Elisabete Finger is a choreographer and performer. She thinks that our body is a huge source of inspiration and art, a mix of powerful elements. In her pieces, Elisabete highlights many important concepts of life that can belong to different fields of our existence. In addition, she believes that the relationship between humanity and nature is something really complex and fascinating: nature can be wiser and more resilient than us.
Hello Elisabete, tell me something about yourself. When did you realize that art was your way? How was this passion born?
I’m Elisabete Finger, I’m a performer and a choreographer. I was born in southern Brazil, in a city called Foz do Iguaçu, famous for its big waterfalls. My family moved there in the 80s for the construction of Itaipu – a very big hydroelectric plant. I was born in the plant hospital, to a mother who used to work in a regional bank, and to a father who worked as a computer programmer for Itaipu. So… nothing to do with art. I can’t really explain why, but since I was a child I was very interested in movement, and in the creation and composition of movements. I took some ballet classes and other dances, but I didn’t have a formal dance education. We moved a lot because of my father’s job, and only later, when I was already 17 years old, I started a real dance school. But at that time I couldn’t understand dance as a “profession”. I was very young and entered university to study law. I got my Bachelor degree in law, but as soon as I graduated I completely gave up my career, and entered the field of dance. At that time I was living in Curitiba (another city in southern Brazil) and I had the chance to participate in a very special program for the performing arts – Casa Hoffmann, run by Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner, two Brazilian choreographers based in NYC. After 1 year at Casa Hoffmann I realized I am interested not only in movement, but above all in the creation of situations in which the body is the protagonist. I was interested in investigating an art form that either comes from the body or passes through it somehow. An art form that could bring out another logic, less rational and more sensitive, more sensorial.
After this experience at Casa Hoffmann I moved to France, and spent two years at the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine D’Angers, taking part in a project for young choreographers called “Essais”. And later, I went to Berlin to take part in a MA program called “SODA” (at HZT/UdK). I’ve lived in Berlin for almost 4 years, studying, working, and collaborating with different artists. I came back to Brazil (to São Paulo) in 2013, when my daughter was born.
“I think my whole work is based on “matter”, on the qualities and properties of the body as matter”
Art is a mix of emotions and can be expressed in many ways. You are a choreographer so you express yourself through your body, aren’t you?
I think all my work is based on “matter”, on the qualities and properties of the body as matter. I consider Amarelo (“Yellow”, solo dance, France/Brazil, 2007), my first important creation. I had already made some pieces before this, but with this particular research I was able to communicate to myself and to others “what is this that I’m doing”, what I’m looking for, what moves me. In Amarelo I worked with a big formless dough – a mixture of flour, oil and water – and this dough taught me a lot about matter, about the materiality of things, and about the body as matter. Understanding the body as matter means understanding it as flesh, bones, liquids, skin, hair, holes. A body-matter has properties as weight, density, temperature, volume, shape, color, smell, and shares these properties with other matters in the world. This body relates to others – either people or things – through touch. It is a porous body that can cross and be crossed by the other. If I can understand myself as a matter, I can build up other associations with other matters, which are more horizontal, more creative, more critical. And I can open up some space to other logics to come: maybe erotic, disturbing, enchanting ones. This is pretty much the basis of my work for the following pieces.
O. (solo performance, Berlin, 2011) is a very “materialistic” and “erotic” piece, in which we can see different matters/things crossing, rubbing, touching each other. Different matters (an egg, a body, hair, fur, plastic, liquids) that enter and exit from different holes. Even the name of the piece is a hole, it is the shape that the mouth takes to pronounce it: “o”
BURACO (“Hole”, group performance, Berlin/São Paulo, 2013) is the following piece, and it came from the desire to share other possible relational logics with children as well, creating a space dedicated to a sensory and sensitive adventure. It explores the possibilities of being and moving a body-matter in contact/collision with other matters. A hole represents the relationship between inside and outside, between different matters, different bodies. In this piece, the holes are in motion, between the movements, between the choreographic parts. Holes are empty spaces to look through, passages to slide into, they are gates to other worlds.
Most of the time women are the protagonists of your works. Why? What is the message you want to convey to the audience?
