Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez)
Orilla del Río (River Bank), 2020
Acrylic on paper
70 x 100 cm
read more
Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez)
Chupadero de Animales (Animal Chupadero), 2020
Acrylic on paper
70 x 100 cm
read more
Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez)
Calendario Ancestral (Ancestral Calendar), 2020
Acrylic on paper
70 x 100 cm
read more
Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez)
Terraza Ancestral (Ancestral Terrace), 2019
Acrylic on paper
70 x 100 cm
read more
Aycoobo (Wilson Rodríguez)
Espiral (Spiral), 2018
Acrylic on paper
50 x 70 cm
read more
Helen Mirra
Ballou, 2006
Pallet wood, pine cones
19 x 97 x 31 cm
read more
Helen Mirra
May, April, 2017/2019
Linen, silk, wool
2 parts, each 56.5 x 25.5 cm
read more
Helen Mirra
Third furrow, 2003
Reclaimed pallet wood, milk paint
14 x 53.5 x 1.5 cm
read more
Helen Mirra
Grayish green, yellowgreen, rhubarb-dyed bluegreen, lichen-dyed light brown, 2015
Linen, wool
29.5 x 24 cm
read more
Helen Mirra
Field Recordings, 7 x 5000 Schritte, in Berlin (Hirschgarten), 22 August, 2010
Pastel oil on linen
80 x 175 cm
read more
Delcy Morelos
Paisaje (Landscape), 2021
In a large container, fertile soil, clay, cocoa powder, ground cloves, and water were mixed to form a thick, uniform, aromatic fluid that was carefully applied onto burlap.
6 x 221 x 457 cm
read more
Cecilia Vicuña
Sidewalk Forests, 1981
Series of 4 digital prints
50.8 x 50.8 cm
read more
Bill Fontana 
Sequoia Trees River Echoes, 2019
8 channel site-specific sound sculpture
read more
Emerson Uýra
Série Elementar (Ensaio A Mata Te-Se Come)
Elementary Series (The Plant that Eats Itself Essay)
, 2018
Photo by Lisa Hemes
Digital print on metal
101.5 x 152 cm
read more
Emerson Uýra
Série A Última Floresta (Ensaio Terra Pelada)
The Last Forest Series (Naked Earth Essay)
,2018
Photo by Matheus Belém
Digital print on metal
101.5 x 152 cm
read more



Press Release



Artist Bios

Orilla del Río (River Bank)
This tree is a type of fig tree that grows on the banks of a river. It is milky, large, and most birds feed on its fruits as the fruits’ nutrients protect the birds’ bodies by preventing disease. Armadillos, conga ants, and various birds make their nests in their bambas, which are the "fins" that come out of the trunks of many Amazonian trees, providing additional stability, since their roots do not grow very deep.

Aycoobo
(Born in 1967 in La Chorrera, Colombian Amazon. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Aycoobo (which means "awaken sparrowhawk"), also known by his Spanish name, Wilson Rodríguez, is a Nonuya Indigenous artist born and raised deep inside the Amazon rainforest in the Southwest of Colombia. In the early 2000s, he and his family were forced to flee to Bogotá due to the decades-long socio-political armed conflict that has internally displaced millions of people in the country. His practice as an artist started with the teachings of his father, the Indigenous botanist and artist Abel Rodríguez Muinane. Building on his father’s knowledge and determined to explore his own artistic path, Aycoobo has been teaching himself how to represent the way he understands the world, via painting on paper. Currently, his artistic practice and search are based on the feelings, inspirations, and observations he experiences during rituals with sacred plants, which, for him, allow for an exploration of––and connection with––the higher spiritual presence that exists in all living things.

Chupadero de Animales (Animal Chupadero)
This work centers around one of the various kinds of chupaderos or salados that exist in the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous knowledge describes these natural drinking troughs that emerge from the rainforest’s ground as water resources exclusive to animals, as the water can cause diseases in humans. It is believed that some of these chupaderos are enchanted and that they were created for species of animals such as the tapir, the borugo, the deer, the armadillo, the cajuche (white-lipped peccary), and the cerrillos (collared peccary) to drink and bathe.

