Élle de Bernardini
All that Glitters Is Not Gold
10 SEP – 17 OCT 2020
Kogan Amaro Gallery
Alameda Franca, 1054
Jardim Paulista, Sao Paulo, SP
In one of her most famous works, produced in 1985, German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940-2009) runs towards this wall set on stage and, as a result, tumbles her body down on the floor. This scene from Café Müller happens sequentially for minutes on end with movements that highlight two important pillars of the Tanztheater Wuppertal director’s work: memory and repetition. It’s through the latter that it’s possible to refrain from the former, constantly relieving it. On the other hand, argues Bausch, only after these repetitions one can actually change their perception of a fact. If, at first, the scene showed the dancer touching the wall only once, as it goes forward, a section of the performance becomes this infinite falling and standing up, which seems different each time.
Memory and repetition are also at the foundation of Élle de Bernardini’s exhibition at Galleria Kogan Amaro, which she thereby integrates as a represented artist. The exhibition refers to the artist as a full pulsating body, filled with both aforementioned elements. Graduate in classical ballet and having Bausch as one of her role-models, she is the only transsexual ever to be admitted at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, where she’s been from 2011 to 2012. In As marcas que carreguei, created in 2013, when Élle starts self-referring as a visual artist and first creates performances filled with repetitions, she drives long nails through her pointe shoes. If, in one hand, the admission to the most important ballet school in the United Kingdom has been a victory, on the other hand, she has realized right at the beginning of her career that this recognition as a trans woman would also have her destiny never allow her to reach the position of prima ballerina, no matter how good her technique. The ambiguity about what might in fact be pain and joy, beauty and horror, reminds us of the limits and action reenactments which Serbian performer Marina Abramovic does within her production, and which also permeates the short and prolific journey of the Brazilian artist – in just a few years Élle has had pieces shown in important Brazilian institutions, such as MASP, Pinacoteca de São Paulo and Museu de Arte do Rio/MAR.
Her work addresses the intersection between gender issues, sexuality, politics and identity, and the history of humanity and of art from her own experience. Her interest on academic studies such as philosophy, drama and journalism, three of which she has partially studied in college, make her final work stem from concepts which spill over the most adequate materials to the chosen themes. That’s how she got, for example, to her Formas contrassexuais (2019). Stemming from Manifesto contrassexual, by Spanish philosopher Paul Preciado – which suggests a nonbinary social model in which individuals would be acknowledged only as bodies or subjects –, Élle creates pieces that refer to erogenous body parts, rearranged and reproduced in unusual manners. The beginning of the development of such forms is the guiding principle of Paisagens contrasexuais, installation made of small delicate canvases made of various fabrics and juxtapositions. Familiarity with fabric as a membrane which resembles human skin also brings her close to the production of French artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who from these and other materials seeks to reframe the sexuality of the human being as a species.
The name Élle itself refers to this ambiguity which inhabits our being. A kind of root of her birth name, the word calls Portuguese and French languages into question as well as their similitudes and oppositions on the perception of maleness and femaleness. As stated by philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), it’s through the body that we may reach common ground between the inner and the outer which inhabits us. And it’s exactly at this virtuous coupling where the artist stands.
Ana Carolina Ralston