A long durational performance
August 7, 2015
Performed: 7 hours
Studio management: Anna Shpilko
Research support: Maria Clara Carneiro Sampaio
Photo: Igor Afrikyan, Lavoisier Clemente, Ilya Pusenkoff
In the midst of gloomy days, I am waiting for the big waves to appear. Finally, they are here. Just before sunrise, I ask someone to tie me to a thick plank, so my ankles and wrists are tightly bound; then I position myself flatly on the sand. The tide comes in, and every next wave is pulling me in more and more. As I’m trying to survive, slowly but surely, my shoulders, elbows, hips, and ankles get all raw and scratched. Towards the end of the morning, I am practically shouting for help.
‘Pão de arara’, or parrot stick, is a classical torture for the slaves to be safely ‘fixed’ in position. It has been used by the Portuguese since the 16th century. Contemporary history of the country uses it as part of the torture repertoire by the Brazilian Special Forces (Port. ‘BOP’) – those that are responsible for breaking up riots, for drug trafficking control, and other complicated law enforcement tasks.
The parrot stick is an instrument that suppresses the will. The only thing that continues to function in the human body is the head, while the rest is not allowed to move or manifest its desires into being. This posture has a special meaning to my work, as several of my performances saw me transform into a bodyless head. For instance, during The Egobox and The Empty Buckets performances, the bereaved head was craving for attention and demanded victims. The stand-alone head in case of the parrot stick is an impotent one, the one that is left to observe one’s imminent death and to gasp for air.
My performance is over when the waves begin to submerge the head completely.