During a one-month artist residency at Espírito Mundo, visual artist JFBrittes conceived and unveiled the outcome of his process inspired by Japanese mythology, particularly the Butot dance.
Under the curation and guidance of Aline Yasmin, the project also involved collaboration from performer Andreia Morado, dancer Caterina Campo, video artist Alex Cepile, and artistic producer Renzo Dalvi.
The result was an exhibition featuring 5 large-scale original paintings and a multimedia installation exploring the theme of Butot dance and the symbolism of the story of Kandata from the text “The Spider’s Thread” – A tale by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1918).
The launch event took place on June 23rd at Espírito Mundo space.
The following text, written by the curator, seeks to reflect on the process and its meanings.
DANCING ON THE FRAGILE THREAD OF EXISTENCE.
Inspired by the Japanese tale “The Spider’s Thread,” written by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (in 1918), JFBrittes presents as a proposal for their artistic residency ‘Dancing While the World Falls Down,’ a metaphor for understanding the human condition in society. The delicate line between life and death, pain and resilience, individual and collective – contrasts of human ephemeral nature – an acute awareness of finitude and the eternal anguish of existence.
Without resorting to a moral perspective, albeit in an ethical invocation, the painter focuses their gaze on the most relevant aspect of the text: the protagonist’s attempt to ascend or escape from hell in the tale, Kandata, and the moment of his climb on the thin spider’s thread as the ultimate solution to end his perpetual suffering. The ensemble of works created in the main installation emphasizes this moment through various layers and cutouts.
The guiding artwork is ‘The Spider’s Thread,’ which engages in a dialogue with the intense videographic installation “The Pond” and takes on distinct planes and forms. The setting portrays the desperate attempt to escape through the body and voice of Andreia Morado in co-creation with videomaker and sound designer Alex Cepile, with the support of producer Renzo Dalvi.
In contrast, and no less important, is the incredulous gaze of ‘Those Who See’ who attentively observe the attempt to escape from hell, and the finally astonished ‘The Drowned Ones’ eternally condemned to drowning, before or after the fall – which differs in no way.
The artworks are also inspired by the Japanese aesthetic of butoh dance, incorporating the colors black, red, and white once again, elements that share the organicity of life and death. Death is represented by the white of dance or by the life within the crystal-clear lake of Nirvana, while darkness symbolizes the absence of consciousness, and red represents the blood that keeps them alive in death – circular semiotic contradictions of eternity.
Organicity is also present in the choice of materials – the spontaneity of clay on the performer’s body, reacting to their movements, and the free-spirited nature of charcoal that permeates their artworks and the space on reclaimed wood – materials undergoing transformation.
The pixelated printed flower, an excerpt rescued from one of their works, and the sketches for their new residency are messages that we have chosen to leave – just like the hands that reappear in the details of the video frames, deliberately cut and installed, pointing towards a new path.
The result of the residency is the very open flow itself, like an empathetic dialogue. From it, unfoldings and ideas emerge like threads that reach out into the future. A game, a dance.
We choose to believe that yes, we all live connected by a fragile thread of existence. A fabric composed of our everyday lives, collectively woven, whose paths point in different directions – because choices are individual and form the richest foundation of the human structure. We choose to believe that even those who live in their individual hell can recognize the light, the capacity to redefine their own lives.
Finally, we choose to understand that this entire story shows us only one thing – and the most important of all: that we will never reach anywhere as long as humanity persists in selfishness and individualism – and we sincerely hope to believe that there is still time to reconsider life in society.
Curator & Artistic Coordinator of the residency
“The Spider’s Thread” – A tale by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (1918)
Kandata, a man condemned to hell, lived in a lake of blood alongside other sinners. However, in his life, he was observed by Buddha when he spared the life of a spider, going against his instinct to kill. Buddha, observing from the crystal-clear lake of Nirvana, decided to give him a second chance and cast a spider’s thread for him to escape hell. As he ascended, the others also followed him, seeking their own salvation. However, upon realizing that he was being pursued by others desperate to escape eternal punishment, Kandata, driven by selfishness and survival instinct, pushed them away, causing the thread to break and everyone to fall. Buddha lamented that Kandata had lost the opportunity to save himself and help others, highlighting the protagonist’s selfish choice, which endangered not only his own life but also the community as a whole.
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“DANCING WHILE THE WORLD FALLS” JFBrittes
Artist Residency June – July 2023
Espirito Mundo Asbl
Aline Yasmin – Curatorship and artistic coordination
Renzo Dalvi – Production and technical support
Alex Cepile – Video, soundtrack, and installation support
Andreia Morado – Video installation performance
Caterina Campo – Opening event performance
Juçara Brittes – Logistic support
The residence space is supported by the municipality of Molenbeek as part of the “Autour du Parc de l’Ouest” Molenwest Sustainable Neighborhood Contract.