Awarded artists takeover 2022: with UÝRA

Welcome to PIPA 2022 Awarded Artists Takeover! Until October 29th, the artists “open the doors of their studios” to the virtual audience of PIPA Prize, with videos, photos, and texts exclusively prepared for the takeover. Each week, one artist presents their work. From October 17th to 22nd, UÝRA talks about her trajectory in the artistic world, what she has produced, in addition to presenting recent works.

In this 13th edition, PIPA Prize continues a format iniciated last year. It is aimed to gather artists who had their first exhibition no more than fifteen years ago. The focus of PIPA 2022 is to encourage artists at the beginning of their careers who develop a differentiated production. The material below is available in a reduced version also on the Prize’s social networks. Keep an eye out and follow us on the InstagramTwitter and Facebook platforms.

And remember that the Awarded Artists are also ehibiting works at Paço Imperial, in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition is open until October 29th. It will be a pleasure to receive you there!

Day 01:

Santarém, Brazil, 1991
Lives and works in Manaus, Brazil

PIPA Prize 2022 nominee

Emerson, 30, is indigenous and two spirits (trans). Graduated in Biology, with a Masters Degree in Ecology, she works as a visual artist, art educator and researcher. Lives in Manaus (AM), industrial territory in the middle of the Forest, where she transforms herself to become Uýra, a Walking Tree. Having her body as medium, she tells stories from different Natures through photo performance. From the City-Forest landscape, she’s interested in alive systems and its violations, and also in memory and indigenous diasporas. She was part of the Arte Pará Salon (2019), the exhibition for the EDP das Artes Awards, Tomie Ohtake (2020), 34a Bienal de São Paulo (2021), and exhibitions at institutions from Austria, Italy, San Francisco, Netherlands, France and in 2022 will take part at Manisfesta! (nomade biennial from Europe), and will present two solo shows, at Museu de Arte do Rio – MAR and Museu de Arte Moderna – MAM Rio.

Video produced by Do Rio Filmes exclusively for PIPA 2022:

Day 02:

On the second day of the Takeover, Uýra selects images from the series “Dossel”, which is currently on display at the PIPA 2022 Prize Awarded Artists exhibition, at Paço Imperial.

The work consists of a set of photographs printed on fabric with images of the ‘Dossel’, the part of the forest that corresponds to the canopy of the trees. In this high part of the forest, according to Uýra, most of the animals of the forest live. Therefore, she decides to simulate the Canopy in the gallery of the Paço Imperial, to show us a little-seen/known fauna and thus “contradict colonial narratives on the natural history of the Amazon fauna”.

See below images from the series, in which she painted silhouettes of animals that can be imagined on the tops of trees.

Uýra, Bichos Dossel, 2022, printing and acrylic ink on fabric, charcoal, printing on paper, PVA glue

Day 03:

Read the conversation between Luiz Camillo Osorio and Uýra:

LCO – Uýra, how did you become an artist and a photographer? Did it happen during your education as a biologist, environmentalist, and art educator? What was this process like?

Uýra – No living thing on this world dwells in isolation – and this doesn’t depend on time and space. 

Even under deep solitude within a bedroom, the wind blows and brings us memories.
To the cell, its organs are what living beings and natural phenomena are to the planet: indissociable, codependent, and mutually affectable. That’s how I like to think of the phases of our human lives, interconnected by steps/times that build us; where each way, be it intentional or accidental, within the good and bad continuum, affects what we do and how we conceive the world.

I have decided not to split my life anymore: saying in which year I start being an artist, in which year I become a biologist or an educator. If in 2013 I got my biologist degree, I had already been studying life since I was 4, when I saw a sloth swim through the trees (that was astonishing). In 2016 I received my Master’s degree in Amazon Ecology – my house, immersed in which I was raised feeling the pulse of the flood. If these educational landmarks happen, it’s because they come from somewhere, and that’s Life. Academic knowledge is as valuable as the traditional/experiential one, but the former ignores the latter, in spite of stemming from it. They make up quite a couple, but these times have been putting them to fight each other. With my art and path, I insist they make up.

