Human Flesh



Text by Ulisses Carrilho
Photographs by Victor Nomoto
Friday, May 1st - 2015

And then there were five. The fifth Serão Performático ended a series within the Vesuvius project, presented by Brazilian collective Grupo EmpreZa as part of the MAI Presents program. This performance was kept minimal, using primarily the flesh of the artist's body.

In this last presentation of performance before the final Serao, which is a discussion, Grupo EmpreZa tone down their actions. Subtly, the provocation of materials is replaced by the exploration of the body’s limitations. All members of the collective have somehow previously experienced pain as a form of interaction with the public in performance.

Pain, or the illusion of pain, creates tension between the public and the artist. When the public recognizes anguish in an artist’s expression, a shared language is created. With Grupo EmpreZa, the pain was never intended to be— or appear to be an illusion. Truth be told: pain was the far from the main focus of the night, it would be a reductive interpretation of the events that unfold. 

For an entire afternoon, one of the group members throws his shoe, fetches it, and repeats the action for about six hours. The night begins with cigarettes and coarse salt. The performers using these materials on their bodies, leading the public throughout SESC's three main spaces wearing masks: one tribal, one made from an animal skull, and one made of leather .

A woman can be seen slapping herself until bruises and blisters formed on her skin. Another Grupo EmpreZa member rubs her torso and limbs against the cement floor, bruising her back and legs. Yet another member undresses fully and then puts her clothes back on before proceeding to run around the block. This sequence of actions is repeated several times. Two members set fire to their clothes, pressing the burning fabric against their flesh to extinguish the flames. One of them smokes cigarettes throughout this process, occasionally burning himself with them.

The highlight of the night, however, is a symbolic scene that involves the entire public filling the “In Between” space one of the group members stood against a wall, completely naked. At the end of a salt path connecting him to another man. Using a slingshot, the nude man is pelted with raw chicken hearts. His skin is raised and irritated by the time the audience is invited to take part in bombarding him. Once again, the line between performer and viewer is blurred, as the performance comes to an end. 

Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.