The transforming power of arts through the eyes of our collaborators
"Art transforms our outlook."
Q&A with Natália Mallo
“You see things differently, you break free from rules on how you see and understand everything.”
You touch on delicate subjects that are just starting to be debated in Brazil, like the dance spectacle with ballet dancer Marc Brew who performs in his wheelchair, for example. How has the public reaction been so far?
We notice a significant transformation in our audience's outlook through their feedback. I think that disability still generates a lot of prejudice, a lot of rejection. It’s the biggest minority, isn’t it? – I read that 10% of the population has some kind of disability. And where are these people? Where are the people in wheelchairs? It gives the impression that there isn’t any, doesn’t it? But it’s because they don’t have access, and it starts in the architecture, on the ramp, in the street… From the car, the entrance in the car, getting down, getting to places, in the bathroom… there are always barriers. Starting from physical ones. But there is still the mentality barrier, the terminology, and how people refer to it, they are still taboo subjects. When people say Marc Brew's is a story of overcoming, I disagree. He is an artist, he is not overcoming anything. He is being an artist, which he already was before being in a wheelchair and keeps on being. I feel the spectacle was a "before and after" for people, because they started seeing things in a different way.
You have another project that is part of Transform which is an adaptation of a play by Jo Clifford that promotes a reflection on being transgender from a Christian perspective. What exactly made you want to adapt it?
I saw her play in Scotland, invited by the British Council and I was completely shocked, in awe, in love with the work. It really touched me, it was kind of a mystical experience and at the same time a punch on the stomach regarding gender issues, women’s oppression, the spiritual life matter – what is to have a spiritual life today, where is humanity when it is about seeing a different "other"? I got out of the play feeling rather crazy, thinking I needed to take this to Brazil. We were introduced that night, and I said to her how in love I was with her work and that I wanted that script. She took it out of her pocket immediately and gave it to me. “Take it”, she said. On the same night I went to the hotel and wrote the first version. I really wanted to set up this play in Brazil, in the country where most trans people are murdered in the world, and at the same time it’s the country where the word ‘transsexual’ is most googled in the world, so this work is really necessary.
How do you see the issue of Human Rights related to the LGBT movement in Brazil nowadays?
Well, in Brazil it is difficult, it’s rather backwards. There isn’t a law about gender identity, it is interesting because in a way there is this hyper visibility of the matter, but there is a social invisibility of public policies. We are still crawling. I think the City Council of São Paulo advanced a little bit, with the trans citizenship, the gay pride this year was addressing this, but I see a very retrograde Brazil, very slow. Gender identity seems so basic to me, however there isn’t a law that punishes trans phobia. There are so many murderers, it’s obvious that the public policies should answer to that and they are not doing so. It’s a world which until I involved myself with this project I didn’t know anything about. We have extremely high suicide rates, people are murdered or kill themselves. There isn’t work, education, nothing. It’s a social issue that needs to be looked into.
How did your work benefit from the exchange program with the United Kingdom?
Well, massively! For me it’s a "before and after" time in my life. I had multiple artistic anxieties and things I wanted to do and I couldn’t find enough of space or partnerships. There I saw works and met artists that spoke directly with me, total identification, I found myself completely. It was very genuine in its entirety and truthful. Projects have been developing, with very powerful work and great feedback.
And what were your contributions in this exchange?
My work brought a reference offer to them, different ways to create, other times. I think I bring something good because I cross multiple art forms, so if I do a dance spectacle, it also has live music, a literature dialogue, it’s not just dance on its own, there are speeches, a narrative text, it can almost be seen as a play. If I do a play it dialogues with the installation, with performance, with visual arts. I think this interdisciplinary aspect adds a lot into the projects.
Was there a moment or a situation during the projects that moved or impressed you the most?
I think that everything marked me a lot, but the initial impact, of the first contact with Jo, everything changed for me in that moment. And this is beautiful, isn’t it? As an audience, you watch something and end up transformed, thinking "I have to do something with that."
How was this experience transforming for you?
For me it was really transforming in every way, in my artistic practice but also on my way of thinking about production and articulation, how to produce an event, the standards, the procedures, the care with communication, the consistency. Transform brings you courage, a certain audacity of betting in projects that may be controversial and touch on delicate social questions. More often than not, most organisations retreat, but British Council doesn’t, it’s quite the opposite. The project is bringing a certain issue? Let’s go! Let’s point out that issue, with care, with artistic excellence and quality. Everything is very well done and very well communicated. It was an essential supporter for me.
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