There is a spiritual dimension to my work that is part of my life, and I am no longer afraid to state it.Mariana
I’ve asked visual artist and Sound Therapist Mariana Marcassa to share her thoughts about her work and life since the outbreak.
Where on Earth?
Where were you when this all started?
— I was in Brazil at the end of 2019 to take care of personal and family issues. Although challenging, this was a healing journey for me (and I hope for my family too).
When I came back to Montreal in February, I felt exhausted. Covid was already frighteningly manifesting in China and Italy. But the global alert situation took time to be understood by my body.
However, when it started here, I felt a deep gratitude for being in a privileged situation and having the option to stay home in Montreal.
How has this challenging time affected your daily life?
- Change of habits
- Connectivity and relationships
- Freedom and mobility
— With the world in slow motion, silence in the city, no places to go, no commitments to fulfill: I start to hear what the body needs at that moment. I realize the urgency to rest, making room for listening and silence.
From the point of view of a person who comes from Brazil, to be in Canada is a privilege that I must honour and be grateful for.
It has not been easy to follow the political and economic chaos of my country from afar. Millions of people without any government support, many of them living in favelas massacred by racial and police violence. Friends in precarious situations of life.
Although my family is not rich, they are in a relatively safe situation. With this in mind, I allowed myself to rest. This was the beginning of my quarantine: silencing, resting, making room for affects to be heard.
When silence happens, we start to hear the noises, all kinds of noises, including those of the body.
And my body was very sore — I felt the pain as a psychosomatic symptom of the stresses I went through in the last three years, and especially during the last six months (before Covid).
So I decided to start taking care of my body and « the wounds » that were open.
Through baths with herbs and essential oils, some reading — That made me feel alive — Meditation and spiritual practices, avoiding social media and online meetings as much as possible — Space was made available for an emptying.
Emptying is necessary to any process of creation.
Emptying yet Not Alone
I allowed the emptiness to take place and the laziness to express itself. I became slow…
With the slowness, I gradually felt lots of energy, along with the calling to offer support to those in need. I opened online sessions, through conscious donations and even free sessions, which has been providing me some fruitful encounters.
I haven’t been alone.
I have been close to a few friends in the city parks, and with many others in online meetings. It has been an adventure of constant listening and mutual-care.
My friend Catharine Cary, with whom I have been dreaming and creating a new project, has a beautiful gesture of generosity, that reminds me of my childhood in the countryside and the way my family relates to people: We ride bikes and wave bonjour to strangers.
We spread contagious smiles and laughs, we prepare cakes and breads and we deliver them at the door of friends, neighbours and acquaintances — Either because we want to thank them for the help we received from them, or for the sheer pleasure of playing a smile on someone!
And of course, these gestures generate others and we receive a lot in return. We call it generous-economy. All of this has been the germinator for an exciting and new project that is coming soon! Another friend, Lucy Wheeler is also part of this collective dreaming.
Hopes & Fears
Tell us about the bright side, what are your silver linings?
— So, I have opened up space to listen, rest, silence, sing and be lazy. Making room for the emptiness to germinate the new.
After a month, my body was already full of multiple and collective germinations. I have been dreaming with others and with otherness. And, of course, sound and healing take places in this new dream.
There is also a new dimension in my life at this moment: the studies of Regenerative Design, Permaculture, Agroforestry, Eco-villages.
In short, other ways of living that take into account all of us as « active agents of change in the redesign of the human impact on Earth, from being exploitative, destructive and degenerative, to being restorative, healing and regenerative. » — Daniel Wahl
I am trying to integrate this redesign of the human impact on Earth into my artistic and therapeutic practices. This is a job for the rest of my life. I am only at the beginning, and I feel the need to start small and humble.
What about the more painful side?
— Of course life has not always been as colourful as a rainbow.
There are moments where I feel hopeless, afraid and upset, for personal and social reasons. Although there’s so much injustice and sadness in Brazil and in the world, I should say it has been powerful to follow and support the anti-racist and anti-fascist resistance movements.
It has also been an important time to rethink my privileges. May this gesture of rethinking generate actions into my life.
What are the impacts on your creative practice since the outbreak?
- Inspiration (lack or boost)
- Process & Materials
— Yes, I must say that this period has been important and fruitful for me. Despite my slowness, so much has happened.
First, I have been recreating my sessions for an online platform. It’s not easy when it comes to sound! I am also recording Sound Journeys to provide this experience to the public every full moon, as I used to offer for groups in Montreal before Covid-19.
