Conversación con

Tadáskía: My Work Has a Life of Its Own

Through drawing and painting, Tadáskía explores the relationship between figuration and abstraction, featuring mysticism, as well as Black people and gender dissidents. At the São Paulo Bienal, the artist presents pages from her book spatialized in a room, combining bilingual writings with drawings of figures that seem to emerge from the unconscious.

C& AL: The crooked and curved lines drawn on the pages of the book can be described as the main gesture of the work. How do you see the connection between those lines and shapes and the themes of Ave Preta Mística [Black Mystical Bird]?

T: At the end of Ave Preta Mística, I say “I admit the error that constitutes the entire flight, I redraw the routes of my sensitivity again”. There’s no way to know exactly. There’s no exact explanation for how to establish flight, of how the Ave Preta Mística will establish flight or we can perceive it as something right or wrong. So, admitting a mistake also means identifying that we can fly on crooked lines. That we are able to… And that the bird, in some way, shows us it’s possible to head towards a certain destination, to a certain place, to freedom, in a non-rectilinear way, in a way that curves, in a way in which, somehow, you have to admit that the error is a component, that the error is part of it. When I draw, I close my eyes, I have a habit of closing my eyes and opening my eyes. What is at stake in the drawing is the movement of my hand and how the paper or surface will receive this flight, this play, this line. And, many times, the line bends toward a place I hadn’t noticed, because, since I have my eyes closed, it goes places that I, even though I think it’s a place I’d imagined, when I open my eyes, it’s another place or the lines got tangled up. So, there’s this mix of what I imagined and recognized with what I imagined and didn’t recognize. I have this feeling that the text also has a certain ambiguity. In fact, the text and the image are there in conversation.

C& AL: And how does this relate to your artistic identity?

T: I feel like it’s not my identity that’s at play in the book. I feel like, the transformation of this bird that, appearing to embody my voice, actually embodies the bird’s voice. At some point, for me, it’s important to understand that the bird and the drawings incorporate the drawing itself and the voice of the text itself, that there is this voice, not a universal voice, but a voice that is grouped into certain sensations and that could be me or another person, an animal, a mystical being, an enchanted being.

So, to some extent, there’s a relationship with my story, but there’s a relationship with other stories that are also associated with a figure that isn’t purely of this earth, that is not exactly material, or something that has a body, but also it is disembodied, it appears, it disappears, it shows itself, it hides itself, like all sensations.

C& AL: The dynamics of revelation and concealment, the visible and the invisible, what is on display and what is hidden “between” one thing and another is a characteristic present in your work, which creates new systems of ideas that encourage imaginative freedom. Additionally, you mentioned the importance of movement in the space between abstraction and representation. So, could we say that the mystical aspect is a fundamental element of your creative process?

T: The mystical in this sense, something I recently realized, has to do with what we can approach with our eyes closed, in other words, we also need to see in another way, feel in another way. I feel like this relationship, of something that seems abstract or figurative, is actually a dynamic within words that make up a field of art. Within the field of art, there are these terms that make us look at something and talk about something from a certain point of view. But when I’m drawing, I feel like a lot of things come up. There are several things that we are able to look at. There’s a mix of landscape, figure, play with lines, colors, and shapes. I don’t know if it’s necessarily always this dynamic of figuration and abstraction. Because most of the time, you can see something. And, well, abstraction, many times, is an abstraction for abstraction’s sake and I feel that my work is neither abstraction for abstraction’s sake, nor is it figuration for figuration’s sake. But there are many figures, there are many shapes and this path that I have followed, which people also associate with the visible and invisible, is because of this relationship, including the fact that it is impossible to explain.

The invisible, for me, is related to not being possible to explain everything we see or everything that we feel. Sometimes, we need… I, at least, have understood it this way: we have to relate to life in an emotional, sensitive way, we’re not able to handle everything, not able to solve everything, explain everything. Because things are still being felt, things are still being experienced and you have to have a meeting, a group of sensations, of shapes, of lines, of colors, for us to be able to arrive at a new word or for us to reach a new drawing, or in a song, in a video, in a sculpture. Because, until then the imagination works with invisible things and with the transformation of impossibility into possibility, and drawing also happens like this.