Aycoobo
(Born in 1967 in La Chorrera, Colombian Amazon. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Aycoobo (which means "awaken sparrowhawk"), also known by his Spanish name, Wilson Rodríguez, is a Nonuya Indigenous artist born and raised deep inside the Amazon rainforest in the Southwest of Colombia. In the early 2000s, he and his family were forced to flee to Bogotá due to the decades-long socio-political armed conflict that has internally displaced millions of people in the country. His practice as an artist started with the teachings of his father, the Indigenous botanist and artist Abel Rodríguez Muinane. Building on his father’s knowledge and determined to explore his own artistic path, Aycoobo has been teaching himself how to represent the way he understands the world, via painting on paper. Currently, his artistic practice and search are based on the feelings, inspirations, and observations he experiences during rituals with sacred plants, which, for him, allow for an exploration of––and connection with––the higher spiritual presence that exists in all living things.

Calendario Ancestral (Ancestral Calendar)
In this work, Aycoobo illustrates a calendar representing a portion of Amazonian wisdom that is essential to many of the Indigenous ethnic groups that inhabit this vast rainforest in South America. It illustrates what the world was like before the arrival of evil and is divided into two seasons, winter and summer. Similar to the twelve-month year in Western culture, the calendar is divided into twelve temporalities. At the center of the circle is a red point, which represents Grandmother and Grandfather Fire, the creative spirit, the origin of everything. Moving outwards from there, the blue circle represents all of the seas and the brown ring is the edge of the world. The surrounding light blue area with illustrated fish represents major rivers such as the Amazon, the Caquetá, the Orinoco, and the Putumayo. The section of light blue without fish corresponds to July, when the rivers flood, which, for some Indigenous peoples, marks the beginning of the calendar. The month of August is considered to be the time of darkness and the emergence of evil, which threatens all living beings, particularly affecting human beings through disease. August is also when the worms appear and when trees do not yet bear fruit.

The next two large sections in the calendar represent the chagra (an Indigenous agroforestry practice and area) and mountains populated by a native forest. In the mountains, the trees bear fruits and flowers, just like in the chagra. Different crops appear in the chagra sections, corresponding to the time period in which they grow, such as corn, yuca, pineapple, tobacco, coca, banana, and tubers. Birds and insects are also included, since they pollinate the plants, and some suck the nectar of the flowers in order to sustain themselves and procreate. In the chagra, Indigenous people cultivate some plants that feed their bodies and other plants because they are considered sacred, believed to be their spiritual Grandmothers and Grandfathers. Aycoobo explains, “these plants connect people to the higher spirit” and include the manicuera (yuca juice), the chilli bush, sweet herbs (turmeric, basil and mint), coca, tobacco, and yagé (ayahuasca). The plants that feed the body are considered to be the children, among them tubers and fruits. Bacuba, the rainbow outer ring of the calendar, does not come from the refraction of sunlight in water droplets, like a traditional rainbow, but is a protector that warns of the arrival of evil, like a messenger of adversity. Finally, the dark blue that surrounds the calendar represents the universe at night and shows the different phases of the moon synchronized with all of creation.

Aycoobo
(Born in 1967 in La Chorrera, Colombian Amazon. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Aycoobo (which means "awaken sparrowhawk"), also known by his Spanish name, Wilson Rodríguez, is a Nonuya Indigenous artist born and raised deep inside the Amazon rainforest in the Southwest of Colombia. In the early 2000s, he and his family were forced to flee to Bogotá due to the decades-long socio-political armed conflict that has internally displaced millions of people in the country. His practice as an artist started with the teachings of his father, the Indigenous botanist and artist Abel Rodríguez Muinane. Building on his father’s knowledge and determined to explore his own artistic path, Aycoobo has been teaching himself how to represent the way he understands the world, via painting on paper. Currently, his artistic practice and search are based on the feelings, inspirations, and observations he experiences during rituals with sacred plants, which, for him, allow for an exploration of––and connection with––the higher spiritual presence that exists in all living things.

Terraza Ancestral (Ancestral Terrace)
This work is inspired by the final part of the “Two Orphans” myth. The story involves two brothers, who, after disobeying, cause a great flood. Both orphans then flee to the hills and build a guarango tree to protect themselves as they wait for the flood waters to recede. In this dark period, the older brother (who manages time) hears the song of the red-beaked paujil bird (the curassow) and then another song, this time of the pava colorada (the red-faced guan), and he picks one of the fruits off the guarango tree and throws it down, making the world bloom again. At sunrise, he hears the pava negra (the black guan), and a rainbow appears, symbolizing the new time.

