographing or filming is not allowed, but if you feel comfortable, the viewer can intervene. Several times, the wire was ripped from the performer’s body, and she received words of affection and comfort. Each presentation lasts between an hour and an hour and a half.
The performance script has two acid moments. In the first, the recording of the voice of an adult man speaking to a girl is reproduced. Many disconnected and embarrassing phrases are audible and refer to child sexual abuse, such as: “sit here on your uncle’s lap”, “what a delicious pussy”. In the second moment, Thalia’s body is eviscerated. The performer reveals her pain in contractions and liquids that run down her body. We can see / feel his distressing emotions (fear, terror, anger …) impregnated in his exposed body. Her audio and reactions provoke revolt / anger / revolt / commotion from the audience present.
There is no possibility of escape, Thalia is symbolically tied with barbed wires (used to injure and kill non-human animals that try to escape). The wire represents punishment, the abuser’s bargaining chip.
Thalia rummaged in something intimate, personal, shameful (for many women), but it was from the performance that she managed to save herself and other women (sister, mother, cousin, friend … all women in the world) , rebelling against the macho, oppressive, abusive society of the most fragile humans, in this case a child (black girl). This transformation made her change her house (of life) and empower herself in the defense of feminist causes. As the theoretical Simone de Beauvoir affirms, “It is not a question of abolishing in it the contingencies and miseries of the human condition, but of giving it the means to overcome them” (BEAUVOIR, 1970, 496).
According to Thalia Santos, Epidermis Reminiscente needed to be “a cry for liberation, a cry in the midst of so many years of silence”. It was the first way to express and expunge all feelings of repudiation and anger, a purge that was denied for many years, in the face of “a crime so horrible that it happened mainly with black children, practiced by close people” (SANTOS, 2018).
The audio that reproduces the phrases heard by the performer during the years in which she suffered abuse in childhood and the wire that surrounds and injures her body in the performance, symbolize precisely the time during which she remained stuck in this story, without being able to tell it. .
The time of artistic performance is an extra-everyday time, approaching ritual time, a symbolic time in which the present and the past can mix and acquire collectively created meanings. In Epiderme Reminiscente, the viewer, in the present, has access to Thalia’s past, which she remembers, when seeing and touching her body wrapped in barbed wire, listening to the sounds and moving through the space of the performance. However, at the same time, you can see and feel her not only as the abused and helpless child she was, but also as the woman who gives her cry for freedom and as the artist who re-elaborates her life experience through of your work. This is at the same time an account of a path and part of it.
The artist claims that all reactions and interventions from the public contributed to her internal healings and personal growth. Each performance, she says, was surprising and shocking, mainly because, among the audience, the men with whom the performer had some kind of close relationship, at the end of the performance, were distant, as if they were afraid to touch Thalia again. As for the women present, “they were always incredible during and afterwards, they always waited with hugs and words of comfort, however, they seemed to be psychologically destroyed, because this subject is part of their experiences (of their bodies), either by close experience or by knowing some woman who went through this ”(SANTOS, 2018). Thalia asks: “Men don’t talk about it among themselves, but how can there be so many abusers that women know and men don’t?” (SANTOS, 2018).
We conclude by quoting Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2017, p.31) “the author accused me of being ‘angry’, as if I had to be ashamed of feeling“ angry ”. Of course I’m angry. I am angry at racism. I am angry at sexism”.
ADICHIE, Chimamanda Ngozi. Para educar crianças feministas. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2017
BEAUVOIR, Simone. O Segundo Sexo. a experiência vivida. São Paulo: Difusão Europeia do Livro, 1970.
SANTOS, Thalia. Memorial da performance Epiderme Reminiscente. Não publicado.