Short accounts of a world in uninterrupted finishings

In 2015, in a project that brought together artists and anthropologists, I was invited to go to the indigenous world games in Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil. In the arena where the games took place, there were spaces for debate. A constant theme of these debates – and one that caused several interruptions/manifestations during the games – was the PEC 215, which changed the laws of demarcation of indigenous lands, reserves and quilombola communities.

The ethnocide of the original peoples proved once again to be very well-architected by the national development project, created by the government, and its ramifications in the agricultural business. Throughout the several days of debate, the conversations also focused on conceptions about ends of worlds.

In an afternoon without many activities, I and a small group were invited by the Bolivian artist Bernardo Zabalaga to meet Dona Romana, in the city of Natividade, Tocantins. The road trip, which lasted a few hours, was terrifying. It was a landscape totally devastated by monoculture. For many kilometres, we crossed a soy desert.

Upon arriving at Dona Romana’s house, she revealed that she received a request to build the stone sculpture garden and all the sheds that made up her house. In a large room, Dona Romana kept kilos of seeds. Several grains, such as beans, rice and corn, accumulated in large buckets and filled the shelves, from floor to ceiling, of this room. In another area, hundreds of litres of water were stored in bottles that, when stacked, formed a massive mountain. Dona Romana told us about the inversion of the axis of the earth and the poison that would pour over the world. The region of Natividade would be (or will be) one of the few unharmed regions, and all those supplies will become vital. It was necessary to rebalance the axis of the earth and we had to prepare ourselves for that. Dona Romana showed us, among so many other things, the surgical equipment of the future, which she was designing to save the people infected with the earth’s poisoning.

The end of that afternoon – whose account above is deeply succinct, leaving out many important events – was anticipated by a storm on the horizon. As we were going by car and I was driving the rented vehicle, we ended the conversation when Dona Romana was showing her notebooks with an alphabet that, among us, only she understood.

After 20 minutes of road, a gentleman, sheltered against the rain in one of the few trees in the region, and at the risk of being struck by lightning, asked us for a ride.

He entered quietly, thanking us shyly, sitting with one of his arms outside the car window, pointing with his finger at the heavy clouds that flattened the funeral landscape of the soy plantations.

Minutes later, I asked him what his destination was, as I couldn’t remember seeing many towns along the way and I didn’t know if he would go with us to Palmas.

For the future. I’m going to where I came from. For the future, that’s my destination. He immediately told me to stop the car and left, thanking me for the ride. We did not understand what had just happened and realized that that man, who mysteriously was no longer in our field of vision, had dropped a booklet with the text that I now transcribe below:

“The future, repeatedly sentenced between the salvationist and the apocalyptic discourses, must invent other narratives.

There is certainly the Judeo-Christian conception of time, which is apparently unique. There is also The Aleph, in Borges, in the basement of a house about to be demolished, one of the points of space that contains all the points. Will there be its correspondent in time? There’s Cadmus, who introduced the Phoenician alphabet into Greece. From Aleph comes the Alpha, the first letter in the Greek alphabet, from which comes the A of the Cyrillic alphabet and the A of Latin. In the Greek alphabet, the Omega is the last letter. To say I am the Alpha is to say I am the beginning. To say I am the Omega is to say I am the end. The founding point of something. The endpoint. From this perspective, the experience of time is part of this gap between what has passed and what is to come. A biblical economy of time. This rain from which the fallen stars come, says the sacred text:

“(…)And behold there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair: and the whole moon became as blood: And the stars from heaven fell upon the earth, as the fig tree casteth its green figs when it is shaken by a great wind: And the heaven departed as a book folded up: and every mountain, and the islands were moved out of their places. (…).”[1]

The collapsing earth points to the changes that are beginning.

The inoperativeness of catastrophic prediction also demands a different stance in the face of the much-expected salvation.

Here, the arrow of time is deformed. It is no longer an absolute linearity of time, but an arrow that bends to the present and breaks it.

If it is a fact that the biblical characters carry with them the marks of a distant past[2], the fingerprints of a hand that moulded them, the memory of matter, of clay, is genealogy a possible annulment of the mould, an annulment of what was moulded, of who moulded? Would the meticulousness in revolving the earth and investing time in it, not to discover an origin in the past, correspond to making the historical contingencies and the lines of force in the present speak?

The silence in Heaven for half an hour, after the opening of the seventh seal.

The fifth angel sounds the trumpet.

“(…) And I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads, they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails, they had power to torment people for five months. (…)”[3]

This is not the first appearance of locusts. Here, they have been deprived of attacking the vegetation, the green, the trees. The deprivation of death itself ensured that men, without choices, suffered for months. The locusts emerge from the Abyss, amid the smoking. In the first appearance of locusts, in the eighth plague of Egypt, these insects are sent in an eastern wind. Unlike the one narrated above, the locusts devoured all the vegetation that remained after the hailstorm.

“(…) By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. (…).”[4]

The future, repeatedly sentenced between the salvationist and apocalyptic discourses, will have to invent other speculative narratives for the future and the present.

[1] Holy Bible. São Paulo. PAULUS Editora, 2012. (Book of Revelation, 6, 12-17). p.1815.

[2] On the past of the biblical characters, see their relationship with the homeric heroes developed by Eurich Auerbach (AUERBACH, Eurich. Mimesis. São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva, 2015) and continued by François Hartog (HARBeTOG, François. RRegimes de Historicidade: presentismo e experiência do tempo. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica Editora, 2015).

[3] Holy Bible. São Paulo. PAULUS Editora, 2012. p.1815. (Book of Revelation, 9, 1-12). p.1817.

[4] Idem. (Exodus, 10, 11-15)

Yuri Firmeza through her videos, performances and photographs presses the limits between fiction, the possible and the real. In a critical and ironic way, the artist occupies uninhabitable spaces, creates unusual images, forges precarious relationships and thus questions the power relations in the art circuit and in contemporary society. He held exhibitions in several cities in Brazil and abroad, including the 31st Bienal de São Paulo; 14th Biennale Jogja: Stage of Hopelessness – Yogyakarta / Indonesia; 21st Videoex – International Experimental Film & Video Festival Zurich / Switzerland; 64th and 62nd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen / Germany, 33rd Panorama of Brazilian Art, MAM-SP, 11th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre / RS and the individual exhibition “Turvações Estratigráficas”, at the Rio Art Museum (MAR).

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