Knowing bodies

Catrin Seefranz on Anthropophagic Trilogy: Act 2 – To Resist by Tamara Cubas
 
© Nacho Correa
Catrin Seefranz on Anthropophagic Trilogy: Act 2 – To Resist by Tamara Cubas

An animal is the first actor in Anthropophagic Trilogy: Act 2 – To Resist. It starts off by sniffing and marking the performance’s territory as well as its coordinates: ferocity, civilisation, violence, resistance. The way Tamara Cubas avails herself of the dog calls to mind the legendary Cimarrónes, descendants of dogs owned by European conquerors (incidentally also used by them to hunt the allegedly savage indigenous peoples, millions of whom did not survive the conquista and its excesses of violence in the name of civilisation), which withdrew into the forests over time, thereby escaping domestication and colonisation. Protected by the animal, the dancing “pack” follows the same path: going feral is the motto, “Let’s de-occidentalise ourselves!”[1]

As far as the “savages” are concerned, they have taken the preferred form of cannibals, the ultimate symbol of otherness in reference to civilisation, in Western minds for centuries. Eerily beautiful images such as the splatter-esque engravings by Theodor de Bry imagine gruesome orgies of man-eating monsters, lustfully speculating: “Did they really?”[2] The trilogy is devoid of this colonialist cannibal kitsch that continues to haunt the collective subconscious. Like the 1920s avant-garde movement of anthropophagy to which Cubas refers, the series of pieces is only interested in the actual radical moment of cannibalism: the willingness to give oneself completely, to a substantial change of the self. Eating up means taking in and giving in. One becomes what one eats as well.

According to Cubas, the issue at hand is therefore nothing more and nothing less than radical transformation. And it must act where colonialism (which must always be conceptualised in alliance with capitalism) attacks most existentially: the body. When she examines “forms of decolonisation”[3] in her work, she doesn’t do so in a romantic recollection of precolonial conditions but “by looking for a body dispossessed by rational thought that knows other forms of action, of relationship, of knowledge, which are considered primitive”, as the choreographer puts it.[4] Unlike the allegedly infectious but actually solely exploitative spectacles of the exotic, she does not go in search of the gifted body but enquires into the “knowing body” instead, a concept coined by the influential Brazilian theoretician and psychoanalyst Suely Rolnik, who inspired Cubas.[5]

It is a body that has woken from the alienation and stupor created by the prevalent conditions. A body capable of absorbing the “presence of the other” and of being moved by “the world and the living beings” in more than one sense. According to Cubas, it must learn “to connect to aspects dismissed by colonialism, to the ritual, the mystical, the barbaric, the organic, the guttural”.[6] The point is always the mutual relationship, the sounding out of a desire for being (one) with another, which is notoriously shattered in the capitalist relationship business. This process of learning is not an easy task, as it requires enduring concentrated exhaustion that generates moments, if not of liberation, then at least of mobilisation or even just resonance.

 

Catrin Seefranz is a cultural worker, a scholar of cultural studies and Latin American studies. She is the director of kültüř gemma!, a project promoting migrant positions in art and culture, and co-founder of the oca: initiative which brings together art, non-formal education, activism and research. She is the author of Tupi Talking Cure, a book on Freud and psychoanalysis in Brazilian anthropophagic modernism.

 

 

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[1] The term was used by Tamara Cubas in an interview with the Portuguese journal Publico, www.publico.pt/2014/09/05/culturaipsilon/noticia/a-procura-do-corpoprimitivo-1668348.

[2] Die central question in the anthropological classic The Man-Eating Myth by William Arens, Oxford 1979.

[3] www.publico.pt/2014/09/05/

culturaipsilon/noticia/a-procurado-corpo-primitivo-1668348.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

 

 

 
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