Curatorial text by Ícaro Ferraz Vidal Junior about Christina Elias' solo exhibition "The words and the viscerae" (Lona Galeria, São Paulo, 2023)
Words and viscera
An inhabited house stops being a space and becomes something that surrounds a body, which is different.
Gonçalo M. Tavares[i]
Christina Elias' creative processes are inscribed on the thresholds between the body and language. This reading key to the works gathered here has little to do with the recognition of the artist's body and her writing, observable in some of the works that make up this, which is her first solo exhibition at Lona Galeria. Such a diagnosis emerges, more deeply, from an examination of this poetics, in which tensions stand out that contemporary thought never tires of trying to overcome, but which remain polarized in the pairs of body and spirit, nature and culture, instinct and language.
With a solid practice in the fields of performance and contemporary dance, with emphasis on butoh, Elias built for herself a body that unequivocally operates as an existential territory and a space for creation, placing the dualisms mentioned above on a collision course. Through performances, videos and photo performances, the artist creates a work structured around the body and image, and crossed by concerns related to domesticity, eroticism and spirituality. In this nucleus of questions raised by the works, it is possible to observe resonances and dialogues with the production of artists from previous generations, such as Letícia Parente, Sônia Andrade and Márcia X.
If the languages of performance, video and photo performance often provide for the body a status of catalyst for the work, it is necessary to recognize that this status expands in Elias's poetics and affects, in a more or less evident way, all of his production. . On the ground floor of the gallery we brought together an unprecedented set of objects produced from different procedures and materials, but which preserve the inscription of the artist's body as the nucleus: a body that bifurcates, unfolding on a representational plane and another that is crudely material.
The garments, knitwear and assemblages hanging on hangers or in frames allude to the artist's absent, ghostly and, at times, eviscerated body. But these pieces are, at the same time, residuals from the deeply corporeal making that defines Elias’ practice. Thus, we can argue that the body is not simply a theme that is repeated in the artist's production; it is, more profoundly, an anchorage contiguous to the materiality of the world and which is inscribed, not without friction, on the materials that remain and are displayed before the public, when the action fades away.
The intestine-necklaces knitted by the artist with her own fingers preserve in their structure subtle variations in strength and tension of the threads, arising from the duration of the process of making the pieces itself. They are, ultimately, condensations of time, body and matter. This is certainly one of the most outstanding aspects of Elias’s poetics. More evident in the works that we know result from performative actions, this aspect becomes radical when we think that all doing, in Christina's work, is performative: either because it operates a transformation in the space where the work takes place - as I observed in the recent presentation of the work Music Box, at the Museum of Portuguese Language (Estação da Luz, São Paulo) – whether because it transforms the artist herself, through the repetition of gestures that resemble the chanting of mantras, modulating her consciousness.
The relationship established by Elias with scripture testifies to this modulation of consciousness associated with the progressive suppression of the distances that separate the body, nature and instinct from the spirit, culture and language. Some of the artist's performances begin with canvas or blank paper on the floor and the repetitive writing of the same word – pain, for example, in Maquiagem n. 1 – or the opening of the floodgates of the verb that, poured by the body onto the surface, for hours on end, reaches illegibility – as in Autorretrato, Vacas ou Peixe. In both cases, the ability to discern signifiers, fundamental to communication, is blunted, in favor of the affective vertigo of the reality of the body and its durations.
The tensions between the intimate character of the elaboration of affections from which a body results, and the public character of the exhibition of this work and its residues are explored, with insight, by Elias. The signs and materialities around which the artist's body moves and stumbles while creating, remind us, in their banal domesticity, of the investments of power over women's bodies, sometimes privatized under the paterfamilias, sometimes public and subject to all kind of violence. The imaginary house to which Elias’ objects and images send us does not encapsulate or protect his body; it prolongs and enhances it.
In the fine articulation that operates between the body, the house and language, Cristina Elias constructs a work that refuses discursivity and denunciation as political operators of her poetics, which is, therefore, no less feminist. Without neglecting the responsibility implied in the artistic gesture of bringing new images and objects to the public sphere, Elias opts for the development of strategies that allow us to grope for the absurdity of our existence, made up of viscera and words. The house is a residue: instinct and language.
Icaro Ferraz Vidal Junior
[i] TAVARES, Gonçalo M. Atlas of the body and imagination: theory, fragments and images. Porto Alegre: Dublinense, 2021.