Élle, your body is our measure
It is a work of resistance: it is difficult to be an artist, it is difficult to be a female artist, it is difficult to be a trans female artist, it is difficult to be a trans female artist and to be inserted in the commercial and institutional circuit. The production of Élle de Bernardini faces all these and other questions incessantly, proposing new system models and offering revolutionary solutions. Based on research on contrasexual forms (derived from the queer theories of the philosopher Paul Preciado), the artist creates series that question the status of the symbology of colors, the rules of behavior of the body, the fetish about the art object, the taboos about dissident sexualities, language gaps and power structures.
“Sex Shock” is an exhibition that condenses this extensive and endless investigation into works whose materiality seems to contrast with the blunt political charge of her speeches. The use of soft and attractive materials – plush, tights, pearls, gold – and the use of strong and captivating colors suggest, at first, a certain resistance to associations with the combative body, to the confrontation of prejudices, to the struggle for freedom and liberation. But, in a second moment, Bernardini’s strategy of appealing to touch, to seduction, and thus arouse interest in knowing, approaching, valuing, attributing auras of sacredness and richness to subjects increasingly considered improper, immoral, indecent.
There are several valences behind the use of plush: the pieces can be childish like toys, luxurious like mink coats, warm like blankets. If some of the series titles refer us to physical characteristics of the body, such as “Peludinhos” [“Furry”], others are thought of as accessories and devices for use by that body, such as “Detalhe” [“Detail”] – a vest to wear – or “Dois Pesos Duas Medidas” [“Two Weights Two Measures”] – a necklace to wear.
This corporal implication in Bernardini’s work is not limited to the costume, but also includes the spectator’s active engagement in the co-creation of the object, as in “Do It Yourself”: silicone matrices that can be used to mold, in resin or ice, dildos designed for different areas of the body – just follow the instructions provided by the artist and enjoy the work.
Despite the growing waves of coldness, hardness and brutality, we must remember that we still have skin, that we are still able to relate to the world through the exchange of heat, fluids, affections and frailties and, even more, to create new skins that allow us contacts, pleasures, other bodies. This exhibition imposes on us the urgency of thinking about the possibilities of understanding and using our bodies, our own and others, especially in times of erasure of differences and rigidity of discourses of control, purity, innocence and chastity to the detriment of freedom, autonomy, enjoyment and expansion of potencies.