Performance by Leandro Haick
Filmed by Fabíola Pena e Artur Neves
Photography and video editing by Mara Tavares
Support by Wallace Horst e José Sena
Text by Danielle Cascaes e Leandro Haick
It is decreed that now
what matters is the truth
which matters is life now,
and that hand in hand,
we will all work for true life.
The first verses of the poem “The Status of the Human”, by the Amazonian Thiago de Mello, reach the ears of those who watch the video performance entitled “The Manifest Flower”, made from the record of the urban performance of the same name, which took place on the streets of city of Belém, in May 2011. The verses accompany the image of a man, naked, barefoot, wearing only paper flowers around his face, traversing the “sacred” circuit of Círio de Nazaré, the largest Catholic procession in the world.
But what would it be like to work for life, and how is it related to the body that performs? If we do a brief research on the author of the poem, we will find that Thiago de Mello wrote it when he was in exile in Chile, during the Military Dictatorship. The verses propose statutes for an ideal world that was very far from the reality experienced by the poet. Although, The Manifest Flower took place more than twenty years after the end of the dictatorial period, this ideal world still seemed to be far from reality. Nowadays, in 2020, it seems to be even more.
The Manifest Flower takes shape in two ways: urban performance, which took place in May 2011 and video performance. Although they deal with the same subject, some signs change, depending on the support. The biggest difference refers to the fixed verbal text (PEREIRA apud JANSEN, 2004), because in the video, we have Thiago de Mello’s poem in its entirety, narrated by him. During the urban performance, the poem was present only in paper flowers, and only those who took them from the performer’s hands were able to access parts of it. To get to the poem, the audience should allow themselves to get close to the performer, who asked them “Do you accept my manifest?”, This being the fixed text of the performance act.
Upon accepting the performer’s manifest, the viewer received one of the small paper flowers containing excerpts from Thiago de Mello’s poem, which comprised the only clothing of the performer. These flowers have special values assigned (SCHECHNER apud JANSEN, 2004), because that piece of paper takes on a value different from its daily value. By accepting the flower, the passerby spectator is willing to be provoked by the manifest action, enjoying the right to doubt, the vertigo of shock, to live the moment of political and emotional charge that emanates from that Kamikase Body: a body that renounces to the lie of guilt and its Christian morals, which enjoys high doubt and the possibility of error, which dances its acute polyphonies, which shits its fertile transgressions, which celebrates the shouting of its (re) existences. The one who is against it. That becomes controversial. That puts himself naked. A bomb on the ready heads.
The performer reports that only seven of the seventy paper flowers were delivered to the audience, as most people did not want to get close, deviating the way so as not to cross with him. “People saw me as destitute, like crazy. Some were very angry, others were afraid, others were disgusted. The phallus is placed as a weapon, a sign of power. The naked body on the street also symbolizes ruin, simultaneously being able to come to celebrate an ode to a state of “freedom”, confronting the colonial thought of what the body can. ” (HAICK, 2020). This reality can be seen in the video performance, as we can see the reactions of spectators-passersby when they encounter the performance.
The crossings that occurred during the performance were diverse; there were those who went out of their way to avoid crossing that indigestible walking image. All reactions caused by the performance are legitimate, including negative ones. Thus, causing mutual crossings between the performer and the spectator-passerby. The crossings that the artist himself experienced, such as the violence implicit in the eyes of some spectators, the hot asphalt of the midday sun burning his feet, which, in the end, were raw, changed the daily environment and made it according to Schechner’s concept (apud JANSEN, 2004).
Changing the environment, disrupting traffic, questioning the obvious, was the performer’s intention, but more than that, he wanted to establish the imbalance of colonial, normative and binary thinking, provoke shock, vomit, anger at what one does not want to understand , the fear of the unknown, the flight from not wanting to see the reflection of oneself, what makes the naked body dangerous. These questions attributed to the performer the self-assertive quality (SCHECHNER apud JANSEN, 2004). What can the body do? The performer was moved by concerns that place his future in a marginal perspective that imposes this body on the non-place. Thiago de Mello’s text seemed to be able to translate part of that pain.
Every day people are saying that we cannot occupy spaces. We need to accept the violent and perverse idea of non-place. (…) Why can’t I be in these spaces? This journey of the saint who speaks about sanctity, chastity and annulment in favor of the “sacred” structure of patriarchy, the myth of a woman who was prevented from deciding on her own life. And what is the religious institution if not the state? And when the State tells you that your body is his domain, that you have no autonomy, neither space nor voice, that your desires do not matter, you will be castrated. Thinking about it, I concluded that I wanted to occupy this space to discuss this idealized body that is also a possible body with its subjectivities. (HAICK, 2020)
These concerns led the performer to make a trilogy of performances that deal with the body as an identity reaffirmation in a sacred place, where The Manifest Flower is the first. All three took place during or on the way to Círio de Nazaré. These performances are often seen as acts of profanity in the midst of something sacred. However, in paraense culture, sacred and profane acts usually mix, becoming something else, like a chimera. There are many heads in the same body, which in the end is neither one nor the other, but both. It’s all at the same time.
When the performer places his body in a sacred place, he is affirming and asking many things. It asserts identity, embraces the sacred and the profane in its own body, exposes itself to great dangers and makes enormous sacrifices while throwing its existence in the face of a hypocritical population. The performer is a passionate individual, inclined to believe that he can move things, even though he knows that he is not able to change them, but he believes he is capable of awakening himself and the other. Haick’s psychic and bodily state during the performance in question comes close to Karine Jansen’s concept of Devout Body:
“… it refers to a way of being: dedicated, sacrificed and moved. This way of being is built by several paths, inducers and strategies established by the creators of the scene and covered by the actors / performers.” (JANSEN, 2004, p. 10)
The most poetic of all this is to know that the performer never believed that he would be able to finish the tour in the Santuary Park of Nazareth. He deduced that he would be arrested or physically assaulted on the way, but he was not. Perhaps the violence was even worse than the two hypotheses, because it created wounds beyond the flesh. Although the possibilities are low, he managed to complete the journey, challenging himself and everyone who saw him. And this is how the marginalized bodies go: surviving beyond expectations, confronting and changing the space around them.
The use of the word freedom is prohibited.
which will be deleted from the dictionaries
and from the deceptive swamp of the mouths.
From this moment
freedom will be something alive and transparent
like a fire or a river,
and your address will always be
HAICK, Leandro. Entrevista concedida a Danielle Cascaes e Karine Jansen em 02.07.2020. Não publicado.
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.
MELLO, Thiago de. Vento geral, 1951/1981: doze livros de poemas. 2.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1980.
SCHECHNER, Richard. Public domain: Essays on the theatre. Indianópolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1968.