In Conversation with Wallace Ferreira and Davi Pontes

Lurking Snakes

Modernity, the end of the world, and self-defense are some of the topics covered in an interview with Davi Pontes and Wallace Ferreira, who reveal the way their work decodes the signs of violence, transforming them through the body.

The interaction with the camera starts from the image relationship with the bodies’ sweat and nudity. Nudity surrenders something to the desire of the person watching, our Black bodies, so that a choreography of self-defense, among other connections, can take place after this initial contact. It’s a non-negotiable principle, since we are not yet past the moral and political issues about the naked body in art in Brazil, and this concerns not only artists, but also museums.

C&AL: How do you drum up the desire to make art in Brazil in 2021? What forces in the current moment drives you to search for other times and spaces?

WF: Making art in Brazil is no longer a matter of desire, but strategy. I can’t romanticize it. If I could be doing my work in another time/space, I would already be there and feeling very bad for Brazil. But that isn’t the case. The forces that inform me and guide my escapes to exist in this country aren’t all that different from the ones that guide and that guided those that came before me. For some of us, this country has always been a battleground.

C&AL: How do you perceive your positions in this world “between the singularity of having your living body and the collectivities that it incarnates”, as Jota Mombaça says?

DP: Talking about self-defense from the perspective of our bodies also requires addressing violence, with the clear task of talking about the redistribution of violence focused on Black, racialized, and dissident bodies. On the other hand, we aren’t interested in putting forward a metaphor for violence—it’s not an iconic appropriation, but rather they are signs that point to paths for talking about violence. The struggle is one of those signs and it is present precisely as an unpredictable power in the way it unfolds, not as a mimesis of attack and defensive gestures. It’s an answer to the question of how to deal with violence without destroying oneself all over again.

C&AL: What possibilities, not just for the end of this world, but also for the creation of other worlds, are put forward by Repertory?

WF: I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the end of the world. A lot of people responsible for its own ruin, but who always enjoyed themselves. Sometimes you have to betray words, to overlap and dispute meanings.

DP: This world needs to end and imagination is one way to get rid of it. While we strive to survive in this world, even with the tools at our disposal now, lives like ours are still without guarantees. So for that reason, the end of the world. Simultaneously, there is the challenge of rejecting this anxiousness to know and conjure up what will happen next. These creations are temporary and make it possible to inhabit the edge, the margin between this and other worlds.

C&AL: Both of you are part of the Frestas Triennial, entitled “The River is a Snake”. How did you choose to snake along this river that was opened by the exhibition in Sorocaba?

WF: We were very happy when we were invited to this Triennial, it’s been a long-standing wish of ours, since we first started to work together, back in 2018. The Repertory trilogy has been our biggest piece of research so far, and I feel that the more we look, the more pathways and detours are created. It’s research that stays on the move, that doesn’t aim at a final understanding. The work is always alive, at play. Imagining a dance of self-defense and a way to escape keeps us wishing…

DP: …like lurking snakes.

Luiz Rangel is a cultural producer, researcher, and translator. He acted as project coordinator, notably on the international initiatives “Episódios do Sul” and “Hubert Fichte: Love and Ethnology”. His research focuses on Brazilian film history and visual arts.

Translation: Zoë Perry