This will be an 8-10 minute video based on an invented Origin Myth that borrows from the Candomblé spiritual tradition of northern Brazil. In the proposed video, a pernicious illegitimate ‘Invader Spirit’ born in the abandoned ruin of a Catholic monastery, travels the land blithely wreaking havoc on the local people by way of boundless forms of consumer lust, then later, punishes them with detritus and waste. Eventually, we see the Spirit’s malevolence get confronted, and challenged a by a team of artful Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian) martial arts practitioners working with the aid of angelic and earthbound spirit beings.
My mission, as an interdisciplinary artist is to create disruptive narratives that illuminate the meaning of the physical, psychological and spiritual spaces we inhabit. My work falls at the interstices of performance, social practice, and video.
Working with participants, my work uses aspects of narrative to create performative videos (and performances) that explore how the body projects itself in varying contexts. This stems from an interest in how physicality’s expression, capacity for transgression, and mobility, submit to or defy the encroaching power structures that extend into the shared public space.
Central to my process is a language that mediates communication between participating parties within a project and how it is received by participant and viewer. This can include text, image, video, sound, sculpture, installation, and performance.
By involving both skilled performers, as well as those with life-experiences that revolve around labor, and including them in a project’s concepts, it’s meaning and potential to cultivate shared cross-cultural and intergenerational narratives expand. In this way, expectations, that involve work and habit, intersect with unexpected narratives, that can create new meanings and a shared aesthetic language.
The inspiration for the storyline: Journey of the Invader Spirit
Based on a recent Fellowship/residency in Brazil, the proposed video is an Origin Myth that borrows from the Candomblé spiritual tradition of northern Brazil. Begun in the 19th__ century, with origins in the Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu religions of West + central Africa, over the centuries Candomblé and its deities merged with the Catholicism introduced through Portuguese colonialism. Candomblé involves the veneration of sprits known as ‘orishas’ who work as intermediaries for a supreme being. In the proposed video project, I have invented an Invader Spirit who is a foreign albeit, illegitimate Orisha.
We follow this Spirit‘s malevolent journey and watch its intentions, get challenged a by a team of artful Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian) martial arts practitioners. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music and was developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century. It was a way for enslaved Africans to jointly preserve and express their cultural practices while also protecting themselves to resist the culture and reality forced upon them by their European captives.
In this video they do battle with the Invader’s ‘trickster’ prerogatives, making fun of the Invader Spirit’s presumptions of power. While the themes have an environmental undercurrent, there is a humor embedded in the video, that riffs off of the ubiquitous Telenovelas so popular in Brazil. It is also a throwback to the silent films era where underdog characters, often fought against the malignant forces of class oppression.
The artistic process for the project
In aligning the African diaspora of Brazil’s northern city of Salvador with that of Baltimore, I saw similarities in their colonial past. They both had a central port, slave market, and urban center that serviced nearby Fazendas (plantations), where cash crops were grown. Portuguese culture was different from Anglo-American culture in that Catholicism –while having a firm grip on religious practice- was not always strictly enforced when it came to allowing for the integration of African deities with Catholic saints. After doing some research, and through staff and community invites to C Candomblé ceremonies, I became interested in pursuing a narrative that featured an Invader Spirit entity that mimicked -but did not copy- aspects of the Candomblé tradition. Also salient to me is the view from Brazil and Latin America, that North and South America, are part of an American continuum; a view scantily acknowledged north of the Mexican border.
During the residency, a local Capoeira-martial arts group opened up their practice to the Fellows inviting us to their classes and events. We were welcomed as part of their community, and when I described the premise of my video project, several were eager to participate, and so volunteered their time as performers. This was also true of the Sacatar staff, who were given an artist talk and special screening of my work. Additionally, a local public school where several Fellows volunteered, asked for some of their children to be able to participate.
Over the years my curiosity has also taken me to several West African countries, where I visited the departure ports of the enslaved who, dispersed throughout the Caribbean and Americas through forced migration, have had profound a profound influence on the cultural life of the colonized territories of the Americas, if not the world. It is within this cultural mash-up that we now all navigate our way through a shared complex history.
The final goal/outcome for the project at the end of the grant period is to have a completed 8-10 minute video of Journey of the Invader Spirit, with an expanded narrative structure, Portuguese/English voice-over narration, animated sequences, and an original music/audio score. I feel that this is a piece that will resonate with American as well as Brazilian/Latin audiences and -when possible- have promised to return to Brazil, for a public screening with the video participants.
Prior to departing from Brazil introductions were made at the Modern Art Museum in Salvador for the possibility of hosting an exhibit for the completed video (along with other work). I believe that these intentions along with exhibition possibilities in the Baltimore/ DC area will all be met in good time once it is safe and feasible to do so.