The Brazilian Clarissa Tossin is one of the highlights of the Discoveries sector of Art Basel Hong Kong, being represented by the gallery Commonwealth and Council, based in Los Angeles, she introduces a new line of work. In 2018, Tossin had already exhibited in the Asian city, invited to display the video work Ch’u Mayaa (2017) at the Emerald City show at the K11 Art Foundation.
The artist spoke to ARTE!Brasileiros about the work she presents at ABHK 2019:
A!B: How did Octavia Butler’s book inspire you in these works for Basel Art HK?
Clarissa Tossin: The works presented at Art Basel Hong Kong are part of a larger work that emerged from my interest in the use of indigenous Amazonian traditions by Octavia E. Butler in her science fiction trilogy Xenogenesis (1987-89), where the Amazon became makes the site for a new civilization of human-alien hybrids, the Oankali, after the Earth’s self-inflicted ecological collapse. I love the Ooloi figure in the Butler series, they are the third indeterminate sex of Oankali who, in my opinion, incorporate certain characteristics of a native shaman, given their ability to store all the genetic information they acquire inside their bodies by ingestion of samples. The fact that Ooloi “ingests” samples of our living world to understand / decode it provides a connection to Anthropophagy, about cannibalizing culture as a survival strategy. I do not think the Anthropophagic Manifesto was one of Butler’s references but it was one of the links I made. I was also interested in the fact that the protagonist of the trilogy, Lilith, incorporate characteristics of an Amazon warrior (Icamiabas!). He could not stop thinking of her in a marajoara thong. These transpositions of my imagination created a particular image of the Amazon while I was reading Butler’s trilogy.
A!B: How did your gaze turn to the Amazon?
The rainforest of the Amazon is repeated in my work as a particularly rich place to investigate the implications of commodity chains of global capitalism and thus a perpetuation of the colonial forces represented in the environment, cultures and peoples of the region. But the Amazon is the repressed side of the narratives of Brazilian modernity that portray the capital of Brazil ahead and in the center. Growing up in Brasilia instigated my interest in counter-narratives about the built environment, and grounded earlier work on the Amazon, which focused on the legacy of extractive industries (incursions) and their architectural shifts in the forest, such as the Ford Company villages Fordlandia and Belterra.
A!B: What is the connection of your work with the thoughts of the great nations about the environment today?
The works of Art Basel HK address the brand left by the consumer society in Earth’s geological sedimentation as an alert for a collective behavioral change that recognizes that humans are part of nature and that we must work against the passivity that surrounds this issue.
I believe part of this space obsession comes from our anxiety about the potentially catastrophic results of global warming on Earth, and the other part is just the culture of fear at stake to justify the creation of an interplanetary industry that can eventually use money and public resources. Art Basel HK’s work focuses on the space race for Mars as an illusory way of addressing current environmental issues.