As an Indigenous person, I am also a scientist, and through Art I tell natural stories. I have already told many of them in scientific articles, to foreigners – a lot of numbers and reasoning. I have learned they are not enough for me. Nowadays I gather these codes and also tell stories to my people, through the emotion of imagining made possible by Art, using paint and leaves as arrows. The aim? The imagery of the worlds, and mine – deeply sickened. The world of reason is limited and authoritarian, but is always mistaken. Its cousin, the world of certainties, has forgotten how beneficial doubt is. The world of emotion, on the other hand, is silent within the void of little value. How can we narrate life without emotion? How can we ask “Hey, let’s value the forests” without making others feel this value? And who taught me this was Education, sailing to create art with young people from Japurá, Amanã, Negro, Solimões, Mariepauá, Aripuanã, and many other riverbanks. Places where feasible Art, with its unique value, is the one built through play, feet on the ground, sewing the material (leaves, seeds, earth…) and the immaterial (stories, beliefs, Encantados…) that come from Life’s very yard.

Back in the same 2016 I also saw myself as what I already was, an artist – nourished back by experiences in Educational Art. I kept writing about living things, while also becoming one of them. It wasn’t a matter of researcher vs. object anymore. It was a fusion. A study on colors, behaviors, songs, and stories painted/glued onto the body.

Uýra does not come only from the Woods, she dwells in and also is the city.
Since 2014 I have learned a lot from movements of people who, just like me, are excluded from society. I effectively start seeing in my neighborhood and in my nation, Brazil, the acts of violence, erasures, lies, and inequalities – all the open wounds of European colonialism. In addition to this, I also get stronger through the stories of resurrections and resistances throughout Indigenous, Black, LGTBQI+, Northern and Northeastern parts of Brazil. Then, besides mixing pieces of knowledge, I sought stories of animals and plants, inspirations to us. The world was and still is too anthropocentric, ruled by a small and proudhearted group of human beings: corporations belonging to white, cisgender, heterosexual, hypocritical, narrow-minded men. Unfortunately, we have already seen how the planet ended up. In this context, metaphors that unite the worlds of more diverse humans and other creatures start emerging from my works, also resignifying the layers that these men created for me: racial (which comes first), social, territorial, sexual, and spiritual – all in this huge and provocative city-forest landscape.

Uýra, which comes from the ancient Tupi for “flying animal”, is also a plant.
She is Paxiubinha’s goddaughter (“the walking tree”) – that’s why she has been walking through vast worlds and sewing together all phases of my life. She is each part because she is the whole.
She is the child, the biologist, the artist, the educator – at last, she is me.

LCO – We all know how hard living in this Amazonian context has been these past years, once extractive voracity has been out of control. In this aspect, being an active environmentalist and art educator seems key to me. However, your work, especially after you attended the São Paulo Biennial and now after you’ve won the PIPA Prize, has received great visibility. How do you see this moment and this resistance from the Amazon?

Uýra – I could pride myself on being invited to Biennials and winning prizes, such as PIPA’s, but I can’t and I won’t. I don’t walk alone, my joy only makes sense in plural form. What these places awaken within me are debates. “Where are your relatives?”, “Where are the Northern artists?”, “Why only this by people from the outskirts?” (when they are present), “Weren’t fags, trans and dykes invited?” These are questions that cross these recently gained accesses – which are not the old hegemonic “privileges”.

I believe only through honest and respectful dialogue we can build other worlds. My works are an invitation to dialogue: they introduce the violence, beauty, and struggles of my territory so that Brazil and the worlds really know the Amazons. For centuries, white men have been breaking into our territories and lives with absolutely no dialogue: only stealing, killing, enslaving, and erasing us. I could refuse to take part in a dialogue, as I have already done. I could simply want revenge, as I have already done. I insist on a conversation, but not with the aim of pacifying these worlds. Violence and hopelessness are already too deeply installed in their structures.  We can already feel the sky touching our heads, while corporations mask the climate crisis and nations sleep at night believing to live in a racial democracy. It’s another world we need, and it cannot be managed by the same people as always. Art helps us imagine – and that is very powerful.

