"Sacudimento da Maison des Esclaves em Gorée" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito (detalhe). Foto: Cortesia do artista.
Solo Project

Ayrson Heráclito: The place of the sacred

Alexia Tala
3 Dec 2018, 11:44 am

If art has shown us anything since modernity, it is its historical ability of unnaturalizing premises we assume true. Its critical function allows us, by experiencing it, to look at what we thought we knew from a new perspective.

Within this context, in our time, the direction of a constant linked to the religious-mystical seems to have inverted. With their long secular tradition, the leading contexts of the Western world installed the idea that the mystical directly relates with the primitive, which is in turn associated with some kind of delay, far away from the glories that modernization has brought to the life of the emancipated man. From the perspective of this emancipated man, the universe is measurable and nature is dominated. The failures of this man are, as Latin America well knows, countless. Their consequences endure and replicate at the same speed as the world advances towards the dystopias that science fiction imagined.


Above: "Sacudimento da Maison des Esclaves em Gorée" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito (detail). Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

"Transmutação da carne" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito, performance no Sesc Pompeia, São Paulo. Foto: Christian Cravo / Cortesia do artista.

"Transmutação da carne" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito, performance at Sesc Pompeia, São Paulo. Foto: Christian Cravo / Cortesia do artista.

"Transmutação da carne" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito, performance no Sesc Pompeia, São Paulo (Foto: Christian Cravo / Cortesia do artista)

"Transmutação da carne" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito, performance at Sesc Pompeia, São Paulo. Photo: Christian Cravo / Courtesy of the artist.

Perhaps this is why contemporary art has opted not only to recover the memory of the mystical, but also to insert it in our times. Ayrson Heráclito’s work falls into this niche. He focuses on the Afro-Bahian culture, bringing an experience of religious recovery. From the artist’s perspective, art does not represent an exclusive, superior or separate terrain from our social fabric, and as such it can be a space to refer to this religious force established in these cultures’ past and present.

Through photographic or moving image, the artist exposes us to a series of situations that present us, through performance, the religious imagery of Bahia. His work brings a sort of revindication by means of incarnation that he and other participants execute in the performances recorded. What is incarnated in these scenes of ritualistic nature, generally associated with cleansing and cure, is past wisdom, where organic elements are used (corn, dendê oil, meats, etc.) and accompany the repetition of several actions.

Hence, it is necessary to say that the central relationship that exists in Ayrson Heráclito’s work is between body and history, and thus, with the different forms of violence linked to slavery that continue taking place, result of long colonization processes still present. However, this violence does not take on the form of a direct accusation, but rather it is played out by the bodies. A repeated action evokes the memory of it, transforms the body in a place of memory, reminding through ritualism what was lost.

"Oxossi" (2008), da série "Bori", Ayrson Heráclito (Foto: Cortesia do artista)
"Nanã" (2011), da série "Bori", Ayrson Heráclito (Foto: Cortesia do artista)
"Ogum" (2008), da série "Bori", Ayrson Heráclito (Foto: Cortesia do artista)

And, even when we are not direct spectators of these scenes, some moving image operations allow us to transmit this characteristic of progressive deceleration. The prolonged fixed angles operate in this direction, and the same occurs with the influence of the photographic composition on objects and people. These two factors approximate us to a profoundly interesting aspect of Ayrson Heráclito’s work in terms of formal experimentation: the artist developed a language of the image, incorporating or focusing on certain audiovisual and visual elements, always in parallel with his performance act. In turn, there is an interest in the use of sound resources and music (increase, reduction, mixing), which have also complexified and transformed throughout his trajectory, moving from percussion to ambient sound.

The work questions the place of the sacred in today’s world, where to look for it and how to look at it. To that end, it transports us to a different pace than experience and corporeity, moving away from the speed that tends to rule the dimensions of contemporary life.

"Sacudimento da Casa da Torre" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito (Foto: Cortesia do artista)

"Sacudimento da Casa da Torre" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito (Photo: Cortesia do artista)

"História do futuro – Baobá: o capítulo da agromancia" (2015), Ayrson Heráclito (Foto: Cortesia do artista)
Solo Sector

Created in 2014, Solo is dedicated to exhibiting curatorial projects focused on a single artist. More than 50 local and international galleries have been part of the sector over the last five years, such as Blank (South Africa), Casas Riegner (Colombia), Elba Benítez (Spain), Fragment (Russia), Nara Roesler (Brazil), Richard Saltoun (England) and Ruth Benzacar (Argentina).

Represented by Portas Vilaseca Galeria, Ayrson Heráclito was selected to produce the Solo’s section “Men from paradise and hell” in the upcoming SP-Arte. The 15th edition will take place 3-7 April, 2019 at the Bienal Pavillion (Ibirapuera Park).



Alexia Tala is independent curator and artistic director of Plataforma Atacama, Alexia Tala specializes in Latin American art research. More recently, she dedicated herself to the general curatorship of the 2020 Bienal de Arte Paiz, in Guatemala, and to publishing a monograph on the Chilean Lotty Rosenfeld. She was co-curator of the 8th Mercosur Bienal – Essays in Geopoetic and the 4th San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial, in Puerto Rico, the 20th Bienal de Arte Paiz, in Guatemala. Alexia also writes for art publications in Latin America and the United Kingdom, and is the author of “Installations and Experimental Printmaking” (UK, 2009). She will be curating the Solo sector in the next SP-Arte.

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