All this movement makes me recreate parts of and discover other dimensions of my work. I have been working mainly with sound meditation and visualization through online meetings, holding the space to talk, listen and elaborate.
The Spiritual Dimension
There is a spiritual dimension to my work that I was afraid to affirm, because it can be very poorly understood.
But it exists and it is precious to me, as I have a spiritual practice, that I learned from my family and Brazilian culture, which I am also expanding through friends and studies.
This is part of my life, it resonates in my artistic and therapeutic practices, and I am no longer afraid to state it.
Singing to Animals
Second, I also decided to affirm my need to be surrounded by nature. I have a need to smell trees, take care of plants, grow food and get my hands dirty.
I grew up between a farm and a small town. My father had a simple farm producing milk.
Surrounded by cows, bulls, two horses and many birds and wild animals, I learned to call and sing to animals as a game, to make my everyday life happier. It was a very difficult phase of our lives but it seems that my voice and sound therapy experimentation started back there!
We Are The Greenhouse
Along with these two states — The necessity to be surrounded by nature and the spiritual dimension of my practice — An encounter happens: a new project from the artists and practitioners Catharine Cary, Lucinda Wheeler and I is germinating.
We Are The Greenhouse is a collaborative project creating an urban jungle, a loft full of light and greens with nests for rest, regeneration with sound, movement and growing plants, with an experiment of talking with fermentation.
This project is especially aimed at working within Covid times, preparing for what is to come. When winter arrives in Montreal, people will be confined once more.
We Are The Greenhouse allows for an opening up, both in the physical and online spaces. Nests come forth for rest or work as needed, all at physical distancing and living anew in Covid times.
We Are The Greenhouse germinates, generates, pollinates with a generosity of gifting. This is also the beginning of an experiment with the fields of regeneration and permaculture. We hope to connect with the ecological and solidarity movements that already exist in Montreal.
Do you draw the line between art, beauty, aesthetics, all that jazz?
— Since 2017, I have been developing a somatic practice that not only opens a new path to my artistic trajectory, but also connects my performance practice with the clinical issues I have been exploring for many years.
In addition, it is with this somatic practice that I have found the necessary conditions to affirm what I most love in art: its therapeutic dimension.
Art and Clinic
My work happens in the company of Demetrio Stratos and Antonin Artaud (with his thoughts on voice, word and sound), and above all, with the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark.
Already in the 70’s Lygia Clark realized a clinical dimension unavoidable to the artistic process and affirmed a hybrid poetic practice without fixed categories. With Structuring of the Self, Lygia Clark inaugurates a radical artistic experimentation, in which there exists a sophisticated relationship between Art and Clinic.
It is therefore, especially in her company that I connect different fields of knowledge between sound therapy, performance art, schizoanalysis and spiritual practices.
What do you wish to say or do with your art? Is your art practice weaved with some philosophy, message or meaning? (And do you think artists must do that?)
— I like to think of art as a clinical process. An ethical criterion, because it is based on the expansion of life, since it occurs in the production of differences and its affirmation in new forms of existence.
This process is directly related to the ability to produce oneself, to increase one’s own power, to make the desire take back its movement of production and differentiation of life.
There are different modes of existence, different modes of operating in the world, different types of subjectivity, and desire has many modes of functioning.
Our subjective experience is not unique, but has a lot of nuances.
One of them is the one we are familiar with: the experience of the world as form, filled with representations, images, words and language, that we project into the world and assign meaning to, situating ourselves in relation to the other.
This is the subject’s experience, that cannot be confused with what some authors (such as Deleuze, Guattari and Suely Rolnik) call subjectivity.
Effects & Affects
There is another experience that consists of placing ourselves in the world in terms of the effects the world has on our bodies. These effects are what we could call affects.
This is an experience that takes us to strange states — Without words, without images, without forms or ready made formulations.
The experience of the world in times of Covid generates affects in our bodies, making us inhabit the strangeness.
The Black Lives Matter movement has effects on our bodies — We feel it as affects — Pushing us to move from our places of privilege.
Although affect has no image, form, word or language, it is very real, like a living thing, producing in our bodies a restlessness that pushes us to create.
This is a disturbance that destabilizes. It is a tension that for many of us is experienced as a dangerous thing. But I am very interested in this tension.
It is precious, because it is like a horn alarming us that something is not right and needs to be moved, to be recreated. It is this tension that pushes us to create other worlds, other realities.