C& AL: Your research and artistic production call upon imaginative experiences of the Black diaspora and speak of family and foreign encounters. How do you incorporate into your work the processes of cultural, multilingual, and multiethnic crossings, which are involved in this exercise of memory and imagination?

T: This has to do with the groups I participated in. Groups at school, social projects, church, university or when I traveled. I think traffic is part of life, just like mistakes. I think it’s very important to make mistakes. Because children make mistakes too. Then they learn from their mistake, you know?

This situation of wanting freedom without knowing it. Do you know when you are born without knowing it? When you’re born without being free, but you know there’s a condition that is the opposite of being trapped. And you don’t call it freedom, but imagine there’s something that happens when you are not trapped and you start to wish you were no longer in that condition and you start to move forward or create tools for your freedom. And sometimes, you can’t create these tools with what is material, physical.

Every time I travel, it seems like I encounter new sensations. And then, somehow, I’m able to find a group of words. Not to explain these sensations, but to, in some way, add them, you know? And follow along.

C& AL: The idea of impossibility is highlighted as a guiding thread and central criterion in the selection of participants in this edition of the Bienal. What has your experience been like participating in the 35th São Paulo Bienal? How do you see the presence of impossibility in your own artistic work? How important is it to challenge the impossible in your creations and how has this approach manifested itself throughout your artistic career?

T: I think my life has become more possible. In fact, I didn’t know about a lot of existential things my work had presented to me for a long time. That’s so interesting. That’s why I think the work has a life of its own. Because who would have thought that from the life circumstances I come from, I would have this desire to keep on drawing, to keep doing things that, well, no one saw value in, or no one was so interested in. Until just a while ago, I don’t know, people thought my drawings were ugly, you know? Ever since I was a child, I imagined having wings, that I would be a winged horse, that I would fly like an angel, and I heard my mother thanking and talking to the stars, to the saints, to the deities and to the figures that she wants to see herself in, in a material way.

I feel that impossibility was and is a very specific and social marker. Impossibility exists, is guided and occurs in everyday ways and is almost an entity. At some point, it’s almost like a relative, it’s almost like it sits at your desk every day, if you let it. A relative who really does sit with you, who eats with you, you know? It’s part of your dreams and, at the same time, impossibility is what limits you. We can see impossibility as a social limitation, a political limitation, a socioeconomic limitation, a limitation for us to dance, a violent limitation. Because the impossible is perhaps what we didn’t even imagine would be possible to do and because you live with impossibility, you think that only certain things are possible. So, it is, again, an ambiguity, you have been living with impossibility for a long time, you live and sleep with impossibility and, suddenly, impossibility is so present that it begins to show you its possibilities and to know the foreign within this zone that limited you. I need to travel, cross a forest. Even though, until then, no one in my family had crossed it. But it seems to call to me.

And then, suddenly, you see yourself as a child. Believing that you’ll have wings. Believing that you, one day, will be among the stars or believing that, at some point, you will have contact and encounters with animals from another world and you realize that the world is talking to you. Just like when I was in church: a tongue of angels, a tongue of fire.

I was invited to the Bienal by a group who somehow also wanted to speak to me in this hidden language that I’ve been speaking, and that somehow, comes not from the same sensation, but, again, from something that comes closer in this time, but that may move away at another time, but for this point in time it was interesting, it was important. I’d never been to any biennial before, this is the first biennial, I’m actually going to this Bienal as a visitor and as an artist and I think that the curatorship has this role of bringing together these movements and not saying a single thing, but that can proliferate, you know? Oh, I don’t know, I’m already speechless.

Tadáskía was born in 1993 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she still lives. She works with drawing, photography, installation and textiles, creating imagined and mystical landscapes. Through her research and production, the artist also seeks to elaborate the imaginative experiences of the Black diaspora around family and foreign encounters.

Izzadora Sá is a Communication and Culture professional who currently resides in Caravelas, Bahia. She grew up immersed in the cultural influences of the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and a city in the interior of Bahia, called Alagoinhas. She combines diverse artistic and research techniques and practices in her work, including video, performance and visual arts. Critically, her works reconfigure memories, especially Afro-Atlantic and sexual and gender dissident ones, constructing new narratives that evoke other temporalities. Follow her on LinkedIn.