“Black, slave, African, sodomite, sorcerer, exile”, says Paulo Pascoal, the actor who plays José Francisco Pereira, kidnapped from the Republic of Benin to Pernambuco, in the 18th century, and sold into slavery. There, he used syncretism as a means of survival. In 1731, Pereira was tried by the Lisbon Inquisition for witchcraft and sodomy.
The speech in the scene Closed Body: The Devil's Work, by Carlos Motta, in galeria Vermelho, summarizes the issues that involve Brazil today, roots of fascist racism that polarize the country. Motta, however, goes deeper in the film, clearly associating slavery with the Inquisition through the Letter 31 – The Book of Gomorrah, written in 1049 by São Pedro Damião, considered the first text of the Catholic Church that condemns homoerotic practices.
Corpo Fechado: a obra do diabo was performed and exhibited in Portugal last year, in a sophisticated staging that mixes, in addition to the story of Pereira and Carta 31, excerpts from the Theses on the concept of history, by Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940), canonical text of criticism on the conventions of historicism. Next to the film is the projection of the video “I mark my presence with my own beliefs”, where Paulo Pascoal is interviewed by Motta and tells of the difficulties he went through when he came out with his homosexuality in Angola, his native country.
This kind of multiplied mirror, where the real story of the character in the film is reflected in the story of the actor who plays him, is key to understanding the show. us x enemy, which occupies the entire gallery, and looks more like an institutional show than a commercial space.
In it, Motta creates a clear narrative where the works are pieces that, on the one hand, address the emergence of prejudice against homosexuality, at the same time create elements that, far from relying on a discourse of victimization, go in reverse to generate the affirmation of queer culture.
On the façade of Vermelho, this is seen by the appropriation of the pink triangle, which in Nazism represented gays condemned to death, becoming the work Shapes of Freedom: Triangle, a mural with the giant image itself and a poster with a historical line, which, since 1500, narrates facts related to both prejudice and its opposite, such as the determination, now in 2019 by the STF that transphobia and homophobia are crimes.
It is in propositions like this that artistic practices stop being an illustration of a theme, to become catalysts of experiences, generating new forms of representation, questioning established standards.
The whips exposed on the second floor of the gallery follow the same key, as if in the film Closed Body: The Devil's Work whips are used as a form of martyrdom, in the series called Closed body, approach the fetish objects of gay culture. This hardcore scene, by the way, portrayed by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989) in iconic images, as he inserts the whip into his anus, is appropriated by Motta, who reenacts the 1978 photograph, darkening it, in a kind of contextualization of the show's questions.
It's in the video We the enemy (2017), which gives the show its title, where the artist places the show's central question. Created by the SPIT collective! (Sodomite, Inverts, Perverts Together), composed by Motta, writer John Arthur Peetz and choreographer Carlos Maria Romero, the video is a compilation of dozens of derogatory terms and insults, said by Greek artist Despina Zacharopoulos, as “perverts, bambis , dolls, pederasts, queers” with an emphatic conclusion: “we are and always will be the enemies”.