Uýra (1991, Santarém, Pará) is a hybrid entity, an interweaving of scientific biological knowledge and the ancestral wisdom of the indigenous people. They call plants by their popular and Latin names, but evoke their medicinal properties, their tastes, their smells, their powers. The result is an intricate and complex understanding of the jungle, a web of knowledge and research. Uýra present themself as "a tree that walks". Born in 2016, during the process of Dilma Rousseff's impeachment, when the biologist decided to expand their academic research and search for ways to bring debate about environmental conservation and LGBT rights to communities in and around Manaus. In biology classes or photographic performances, in make-up and camouflage, in texts and installations, Uýra talks both from and with the forest.
In the 34th São Paulo Bienal, two preexisting photographic series – Elementar [Elemental] and Mil quase mortes [A Thousand Near Deaths] – are interconnected in a montage inspired by the undulations of a snake's body in motion. The images are records of performances also put on for the camera, sometimes for the camera alone. They are at once actions of denunciation and evocations of ancestral or futuristic beings, between utopian and apocalyptic, of disturbing beauty. The forest at threat, deforestation, fire; water submerged by the garbage that drowns the streams; the forest that swallows the body and the body that transforms itself.
The series Retomada [Recovery] (2021) was developed especially for this Bienal. In these photographs, Uýra appears in places in Manaus that, whether for their history and social function or for their architectural characteristics, could be associated with ways of life inherited from Eurocentric culture. But what the apparition of Uýra awakens, what it makes us see, are the plants that gradually recover the space that once belonged to them. The leaves and roots that start to grow on fences and walls, in gaps and cracks; the shrubs that gather on roadsides and highways; the trees that take over abandoned buildings. Places of neglect and violence that remain reoccupied by Life.
Complementing this series of images is an installation, also being shown for the first time, entitled Malhadeira [Enmeshment] (2021), which superimposes a sinuous network of organic cables and rubber tree seeds onto a drawing of the mesh of roads and avenues connected to Constantino Nery Avenue, in Manaus. Antonio Constantino Nery was the governor of Amazonas at the beginning of the last century, a period in which rubber extraction from rubber trees was the region's principal economic activity. He was responsible (but not made responsible) for the slaughter of 283 individuals of the Waimiri-Atroari people. The governor was also responsible for filling in a portion of the hydrographic network that bathed the city, burying the rivers to construct the avenue that takes his name. The work makes us consider the relationships between extraction as an economic model and violence against inhabitants of the land, of men and women to streams and rivers. The wires made of seeds snaking over the straight lines bring back the design of the water, the memory of the songs it sings.
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Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).