Aycoobo
(Born in 1967 in La Chorrera, Colombian Amazon. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Aycoobo (which means "awaken sparrowhawk"), also known by his Spanish name, Wilson Rodríguez, is a Nonuya Indigenous artist born and raised deep inside the Amazon rainforest in the Southwest of Colombia. In the early 2000s, he and his family were forced to flee to Bogotá due to the decades-long socio-political armed conflict that has internally displaced millions of people in the country. His practice as an artist started with the teachings of his father, the Indigenous botanist and artist Abel Rodríguez Muinane. Building on his father’s knowledge and determined to explore his own artistic path, Aycoobo has been teaching himself how to represent the way he understands the world, via painting on paper. Currently, his artistic practice and search are based on the feelings, inspirations, and observations he experiences during rituals with sacred plants, which, for him, allow for an exploration of––and connection with––the higher spiritual presence that exists in all living things.

Espiral (Spiral)
This work represents the link that exists between human beings, the Earth, and the Mother and Father Creator, from a spiritual perspective. It underscores that connecting with the plants and the land is the path towards the divine essence of being.

Aycoobo
(Born in 1967 in La Chorrera, Colombian Amazon. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Aycoobo (which means "awaken sparrowhawk"), also known by his Spanish name, Wilson Rodríguez, is a Nonuya Indigenous artist born and raised deep inside the Amazon rainforest in the Southwest of Colombia. In the early 2000s, he and his family were forced to flee to Bogotá due to the decades-long socio-political armed conflict that has internally displaced millions of people in the country. His practice as an artist started with the teachings of his father, the Indigenous botanist and artist Abel Rodríguez Muinane. Building on his father’s knowledge and determined to explore his own artistic path, Aycoobo has been teaching himself how to represent the way he understands the world, via painting on paper. Currently, his artistic practice and search are based on the feelings, inspirations, and observations he experiences during rituals with sacred plants, which, for him, allow for an exploration of––and connection with––the higher spiritual presence that exists in all living things.

Ballou
Ballou is composed of three pine cones Mirra found in the Grünewald forest while in residence in Berlin, and a fragment of a wooden shipping pallet, cut into its form by the artist. While a pallet is connected to systems of industrialized transportation, this sculpture brings the pallet back into relationship with the trees it was cut from. Its title refers to Hosea Ballou, an 18th Century theologian who played an important role in American Unitarian history. Mirra’s first deep encounter with the forest was at a Unitarian summer camp she attended as a child in the Adirondacks. She grew up with the Unitarians’ egalitarian and democratic values intertwined with the formative experience of being in the woods with them in play.

Helen Mirra
(Born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Lives and works in Muir Beach, CA)

Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist engaged with Buddhist and pragmatist philosophies. She is currently interested in gradual slopes and the liberatory paradigm of autist-nature. Since 2006, her practice has integrated the primary acts of walking and weaving, as well as the secondary material of language. Walking became a central element in Mirra's practice when she arrived at a residency in Switzerland and was provided an office rather than a studio in which to work. After initially experiencing this as a crisis, she decided to simply start walking. Soon enough, what began as a limitation became a great gift that shifted her practice.

May, April
For Mirra, the practice of walking is completely intertwined with her practice of weaving. While her woven works are not a direct record of her daily long-distance walks––as is the case in her Field Recordings series––walking is a parallel companion practice to weaving. They take place in the same mind-heart space, affecting one another. Both practices are intentional ways of spending long periods of time bringing together the body, the mind, and everything that surrounds them. May, April consists of two woven pieces: one is made in May 2017 and the other twenty-three months later, in April 2019. The piece on the left, May, was conceived “by chance,” while April, on the right, was made to be its copy. The weavings function like two siblings, almost two years apart, counter-balancing each other.

Helen Mirra
(Born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Lives and works in Muir Beach, CA)

Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist engaged with Buddhist and pragmatist philosophies. She is currently interested in gradual slopes and the liberatory paradigm of autist-nature. Since 2006, her practice has integrated the primary acts of walking and weaving, as well as the secondary material of language. Walking became a central element in Mirra's practice when she arrived at a residency in Switzerland and was provided an office rather than a studio in which to work. After initially experiencing this as a crisis, she decided to simply start walking. Soon enough, what began as a limitation became a great gift that shifted her practice.

