Performance // ‘Stop making sense and start sensing!’: An Interview with Cibelle Cavalli Bastos

Article by Jack Radley in Berlin // Friday, Dec. 8, 2017

Cibelle Cavalli Bastos greets me warmly and walks me through the bricolage of eccentric clothing, mismatched shoes, and phone monitors strewn across the gallery at Import Projects; it looks like someone running late for a flight has been frantically emptying their entire closet. The artist invites me to sit down on a central bed with them, and we begin discussing their time in Berlin, surrounded by the chroma-key green walls of a movie set. This stage is real life for Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, who, as part of their non-performance #aevtarperform, has been documenting their entire life through Instagram live-streams for almost a year now, archiving stories through virtually complete transparency replete with love, wisdom, and cold sores.

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )], qr code, portrait

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )] // Courtesy of the artist

Halfway through our interview, the artist tells me that they had actually been living on this bed for many months after bringing everything they owned into the studio (despite the constant influx of people and the lack of shower, for which they turned to friends and internet acquaintances). The bed transmutes from prop into shelter, the space from gallery into home; this transformative multiplicity runs throughout the artist’s life. A former model, actress, and notorious “Tropical Punk” singer from São Paolo, Cibelle Cavalli Bastos is now a multi-media performance artist, who has been exploring auto-observation and analytical self-reflection during their 6-month residency at Agora Collective, organized by Caique Tizzi.

Jack Radley: Let’s discuss your ongoing Instragram project ‘#aevtarperform’ (@cibellecibelle).

Cibelle Cavalli Bastos: With the Instragram work, I was thinking about how to reach the most people in the simplest nano-political sphere, with the potential to reach the macro with this very small gesture. I looked at myself and asked: “Who is this person in the context right now? Is my body political? In what way is it political? How can I put it to service?” Then I went “holy shit!” I have at least 7,000 followers left over from music. That’s political in itself, because you don’t see my face or body around in the media so much. I’m non-binary, but I am femme-presenting overall, and I wanted to see someone like this talking. I thought maybe I should just put myself out there, also as a way to challenge ego, self-importance, and insecurities in myself, as well.

I noticed that I had stopped taking selfies, maybe because I felt like my face was changing a lot. There is an issue of ageism in people with vaginas that is very strong. What are the thought-forms that are animating the body as an avatar? We literally give it another face, so it’s not so much about age, but energy.

So I’ve been engaged with closed loops and reflections because I am in this reflective process with this self and a mirror. The camera is like ‘Black Mirror’. When you are watching it, you are doing the thinking, you are reflecting; in essence, whenever you are interacting with someone, the other person is being a mirror to you at all times. It had me thinking that it is just this body that’s on the camera, and it’s not me, it’s this flux of existence that’s animating that body that you see. I’m up for being a little puppet, trigger, mirror, even if it’s going to be judged to death or not.

There’s something quite liberating when you overexpose yourself, when you’re not editing yourself, when you’re not cute all the time – there’s countless footage of me at 3 in the morning with cold sores, zits and having deep philosophical insight.

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: Installation view, “#deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform’, 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell, Courtesy of Agora Collective

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: “#deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform’, 2017, installation view // Photo by Keegan Luttrell, Courtesy of Agora Collective

JR: How do you think about balancing the layers of audience in your Instragram work: people who know you and are in touch with your relationships, the public who may never meet you, and yourself viewing the footage retrospectively?

CBB: There is a massive gap, even within myself, between who I’m being and who I think I’m being, like the abyss between what I say and what you hear. I’m kamakazi on this; I don’t care. I want to see what’s under my own rug, pull all the layers of self out, because everything is a construct, not just gender, but nationality, faith, everything. The whole notion of identity is a pile of thoughts of ourselves, trauma, and actions. If we lift that, what is that self?

I’m working on peeling off those layers, and it becomes more fluid, and the gaze of the other matters less. I normally encounter a lot of dissonance anyway because I’m stealth, fake-white, I pass white/European. I’m not. I’m very much not white, I am Latinx. But I lived in the UK for a long time, so I notice that in the way I operate in the world.

How can I help us all—and myself, because I always have to always be working on myself—to go beyond form when we see somebody? How can we be present and access subjectivity? Take into account form, because you’re going to see bodies that are under oppression, and you should understand the context and then go beyond that form.

JR: Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by ‘avatar’ and ‘multiselves’ and how that appears in your show at Import Projects.

CBB: I see us playing the Sims as an avatar of a third dimensional plane, but there are other dimensions and we tend to be so caught up in our own thoughts that we forget that we are on an orb, going so fast through space that your thoughts disappear and go: “Hang on a minute, for sure there is more than this. There are more realities.”

JR: It’s not just the perspective captured in Charles & Ray Eames’ ‘Powers of Ten’. There are so many more axes?

CBB: Exactly. And then we are avatars per form, each form, but also in performance all the time, like a tiny work made of forms.

I talk about this avatar performance situation like we are all avatars of each other and the same being. It’s like sometimes you’re hanging out with four people and certain subject matter can only occur because those four people are there. It couldn’t be coming out of my mouth or somebody else’s mouth. We are all plugged into the same cloud.