Let’s think: the world has more ears than mouths. Even so, we just talk and talk and talk. We forget about the ears, even though they are attached to us. And I will tell you who are those who speak: their voice comes from places of power, it is the small group of mouths we have already talked about (belonging to the white and narrow-minded patriarchy). So other human mouths must speak, and they are Indigenous, Black, Trans, Amazonian and so many others from so many other people whose experiences can be the foundation for another world. But people are only part of the planet – and we have seen that listening just to (part of) a species has also caused irreversible political, environmental, sociocultural, and spiritual crises. We must listen to more than just ourselves. Have you ever learned something from another animal? Have you felt different from just being with a tree? Exactly! And the other creatures outnumber us in the world, they live their own lives, each one in their own unique way, and they have so much to teach us: either through a contact that reminds us of ourselves or the experience that lets us imagine what other worlds we can be. My Elementar series tells some of these stories: aquatic plants, which in the hard times of river flood go to sleep and stay underwater for about 4 or 5 months – this work, “A Flora D’Água”, shows plants that teach us resting, the necessary spiritual retreat. In another work, “Rio Negro”, the mystery of this river is claimed, the river’s right not to be exploited is affectionately remembered – this emotion which is strength in face of the world’s extractivism. In “A Mata Te Se Come”, the forest and I talk about food, about how Amazon trees grow effusively and ancestrally on soils with little nutrients – they generate so much organic matter that all of this decomposes at their feet and is reabsorbed by them, by all the community – they seek strength in themselves to keep living, they feed themselves. How many times have we, humans, needed to do that? A village or quilombo, for example, exists and maintains itself because they feed themselves. Definitively, another way, another world will only be possible when we listen to what those with other voices have to say. We need Opportunities.

“Decolonization” or “countercolonization” are not my thing. It is too tiring and time-consuming. It is much more powerful, beautiful, and possible in this time to cultivate and reforest our worlds. To reclaim and strengthen our self-esteem, our knowledge, and values, between and to our own kind – all of this is already in our yard because it’s ancestral.

We, Indigenous and other Amazonian peoples, need dialogue with the big worlds to assure the protection of the forests and ecologies we live in; we need dialogue to show ourselves worthily, first-hand, beyond racist stereotypes that exist about us; it is through these dialogues that we also access these spaces with economic and symbolic value, from where we are historically excluded; it is through these dialogues that we promote ancient cures which are deeply present now, where we mark out our wisdom, cultures and values. We carry endless voices, many of which aren’t human.

A support material I recommend is this interview on Quarta Parede, given to the artist Elilson: 

Day 04:

On the fourth day of the Takeover, Uyra shares the trailer for the documentary that was released on October 15, “UÝRA – A Retomada da Floresta”, directed by Juliana Curi. In the film, the artist talks about her relationship with the city of Manaus and also about the creation of Uyra, whose crossing of nature and political issues led her to narrate stories of the forest via photo performances and performances.

Watch the trailer below and see more information about the film on this link.

The main work technique of Uýra, visual artist, art educator and researcher, is performance. In the photographs, Uýra, the Walking Tree, uses the body as a support to convey stories and thoughts about the Amazon rainforest.

See some series of photographs in which she embodies indigenous and gender issues, as well as criticisms of the colonial vision of nature.

Day 06:

Read the critical texts by Keila Sankofa about Uyra’s work:

Among all things sacred, among all things that move and breathe, the forest is the greatest good which cannot defend itself, nor speak, nor walk. But within it, there are people who, led by their spirituality, by their ancestrality, collective these voices and spread the urgency screamed by the forest. This is how I see Uyra Sodoma, an insurgent voice in the Amazon. When I think about the Amazon, I’m not talking about that traditional satellite image, the green forest, and interwoven rivers. I’m also talking about the concrete, the crossroads between the bright green and the wooden bridge on wet alleys.