Third furrow
This is one of the Instant pieces Mirra made for her exhibition 65 Instants at BAMPFA in 2003. Each of the 65 works are made with the same inexact parameters, and each measures the length of Mirra’s elbow to fingertip plus the width of her second hand. The title is borrowed from the second-century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna and his idea about the moment between an initial perception and the rational judgment that follows. This moment, according to him, lasts an instant, of which there are 65 within the length of time of a finger snap. For Mirra, this reference is not mystical or scientific, but “a means of thinking about time and space.”

Helen Mirra
(Born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Lives and works in Muir Beach, CA)

Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist engaged with Buddhist and pragmatist philosophies. She is currently interested in gradual slopes and the liberatory paradigm of autist-nature. Since 2006, her practice has integrated the primary acts of walking and weaving, as well as the secondary material of language. Walking became a central element in Mirra's practice when she arrived at a residency in Switzerland and was provided an office rather than a studio in which to work. After initially experiencing this as a crisis, she decided to simply start walking. Soon enough, what began as a limitation became a great gift that shifted her practice.

Grayish green, yellowgreen, rhubarb-dyed bluegreen, lichen-dyed light brown
This is one of Mirra’s first small-scale woven works. The title names the colors of the yarn used in the construction, which takes the form, perhaps, of moss and lichen covered rocks.

Helen Mirra
(Born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Lives and works in Muir Beach, CA)

Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist engaged with Buddhist and pragmatist philosophies. She is currently interested in gradual slopes and the liberatory paradigm of autist-nature. Since 2006, her practice has integrated the primary acts of walking and weaving, as well as the secondary material of language. Walking became a central element in Mirra's practice when she arrived at a residency in Switzerland and was provided an office rather than a studio in which to work. After initially experiencing this as a crisis, she decided to simply start walking. Soon enough, what began as a limitation became a great gift that shifted her practice.

Field Recordings, 7 x 5000 Schritte, in Berlin (Hirschgarten), 22 August
What we see in this work, composed of seven individual lightweight linen parts, are the rubbings of tree cuts found along a daylong walk in a forest on the edge of the city of Berlin, with 5000 steps taken in between each print being made. We see both the core rings tracing the years of the trees’ development and the rough marks left by a chainsaw at the moment of felling.

Helen Mirra
(Born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Lives and works in Muir Beach, CA)

Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist engaged with Buddhist and pragmatist philosophies. She is currently interested in gradual slopes and the liberatory paradigm of autist-nature. Since 2006, her practice has integrated the primary acts of walking and weaving, as well as the secondary material of language. Walking became a central element in Mirra's practice when she arrived at a residency in Switzerland and was provided an office rather than a studio in which to work. After initially experiencing this as a crisis, she decided to simply start walking. Soon enough, what began as a limitation became a great gift that shifted her practice.

Delcy Morelos
(Born in 1967 in Tierralta, Colombia. Lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia)

Paisaje (Landscape)
I was born in Tierralta, Córdoba, a small town near the coast of the Colombian Caribbean Sea, a region severely affected by multiple forms of violence. Tierralta has been, and continues to be, a territory in conflict. The paramilitary forces of the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia), who own vast areas of land, have committed numerous and horrific killings. The atrocities occur on a daily basis, happening so often that we as a society have become numb, slowly losing our capacity to be shocked and react. I grew up in this bloody and painful frame, on the brink between life and death, as a witness who can only wonder: is cruelty inherent to being human?

During my childhood, I lived with my paternal grandmother of Indigenous descent. She grew and harvested almost everything that we ate in her yard. Her skin was the color of soil, the same earthy soil with which the floors and the walls of her house were made. The outdoor landscape blended with the interior of the house; there was no defined line between the inside and the outside. To prevent our house from becoming too dusty, we would moisten the soil with our hands, making circular movements until we had covered the entire surface of the floor. We performed this noble task daily, on our knees.

To have this kind of close and profound relationship with the soil is an experience that is vanishing from people’s lives. In large cities, soil gets buried under endless layers of concrete. Children are unaware of the origin of the food that nourishes them. A large portion of humanity has developed a relationship with nature that is based on submission, exploitation, oppression, brutality, and contempt. In that sense, we humans become not-nature and perceive ourselves as detached from it. When our planet is treated as nothing more than a supplier of natural resources, we deplete and destroy Mother Earth. We have lost all sensibility and empathy towards our environment. We no longer know what earth is and no longer recognize its essence, its power, or its magic. This lack of recognition leads us to destroy and degrade it, unaware that we are simultaneously destroying and degrading ourselves.

