Haroldo Sabóia: Between words, the body, gesture, memory, and images

Born in Fortaleza, Brazil, Haroldo Sabóia possesses a wealth of cultural influences that shape his artistic perspective. Currently based in São Paulo, Sabóia is studying for a master’s degree in clinical psychology, where his research focuses on body language, music, and dance.

In his work titled Correspondências (“Correspondence”), an installation that arises from other works by Sabóia on research with words, the viewer is able to visualize the confluence between the senses, and this great appeal for the meaning of the unsaid, of the words placed there through collected fragments. Sabóia proposes an imaginary crossing-over using objects from a place to create a cartography of crossings between meanings, places, and people. His research began in 2015 during a residency in the visual arts at the Porto Iracema Institute, in Fortaleza, where he collaborated with researcher and curator Julio Martins. Sabóia appropriated the map of the state of Ceará to build a fictional map, exploring actual places with names such as Deserto (“Deserted”), Ventura (“Fortune”), Solidão (“Solitude”), Miragem (“Mirage”), Passagem (“Passage”) and Prazeres (“Pleasures”), which represent not only physical landscapes, but also feelings and human states.

The artist’s research focuses on understanding language as a narrative tool and a tool for imagination, exploring the relationship between words and places, and how language constructs fictions, symbolism, and meaning. Correspondências refers to these word-objects arranged as an installation in the space, which lead us to this sense of language by investigating imagination as a political act, as a fundamental material for the invention and formation of the subject in the world. Sabóia’s research also focuses on the deconstruction of language, the construction of a story and the defense of imagination, fantasy, narrative and the word as political tools of deconstruction and empathy. His entire process is recorded in a fragmentary way, with notes, reflections, reports, and discussions, creating a material memory of things read, heard and thought, to be used and incorporated into the project.

“I collected objects in these places, which were something like the traces of these spaces, traces of words. I thought about the relationship between things. What happens when a body encounters a word?” Haroldo Sabóia asks. “Which, in this case, was my body encountering a word that was a space, a town, where there were people, stories. I thought about what is generated from that encounter with that word, what’s materialized there, in that space. Correspondências came about like that, because during this process I corresponded with a lot of people. It was a very lonely job, and I was looking for dialogue, to think about the work as well. In that process, in collecting those objects, I had the idea of thinking sculpturally about that word in that space, since the word is a space. How do I turn it into sculpture without necessarily being so literal? Without working on the literality of the text, in any case? And then there are these pads of paper, which, at the same time, create that dimension of sculpture. And they also carry this signifier of the text, which is the word.”

Sabóia has begun working more closely with music recently, seeing it as a way of narrating memory and a tool for thinking about time, space, voice, and writing. Another aspect of a word as it passes through the collective. In Oração, a short film currently in-progress, he looks at musicality and the body as an inheritance and an element that breaks with descriptive writing. I would call it a piece of “transparent writing”, interested in the enigmatic and mystery, but also as a prayer that moves as an affirmation of existence through this orality. The work begins with a song that gives reverence to Ilê, one of the first Afro-Brazilian carnival groups, and other diasporic knowledge. As it unfolds, it connects with other works by the artist, such as Oráculo, which provides the element of samba and music as collective prayer, creating meaning and uniting an idea of Brazil, the Brazil of those initiated into mystery, the place where words access the body and memory and create images or awaken images through memory, creating the narrative for actions from body to body through the senses of sounds and images of spoken and unspoken words.

This song is the starting point for his work Oráculo, a series of tracks developed in 2019. Using samba, he includes 21 samples from songs that form an iconography of this Brazilian marriage. Sabóia selected samba songs that cover a period of about 30 years, from the beginning to the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship, a symbolic period for samba musicians in Brazil. Sabóia presents samba in this work as a mechanism of varying depths, but which he also uses to propose imaginaries and affirmations in the present, while tapping into individual and collective memories, as political expression. Samba is a sophisticated form of creating the common, where individual and collective meet and speak about the daily life of a people through its musical language. The work is created as a summons of collective voices.

Haroldo Sabóia’s work is condensed into layers that gradually turn into a body of specificities that join up with one another. He introduces the idea of losing the borders that delimit creation and sees his work as something that is always in transformation, since words act as a stimulus for our perceptions. His work is in a constant state of death and life, given its power for crossing through the body, orality and memory, transporting us to the language of its production, which is that of mystery, of doubt, and what the experience invites of us.

Haroldo Sabóia (1985) is a visual artist, researcher, photographer and filmmaker from Ceará.

Daiely Gonçalves is a Brazilian artist, teacher, and researcher. She articulates narratives against colonies, launched on the representation of body and territory in themes of race and gender.

Translation: Zoë Perry