It is a process of creation, because desire will find a new way of expression for that affect that has no form, language or words.
This is about vibration, about vitality. Once desire has found a new mode of expression, what has just been created bears the same creative and vital vibration — An embryo of the world — So that future worlds can be engendered.
We can see this as a pollination process.
This process is what Suely Rolnik calls the “ethical destination of the vital drive”, as it is at the service of life.
The problem is when that tension is experienced from a neurotic point of view, in which the fear of this tension interrupts the flow of desire, and starts to reproduce as a flow of fear, based on the predominant regime that is within our dispose (the patriarchal-racist-colonial paradigm).
There is then a dissociation of our subjectivity with the forces of life.
But as I said, it’s the “ethical destination of the vital drive” that interests me. This is why I transit — Or dance — Connecting practices as a performance artist and Sound Therapist.
Creating New Melodies
I got into Sound Therapy through listening to bodies.
Usually traumas work in patterns. I look at them in terms of rhythm, the sounds they create, and their manifestation within the body.
The work I propose with my clients aims to create new melodies in the body, breaking repetition and habitual acting, making space for new ways of engaging, creating and living.
It’s not about “healing” per se. This work is about creating a new body that is anchored and integrated, and thus capable to better deal with life’s challenges, through creation with life forces.
Connecting with Life
This is an experience that I have been living in my own body, my own voice, with my life and my work. Although sometimes uncomfortable, turbulent and not easy, it is made by connecting with life and its desire.
I offer what I practice.
This process requires silence, listening to the affects that request to be listened to, making room for the emptiness to germinate the new.
Any last words?
— Well, that’s it, I think I ended our conversation in the same place where I started (smiling).
Mariana Marcassa was born in rural Brazil, in a family connected to the Earth, who made cheese and sang to animals. Since 2017, she lives and works in Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyaang / Montreal, where she has been developing a theoretical and practical approach to sound and voice explorations, and experimental listening techniques. It has been through voice and sound — As performance, as aesthetic proposition and clinical intervention — That she is asking how to engage with sound as vibration, and how voice-without-language might facilitate other modes of experience and living.
Mariana Marcassa has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a postdoctoral research at Concordia University, where she worked with SenseLab, Acts of Listening Lab, Angelique Willkie and the performing arts cluster LePARC. She is the author of the double book BANZO SOUNDS and BANZO LANDSCAPE, an English-Portuguese publication by Grosse Fugue Edition, published in December 2019.
- Florianópolis, Brazil
- Saint-Sauveur, QC
- Saint-Sauveur, QC
- Mariana Marcassa, Paisagem Banzo – Paysage Banzo – Banzo Landscape, Opening at the SBC Gallery, 2019
- Mariana Marcassa, Paisagem Banzo – Paysage Banzo – Banzo Landscape, Opening at the SBC Gallery, 2019
- Mariana Marcassa, Paisagem Banzo – Paysage Banzo – Banzo Landscape, SBC Gallery, 2019
- Mariana Marcassa, Flying with the Landscape in Paisagem Banzo – Paysage Banzo – Banzo Landscape, Opening at the SBC Gallery, 2019. Photo: Katia Meir
- Mariana Marcassa, Closing the Landscape in Paisagem Banzo – Paysage Banzo – Banzo Landscape, Opening at the SBC Gallery, 2019. Photo: Josephine Denis
- We are the green house, Montreal
- Mariana Marcassa, Voicing Another Spirit in Études conviviales | Seances for the Living, SBC Gallery, 2018
With this series, I wish to hear the voice of artists amidst the Covid storm. I’m curious about how the situation is affecting their practice and also them as people. It’s also a great excuse to see some art!
As so many people, I’ve had more time on my hands lately. At some point, I heard a calling, something like a need to be of service. A simple yet powerful question arose from my guts, like a prayer to the cosmos: How can I help?
The answer arrived a couple of days later: Write and Share — OK.
But what about? What inspires me and perhaps could inspire others?
Out of the blue (unknowing that I was pondering these questions), a friend living across the globe suggested that I write about artists, that I offer them a voice during this crisis.
And it made so much sense: I know I want to keep seeing art in the world — my soul demands it. Art nourishes and inspires me, it pushes me into action, into making things (however big or small) happen.
I think of artists as having this crazy freedom to actively become themselves, push forward “within” and continually bloom. That inner-life quality usually radiates from them. For me, artists are radioactive.
I sure hope this is feeding your soul as much as mine!