André Alves is a visual artist and currently a doctoral researcher in Artistic Practice at Valand Academy. He previously studied at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts (2013-16), holds a MFA in Drawing from the University of Cincinnati (2011) under a Fulbright fellowship, a MA in Art Education (2009) and a BFA (2005) from the University of Porto.
His research practice develops strategies in which choreographed approaches to narration, orality and image-poem, make use of emotions as artistic material/medium to reflect – but also to intervene – within certain political circumstances. These practices develop shared empathetic insights that offer questioning to the social dimension of common coexistence by paying attention to the possibilities (and politics) of touch/contact and listening as a process of care.
Here is his presentation on Drama Boreale
Drama Boreale 18 André Alves presentation
After yesterday’s presentation I had to go home and rewrite my presentation for today. Of course what I wanted to initially present here will still be touched during this presentation, but I wanted to pick some of the ideas that popped-up yesterday and carry them to today. Not only because they are fundamentally good ideas (which happen to agree with my research and artistic grounds), but because they moved me. Yet, do not take this as some form of sentimental voicing, take it as expression of the possibility of concepts not only being logical things, but sensuous things. This is so telling about how it affects our work both as artists and researchers and educators, and how we talk about what we do and how we talk to our students using a language in which we disembody our embodied practices.
The experience that I will soon bring you into will be both of an olfactory and of a textual nature. It might surprise you (as it did surprise me) that the fragrance you are starting to smell – which by the way is totally hypoallergenic – was once believed to be the perfume of love. I will come to that later.
First I want to focus on something that Kerstin asked yesterday, while introducing the social presenting theatre experiment: how can we sense-make in the world? The answer to this question is tied to other ideas I’ve listen in the small circles, duets and triplets, and breaks to rest and nurture: the possibility of empowerment through sensitivity, for instance, or the coincidence with oneself, trained as possibility of an intimate resistance forming different values to steer the world we live in. You see, one does not make art only to imagine and produce different worlds, one makes art to fall in love with life.
Ok, now I might be sounding a bit sentimental. But this is my starting point, that art promotes a discovery of a lust for life, and from that thought – and here comes one of my research questions – what are the implicit political possibilities to make that privatised, individual experience of sense-making into a collective resource? To use less of a research rhetoric how the private affect becomes politically plural?
I’ll return to this question again, but first I need to situate myself as a visual artist and to say that / emotional distancing / is our daily mantra. In yesterday’s session, it was said that in the arts (to oppose the performative and dramatic arts) emotions were filtered through a distance, coded in shapes, recognised in colours and postures. And that paradoxical skill of speaking not through sense-making but through the use of concepts has been the ruling art paradigm. My conflict is with this paradigm in which text is the privileged representational system to describe the sensible – and in that sense a dispositive of power.
I am less interested in discussing the classical feud between mind and flesh. What I am interested is in how to transport the affective flows of human relations into text and how can that become an expression of what Åse described yesterday as aesthetic embodied future? As something that works to promote an agency, to put something in motion, in a co-motion. I will try to give a concrete example of how I bring these concerns to research by describing an artistic event I organized a year ago titled “We are lacking love.”
“We are lacking love” was developed as part of a public protest taking place in the local town of Guimarães (Portugal). As a protest, the event sought to amplify the local citizens’ sense of powerlessness and exclusion from the decision-making processes regarding the public space of the city. I thought, how to turn that affective mass into an expression of political force?
And then I though of the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, asking what are poets for, in such an age, in which the world seems to be calling-out for poetry to save it. And only then, faced with the possibility of poetry as some form of insurgent art, did I perceived that in lack of a public voice, that perhaps agency needs to be founded through the creation of a public body.
The event We Are Lacking Love was presented as a forum or open assembly in which people gathered to share poems, songs, personal anecdotes of their like… Poems about losing and loving, and in this way, finding in the assembly around emotions, a temporary community of affective political resistance.
As one entered the venue, a strong scent dominated the space. Violas. Violas have been selected for a particular quality. Not only were violas believed as symbols of rebirth, they were believed to produce the perfume of love.
While participants in the event were likely not familiar with the symbolic connotations of violas, they could not overlook the literal linguistic relations between violas and love, because, contrasting with the name of violas in other languages in which they are associated to the realm of thoughts (as pensées, pansies, pensamientos, and so on), in Portuguese, violas are named Amores-Perfeitos (perfect loves).
Of course that the part that really matters is when the personal sentiment through the act of sharing and listening, gains a political expression. And in that there is a sense of co-motion, towards some form of empathy, if you want, that I am transporting into this room.
In the event We Are Lacking Love, the affective community precedes the community of sharing. Even if you don’t see it coming, love is already inside of you, you are already inside a haptic geography of love. One can call it emotional dispositive, prop, scenography, but I understand it as part of the task of speaking through sense-making as a lack that has handicapped the visual arts and made it increasingly desensitised. I’m looking for that sense of empathy that is not only explained but goes straight to the spine.
That brings us here in this room. To think of ourselves also in a relation of empathy with those in We Are Lacking Love. An empathy that is not a form of emotional manipulation, but a true tranversality happening through our nostrils.
To wrap this presentation, I want to call upon Debora Gould’s reminder to herself on how could her own feelings strengthen the analysis, rather than making the analysis anecdotal? As we’ve experienced yesterday, while finding the stuckness in our bodies, the body knows much more than one can realise. To listen to what in this ongoing desensitisation of the intellect (not to mention the affective ways we relate to each other) is the responsibility we can never waive.