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: Installation view, “#deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform’, 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell, Courtesy of Agora Collective

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: #deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform; 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell // Courtesy of Agora Collective

JR: Let’s talk more about language. Can you discuss the stylization of your name, [{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]?

CBB: It’s a piece. So it’s like this: “CIBELLE”– the singer, who can be found online, who was a cis woman. Before {“CIBELLE”(CAVALLI} was my name as an actor in Brazil. My full name is the conglomerate of thought given to my body by my family, and also the name of the artist or the source of everything that gets manifested by this body. It’s an awareness of being neither. These are all abstractions, with the brackets, these are all states of being.

JR: When I see this symbol, I think about the keyboard symbols for vaginas, rearranged and spat back out.

CBB: I love that. There’s the ‘<#' hairy vagina, and this one, '({})'.There’s this live video piece that I do sometimes and they come in and out. I love that perception because the vagina is also the space through which people come, if you don’t do a Caesarean section. It's the symbol through which avatars and devices come, so AI can operate. Whenever people talk about “AI”, I tell them it’s just “I” you’re talking about. There are more I’s coming on, just waiting for the most appropriate device to operate functionally. The multiselves: [the gallery] came up with this word, I don’t say multiselves. I say residue of selves, or aspects of selves, because to me it’s very clear, through all the observation I’ve been doing on this flux here, we are aspects of selves, thought-forms flowing through the body. To different people we are different selves, even at different times of life we’re different people. And to different people we are different selves, even to ourselves at different times of life. When people ask me about the time when I was making albums as a singer, I really see that as someone else. Cibelle from 2004, that is a whole other person.

JR: I’m curious about #deprogramming as a strategy. Do you see that related to age? A lot of people believe that when we’re young, we don’t have racism, sexism, etc. ingrained in us. Is deprogramming returning to this state or pushing forward?

CBB: It’s like if you take an Ourobouros to a 4th, 5th, or 6th dimension. When you’re a kid you’re seeing things as they are, with no judgment and no baggage. Then you’re growing, and society’s around you, and you’re getting baggage, and that’s when programming comes to you, like malware. There are some things that you choose, but a lot of viruses just happen to you. So when you go through this process of understanding what these things are and then deprogramming them, uninstalling them, unlearning all this shit, you’re going to end up at the same point you started at, once you navigate this super complex thing. You’re going to suffer and it’s going to hurt, and it’s amazing also.

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: Installation view, “#deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform’, 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell, Courtesy of Agora Collective

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: #deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform; 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell // Courtesy of Agora Collective

JR: You talked about malware, and you just did the #avatarperform at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. How do your views on cybernetics intersect with your views on feminism?

CBB: I think the high connectivity of social media really helps feminism. Cybernetics is just a motor, it will potentialize anything. In 2014, I went to one of Fannie Sosa’s ‘twerkshops’ and we were hanging out after and thinking: “Fuck this, femmes are never put together to network or to work together, we’re always made to compete.” Even the shade thing with drag, that comes from a patriarchal imposition that happened to cis women for a long time that then echoed onto anything femme, anyone femme—cis women, trans women, non binary femmes, drag queens, or effeminate boys—because we’ve been pitted against each other. There was no horizontal role-modelling, so I said we need to get together and talk and hang out and get the most badass femmes that we know in the room.

I hope this trend I’ve been seeing grows: more men discussing what masculinity is, and looking at different kinds of masculinity. And then we’re going to be good because everyone on the femme spectrum has been working on this: what is femininity? What is femme? What is woman? Even men, doing drag, are doing that, are exploring femininity. So then what would it be to explore masculinity? What makes a man, what is a masculine thing?

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: Installation view, "#deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform', 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell, Courtesy of Agora Collective

[{ “CIBELLE” (CAVALLI} BASTOS )]: #deprogram #unlearn #closedloop #ævtarperform #aevtarperform #avtarperform; 2017 // Photo by Keegan Luttrell // Courtesy of Agora Collective

JR: In art school, we’re taught that you cannot divorce form from content. Do you ascribe to that in your practice?

CBB: I’m constantly saying “fuck you” to that daily. I get into a lot of trouble because some people can’t understand what I’m going on about in the work because they’re like, “This work looks like you or this work doesn’t look like you.” What looks like me? I don’t even look like me. What are you talking about?

I’m definitely not a formal artist. It’s not about the forms that I’m making, you can see echoes from previous work, but it’s more of a language, that’s more of what we should be looking for: what is the language? Stop making sense and start sensing!

After we all discuss masculinity and femininity, we’re all going to come to the same energies with different terms and stop calling it “masculinity and femininity” and we’ll finally unlink it from the body. Because it is not linked to the body. One of the big problems we have in society is linking subjectivity to form again. Very basic. If you peel layers of that, great, because you will cover everything: you can go into race, gender, notions of femininity and masculinity, literally everything is possible if you have subjectivity de-linked from the body.

Additional Info

Cibelle Cavalli Bastos: ‘I am Hungry: [{“CIBELLE”(CAVALLI}BASTOS )]’
Dec. 07–16, 2017, only open by appointment
Artist Talk & Performance: Monday, Dec. 11, 2017; 7–10pm
Keithstraße 10, 10787 Berlin, click here for map

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