“Women are the protagonists”. I think that is true in most of my recent pieces, and I think it was because of our context, our common need to be united as women to build up other realities. Making pieces where we can build other discourses, where we can discuss, research, invent new ways of being women in this world. We can do it together, strengthening each other. And it seems that it is time to be the protagonists of our own speech, the protagonists of our choices, in life, on the stage, on the screen, or wherever the artwork takes place.
“I think the body itself seems to be still something very unknown. We have, we carry, we wear, we feed our bodies, but we rarely “are” our bodies”
In your works you mix together “nature”, using plants and vegetation, and the “human body” in all its naturalness. Do you think there is a deep connection between nature and naked bodies?
I think our relationship with nature is much more complex. We are not detached from nature. But we take this detached position and assume the role of those who have to “take care of nature”, and we manage to synthesize “nature” in a simple vase of ferns hanging in the living room. We make the fern a decorative piece, ignoring the fact that this plant is 335 million years old. It is much older and probably much wiser than us. From wild to domestic - we are good at making this shift. With plants, with people, with bodies, with women. But sometimes, unexpectedly, the roots can go beyond the order, the space, the shape that has been imposed on them. The fern can break the vase, and show its wild strength. So does the body.
Your “Monstra” exhibited in Malmö is very interesting. Tell me something about it.
MONSTRA (group performance, São Paulo, 2017) is a collaboration with visual artist Manuela Eichner and some dancers: Danielli Mendes, Kitty Katt, Josefa Pereira, Patricia Bergantin, Mariana Costa. It is a choreographic collage for people and plants. The piece is performed by 5 women and 7 plants. MONSTRA is at the same time a very organic and very artificial piece, very domestic and very wild, classic and absurd. In the meeting of these contrasts, many of our cultures arbitrary ideas about human position in relation to nature and acceptable female behavior are manifested and challenged.
You are also a professor. Actually you teach the discipline of “Kundalini”. What is it? Is “Kundalini” somehow related to your art?
Yes, I’m also a professor. I teach Kundalini Yoga. “Kundalini” refers to a spiral form of energy, often associated with a snake, which is said to be asleep and coiled at the base of the spine. "Kundalini Yoga" – is known as “yoga of consciousness”. It is an intense and powerful physical practice that combines movement, breathing, mantras and meditations, leading us, as practitioners, to strong transformations. My studies in Kundalini are part of a constant search for other logics, other states of consciousness, other structures and patterns of movement, other ways of understanding and organizing the body. All that is also the basis of my creative process in art. And teaching is such an amazing way to learn…
In your opinion, why does nudity continue to be a kind of taboo in a society like ours that considers itself advanced?
I think the body itself seems to be still something very unknown. We have, we carry, we wear, we feed our bodies, but we rarely “are” our bodies. When we realize how complex and beautiful it is “to be a body”, as specific as each body is, maybe we can build more tolerant and generous positions towards others. Then we can probably see a naked body with much more respect, rather than with fear or judgement. Naked bodies depicted in art are just as relevant choices as those dressed. The naked body is not alone, it’s part of an artwork, it has a context behind and around it.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself and your art in 10 years?
It sounds like a very challenging question now.
Someone said something interesting about the phenomena of many old photos published on social media since the beginning of the Quarantine: maybe, given the impossibility of looking to the future, it is better to look to the past. Maybe it’s time to look back, carefully, to look at everything we have produced and do a big overhaul, so that we can make real choices about what we want to keep and what we no longer need.
Maybe everything I’ve written to you here is about the past. Maybe it is about a world that no longer exists. New challenges, new configurations, new questions, new points of view are coming…
So for the present-future I’m thinking about the past, about my own revision, as an artist, and as a person in this world.
“We can do it together, strengthening each other. And it seems that it is time to be the protagonists of our own speech, the protagonists of our choices, in life, on the stage, on the screen, or wherever the artwork takes place”
Interview & Article by
Amarelo (Yellow) – by Alessandra Haro
O. – by Hagolani
BURACO (Hole) – by Renato Mangolin
MONSTRA – by Debby Gram and Alex Takaki
Kundalini Portrait – Debby Gram and Manuela Eichner