Since 2012, my artwork has been aligned with the cosmovision of ancestral Andean and Amazonian cultures. Isaías Román, a wise Uitoto tribesman of the Colombian Amazon, has shared knowledge and insight that has been kept alive and carefully guarded over generations by many Indigenous tribes. Due to the overwhelming pressure of violence in the Amazonian territory, Isaías and his family, like many others, had to flee their home in the jungle to take refuge in the big city. Through his guidance, I continue to build on the teachings that began during my upbringing with my grandmother. He teaches me how his culture’s Creation Myths embody a philosophy of life. He does so via oral history and by teaching me physical experiences that range from the act of giving and receiving, to the practice of making things with one’s own hands: weaving, clay-kneading, wood-carving, preparing colors, and painting. Each of these tasks contain a rich symbology. For the Uitoto, the universe is “a basket into which everything that exists is woven,” meaning that the life of every human being is intertwined: we are all part of a delicate and powerful web of existence.

I’m interested in eliminating the distinctions between painting, sculpture, and installation; between volume and surface; and between interior and exterior spaces by making works that navigate, observe, feel, walk, and penetrate each other, using only a few materials and a single color. Exposed, infinite, and raw. To be in touch with the earth, and to enter within it, is to be in touch with what constitutes and nourishes us. Art allows for the possibility, both real and mythical, to create moments and spaces that are sacred.

Cecilia Vicuña
(Born in 1948 in Santiago, Chile. Lives and works in New York, NY)

Sidewalk Forests
Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, artist, filmmaker and activist. Departing primarily from poetry––her material and immaterial language and way of experiencing the world––her work addresses pressing modern concerns, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization. She has long privileged and learned from Indigenous forms of knowledge, and has been committed to calling attention to the destructive and constructive impacts that humans have on life on earth. In addition to her work as an artist, she has long been actively engaged in advocating for ways to honor and conserve life: in the early 1970s, she presented Salvador Allende, the president of Chile at the time, with a proposal for a “National Day of the Seed” to re-green the country with “seedbeds greening squares into forests and gardens, cities and fields into edens.” In response, Vicuña said, Allende laughed and told her that Chile was not ready, suggesting, however, that it could happen “by the year two thousand.”

For Arboreal, Vicuña shows her “Sidewalk Forests,” composed of four photographs, which were originally shot in medium format film in 1981. Two of them show different wild plants and weeds, shot close-up, growing through cracks in the concrete of sidewalks in New York City. The other two include spatial drawings the artist made with red thread held by the greenery she found while walking around the city, creating fragile and ephemeral forms that seem to float in mid-air. In one of them, she uses the thread to spell out a word, amor (love), woven through the branches of a tree whose trunk holds the engraved initials of anonymous people, possibly lovers.

When I first moved to New York, [Tribeca] was an abandoned neighborhood. Most of the streets didn’t really have street lights, and there was a lot of wilderness on the sidewalks. I called my first works in New York “Sidewalk Forests” because there were so many things growing between the cracks, and it was just these ruins and empty lots. The river was not accessible like it is now. You had to crawl underneath wires to touch the river, and I did! We would illegally sun ourselves, not on the rocks, but on huge pieces of cement! [...]. [A sidewalk forest] is something that sprouts and grows of its own accord—a sort of rebellion of the seeds, a rebellion of the poems themselves.

—Excerpt from an interview with Cecilia Vicuña by Sarah Timmer Harvey for Asymptote.

Sequoia Trees River Echoes
For Sequoia Trees River Echoes, Fontana mounted high resolution vibration sensors (accelerometers) onto the trunks of sequoia trees, wondering what these 3,000-year-old trees “had to say.” The sound that he found captured inside of these ancient trees, the largest on Earth, was that of the distant Kaweah River, a river that runs through the Sierra Nevada, fed by high elevation snowmelt along the Great Western Divide. The Kaweah River basin, the land of the Yokuts and Western Mono Native peoples, holds the memory of the violence caused by Spanish colonizers and American loggers in the 1800s, before the formation of the Sequoia National Park in 1890. The resonating echoes of the distant river moving through the landscape result in a sound sculpture that sonifies this flowing rhythm into the timbre of wood, reminding us of the inter-dependence of the mountains, rivers, and trees, as well as the layers of history that they have witnessed. In the words of the artist, “I find the reality of these ancient trees ‘listening’ to the earth inspiring. It is a metaphor for the future I hope the earth can have.”

