To live and die by the mouth

What is it, that pierces us, that shakes the body and turns the head? What is this thing that mobilizes us, that sets us in motion, that makes us spinners? What is it, that pulls, pushes, connects and disconnects, that attracts one body to another, that brings something closer but suddenly lets go, dismantling and undoing, diminishing what once was full passion? A fish attracted to the shining hook, an open mouth with a devouring appetite, the epidermis’ antenna responding to the coming of a touch… It’s telepathy, hunger, desire, affection, and the inevitable farewell. What is this thing that can be certainty, doubt, and suggestion? As an eruption, it bursts forth and it inflames our disposition to be together, to cover oneself with another’s shell; but it just as well leads to implosion, stern retreat, as stones turning into dust or saying goodbye and never going back.

In “To Live and Die by the Mouth,” her first solo exhibition outside of Brazil, Luana Vitra presents a series of new works that result from her deep research carried on in recent years. Interested primarily in the relationships between the physical qualities and spiritual aspirations of matter, the artist exercises her own subjectivity based on the implications of minerals, depositing, in turn, the affections that run through her body to the minerals. Only in this double-play, can unprecedented arrangements emerge: inventive resolutions for the infinite ways in which things relate in the world, giving new meanings and tracing other possible routes for familiar elements.

The artist operates on the boundaries of sculpture and drawing, of literality and abstraction, of formal rigor and the autonomy of poetry, of intuition and calculation. By using common materials—ranging from construction tools and supplies to found debris and natural elements—in a sui generis manner, her work emphasizes the effects of time, expands spatial notions, dislocates perceptions of our own condition, and questions the relationship we establish with the landscapes and others around us. Through sensitive listening and skillful handling of materiality, Luana Vitra studies and experiments with the dynamics of embodiment, investigating how two poles come closer, fall in love, entwine, leave their mark on our retinas and memories, and also how they transmute, take new directions, and disappear from sight, or from our mental field.

In her compositions, iron is skin, copper is love, and lead is gravity. They are the same factors in different equations. Variables that serve both as hard matter and as metaphor. Through fittings, seams, welds, pressures, and wiring, her drawings choreograph appearances and approaches, but also dissolutions and contrasts, prompting reflection on the relationships between geological processes and emotional flows, between organic elements and feelings and sensations. We can see them as Non-Sites: synthesis of the vast geographic and psychoemotional fields from which these materials were extracted, that is: abstract representations of other macrosets to which they once belonged. Also, as Concrete Poetry taken to its ultimate consequences: a way of composing with verses, meter, rhyme, and rhythm… In place of words, however, we find stones, plates, tubes, clamps, wires, and hooks.

Composed of singular gestures, these diagrams point to expanded environmental notions that escape the false dichotomy between culture and nature. On the contrary, they speak of total ecological interconnectivity and the countless planetary biological games; they imagine the possibility of a mineral flesh capable of reprogramming our density, our magnets and cadences, our movements and inertias. Between markers of weight and lightness, release and support, we find by analogy what is a point of contact and what is separation, what grounds us and what makes us float. These are all cues for us to learn how to manage the desire to integrate into material reality—that is, our impulse to live—, and how to deal with the need to disintegrate once and for all, vanishing into the end of form— the ability to embrace our time to die.

Germano Dushá
Translation by Fabricia Ramos


  • Luana Vitra