A Secret

A Secret

Performance by Bento Henrique Oliveira de Sousa
Text by Bento Sousa, Claudia Gomes and Raphael Andrade

Among the varied examples and the range of possibilities to focus on performance art, being it in terms of photographic performance, video-performance, performative installations and so many others studied in the “Performance” discipline, the ones that were most used refer to solos with the performer’s corporeal presence, enabling the poignant ephemerality character provided by the contact in the “here and now” with the audience. In these works, the performer’s body is sometimes wounded by the most intimate memories, often in search of self-knowledge.

 However, the same artistic act that recalls sensitive, fragile and at the same time visceral moments, echoes beyond intimacy, unveiling certain social problems that affect not only the life of the performer, but also the audience of the performative action. And, precisely to bring social issues to the performance game, Bento Sousa chose to recall a scar in the form of Um Segredo.

Schechner (2012) tells us that the restored behavior is the main characteristic of the performance, and that is exactly what the performer Bento shows us in his performance, especially when recalling a not-so-distant past, which still haunts him, which moves his thoughts , which remains in the receptacle of your soul.

The artist reports that the process of building performance was sometimes complicated, mainly because it brings the nude as a force-image, since he is ashamed to expose his body, making it the raw material of performative action, nothing would be easy, since the choice of objects used until the materialization procedure. After choosing the work inducer, the artist was concerned with how to use all the materials selected as sign objects, namely:

  1. Bible – which refers to the sacred, but also to the secret that the performance explores, since the chapter read on the scene is directly related to it;
  2. Carmine lipstick – whose everyday meaning is reframed in performance;
  3. Bath towel – which wipes and undresses the naked body, but is also able to bring out certain messages, such as: touch, wipe, intimacy, and what Bento most wants to achieve and overcome: hide nudity.
Figure 1 – Fragment of the artist’s eye
Source: Authorial editing (2020)

Such signs are: “a transmutation of certain information for a physical materialization. In other words, a translation of a certain system of signs: texts, music, images, memory, to another system of signs” (JANSEN, 2004, p. 18). And it is in the sign construction built on the personal performance of the performer Bento, that, again, Um Segredo emerges. And because it is a secret, we will not describe it in a conventional way, but rather, we will give clues to what happened on that sad day in Bujaru, which Bento reveals to us years later transmuted through the art of performance.

It was night in Belém, there was a line of spectators eager to enter room 08 belonging to ETDUFPA. The mere fact that there were strict rules that limited entry to only three people at a time and prohibited the photographing or filming of the action, already made viewers anxious. But the wait did not go beyond five minutes for each group of spectators. Upon entering the enclosure, the three witnesses noticed in advance the large mirror fixed to the wall, the room in a gloomy atmosphere, contrasting with a small beam of light, which allowed one to see the long-haired black figure with curly hair kneeling on a rug.

In his hands, Bento carried a small bible, as if asking for forgiveness, but was this forgiveness for you, anyway? Soon he would let us know that he wasn’t. Bento got up, with a tight towel next to your tailbone and read one of the chapters. Then she took a crimson-colored lipstick and traced it, on her body, like Ariadne’s threads, as if a sharp blade that zigzagged her flesh, pierced it, wounded it, made it bleed.

The mouth, which until then had only spoken religious words, unveils the phrase: – Come here with […] COME! – in an impulsive performance of the performer and confessional of the performer. In the verbalization we perceive the cathartic implosion of reminiscences, which does not hide the dread of a hermetic particularization. However, at the same time, it opens up and illuminates the external perception of the universal problem of this problem hidden by so many oppressed people.

Bento weeps, tears off the towel, opens his arms just like the sacred iconography of the prophylactic Christ on the cross, telling not only A Secret, but shouting with all the strength that was left against his ghost from the past and that still plagues him in the present, as if he pleaded: God, why have you forsaken me?

Figure 2 – Fragments of Bento’s body
Source: Authorial editing (2020)

 Performance is consummated. It is possible to verify that the spectators leave the room altered, as in a ritualistic process of “communitas”, which, according to Richard Schechner (2012), is a feeling of group solidarity generated in the ritual. As in an analysis session where what is said and what is felt is at stake. Because content and affection are pillars of subjectivity, because we are not only cognition, but also made of sensations.

Therefore, the astonished eyes of the spectators remained glazed like voyeurs when witnessing “A secret”, trying to decipher if it was what they had just witnessed so much for the sign actions; as for Bento’s piercing retina, with the same look of the child asking for company not to go to the bathroom alone.

Bento reveals that such glances crossed him as a kind of expulsion from paradise, devoured him and consumed him in all ways, whether out of pity, solidarity, empathy or desire. And when the artist remembers, he cries again – and when he cries, his tears seep and unite with the tears of those who have already suffered violence in early childhood.

Despite the pain, Bento makes this raw material memory of his perfumed artistic object, making “vital and psychic journeys, journeys for himself, to meet the unresolved past, towards an abyssal encounter for a present abyss or for an uncertain future ; internal routes through a process of building a living self-portrait.” (ALCÁZAR, 2014, p. 13)

Figure 3 – Details of the bible
Source: Authorial editing (2020)


ALCÁZAR, Josefina. Performance: un arte del yo: autobiografía, cuerpo e identidad. México. Siglo XXI editores, 2014. 

JANSEN, Karine. Belém Apaixonada: a construção do corpo devoto nos processos performáticos das Paixões de Cristo em Belém do Pará. 2004. Dissertação (Mestrado em Artes Cênicas) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em Artes Cênicas, UFBA, 2004.

LIGIÉRO, Zeca (org.). Performance e antropologia de Richard Schechner. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad X, 2012.


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