I must confess that structuring this text made me uneasy, for pointing out analytical matters about Uyra’s work, or about what I feel when I resist with her, is beyond the participant observation. I see countless similarities between my and Emerson Uyra’s existence, as I prefer to call her; and they are rooted in the recognition of the streets, of this Amazon’s outskirts that few people are used to seeing, without forgetting the greatness of its waters, the silence of the eldest, the hope of the children.

Understanding our territoriality from the perspective of art production is the core of resistance, and is a very dear matter to us who have always dwelt in scarcity. Every Black and Native being, recognizing themselves as keepers of ancestral technology, which sustains our lives, which does not let the sky fall, as Kopenawa darkened to us, is a living agent in this fabric which is daily existence.

Manaus is a watery city, with a population of over 2 million people, whose vast majority descends from Native peoples which are rarely recovered, due to lack of knowledge of their own history or to shame. Around here there is a great number of alleys, lanes, melanin, good food, warm sun, but there is also quite a lot of colonial perversity. Silencing is one of them, which erases not only the people and their cultures but also numbs the reality about their recent past.

This centuries-old discontinuity is directly opposite to the production of artists like Uyra, who, crossed by the need of standing their ground and resisting, come to show us that a close look at reality is the seed of healing, planted today with the purpose of springing up tomorrow. Under this perspective and beyond the performance, the spread and strengthening of Native and Riverside youth’s esteem through Art-Education work show that she is both the walking tree and a wise elder who, at the riverbank, starts narrating the origin of the world, of the dreams, of the fire.

“The outskirts of the Amazon are like Native villages”. I have already heard this sentence spoken by Emerson, and when I hear it I hear her voice, I feel her eyes and a legion’s strength that comes through Uyra. I recognize a reincorporation of entities, animals, and plants, materialized as existence, not as representation. This being that was born in the city and in the forest, that is an animal and a plant, is human. Emerson lends her body to dwell together with tens of existences. This way, one can easily notice that Uyra is an enchanted being who dances through the many worlds.

Beyond her journey in the art field, Emerson Uyra, a hybrid being in herself, has studied lizards and toads. Many consider them cold-blooded animals, but they actually have the ability to adapt to the temperature of the environment. Adapting to exist, using a memory of the energy that has already been lived. I see this in Uyra’s work, be it a picture, a movement or the expressiveness aimed at the audience, always relying on the truth that is felt, noticed, of which she has been imbued.

There are small cracks on the concrete walls of our Manaus, and she acknowledges these cracks as possibilities for fertilizing experiences. Her desire to exist makes this leafy tree move through the world, carrying the blood that runs off the pavement. Being born and reborn in many ways is something that Uyra flawlessly knows how to do. Just like no human being is the same, no plant or animal shall be, and she takes whatever form she needs to question particular interpretations of what nature is and what we are doing to the future.

Uyra carries the sensitivity of narrating the broad existence of the fauna, the flora, and the shapes these beings carry within themselves. The body that is followed by ancestors, enchanted beings, Inkisses, Orixás, and various spirits aknowledges in Uyra a voice, which is allowed so that the passage may exist, changing the ground it touches.

Reflection is the starting point, but this can only accurately happen if dialog exists, the sensitive listening of all creatures. My affective memory overflows with joy when I admire Uyra’s interrogations in face of the official science and how it handles these beings. Transformation demands the acknowledgment of the spaces one must and needs to occupy, be it slowly, silently, or forcefully, breaking into it. Uyra knows this and many times takes the shape of weed to occupy and reclaim, and, going further, she strengthens her own peers, so that they may be equally aware of their claim.

This is how I weave my words to express the impact Emerson’s work causes not only upon me but also upon an entire generation, because we are never alone, we are always together, be it in the alley, in the nightlife, in the Quilombo or the indigenous village. I believe Uyra is more than an image, she is a sound, a voice that surrounds us, resonates messages, and walks wherever it is needed.


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