Bill Fontana
(Born in 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. Lives and works in San Francisco, CA)

Bill Fontana is a composer and artist who developed an international reputation for his pioneering experiments in sound. Since the early 70s, Fontana has used sound as a sculptural medium to interact with and transform our perceptions of visual and architectural spaces. He has realized sound sculptures and radio projects for museums and broadcast organizations around the world.

Série Elementar (Ensaio A Mata Te-Se Come)
Elementary Series (The Plant that Eats Itself Essay)
Elementary Series (The Plant that Eats Itself Essay) is a photograph taken in the rainforest, inside the Amazon Museum, in Manaus. Here, Uýra engages with an intimate aspect of the forest: the way it eats itself. The Grandmother forest feeds on the decomposition of the life and biomass that she generates, a process in which even a single leaf on the ground is important to her functioning. To make this photograph, the artist placed leaves and seeds on her face and “felt the forest’s constant cycle of Death meeting Life, with nobility, in every moment.” “How many times,” Uýra wonders, “do we eat of ourselves in order to continue living? The Grandmother, by eating herself, reminds us of the power of our own internal forces, which, individually as well as in connection to other worlds, can always be renewed.”

Emerson Uýra
(Born in 1991 in Santarém, Brazil. Lives and works in Manaus, Brazil)

Emerson Uýra is a hybrid entity made of Emerson Munduruku, an Indigenous artist, educator, activist, biologist, and ecologist, and Uýra Sodoma, a drag queen persona born in 2016, who embodies a “tree that walks” via performance and photo-performance. “Until the age of 25,” Emerson said in a recent recorded studio visit for the São Paulo Biennial, “I lived essentially what a marginalized, Indigenous, trans, and LGBT person lives in a Brazilian metropolis, until then without any contact with art. In the meantime, I graduated in biology and did a master’s in ecology. It was a time when I reconnected with myself, with my grandma, with the forest, and also with my people. Like most of the people around me, I spent a lot of time very distressed about the injustice and violence in our everyday lives. So, living as Uýra meant having the chance, the great joy, and the path to move towards justice, and towards cures for these colonial diseases, which are multiple, constant, and very natural.”

In her performative photographs, Uýra Sodoma exposes and aims to cure the diseases caused by a systemic, white, colonial, sexist mentality and violence. She challenges the notion that trees are inert bodies that have less value by becoming a “tree that walks.” This transmutation, the possibility of abandoning one temporary structure or body and exchanging it for another, allows Uýra to reclaim her body and the right to use it––an act of reclamation also connected to the many Indigenous people who are in the process of returning to their ancestral land.

Emerson Uýra lives and works in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, a vast area almost five times the size of Germany that is home to the world’s largest remaining tropical forest reserves.

Série A Última Floresta (Ensaio Terra Pelada)
The Last Forest Series (Naked Earth Essay)
In a meeting with Uýra in 2018, shaman Davi Kopenawa spoke of the deforestation caused by the mining in his land, the land of the Yanomami people. He said that "when the land is cleared, the Earth is naked." At that time, the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon was seeing record increases. The following year, with the inauguration of President Bolsonaro, whose regime presents a great threat to forests and their peoples, deforestation increased further still. In this context, Uýra began this series of images seeking to share this great tragedy with people through visual references such as the ox, the tractor, the naked soil, the chain, and the soybean. In The Last Forest Series (Naked Earth Essay), the land is not only naked (stripped of its forest) but also bleeds. By connecting the human heart to that of the touched tree, she remembers that all beating hearts inhabiting this land, even during times of great pain, have their own rhythm and their natural union allows for the great beat of life.

The Amazon rainforest, which holds 16,000 different species of trees, is slowly becoming dry. It covers some 5 million square kilometers of land across nine countries. More than half of the Amazon is located in Brazil, where more than 19% of the forest has been cleared. In the first three months of 2020, the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon was 50% higher than in the same three-month period in 2019. Even before the pandemic, scientists warned that Bolsonaro’s development-friendly policies could transform the world’s largest rainforest into a dry, savannah-like landscape. Once this “tipping point” is crossed, this colossal ecosystem could begin emitting more greenhouse gases than it captures, effectively turning a vital tool in the fight against climate change into yet another source of harmful emissions.

Brazil’s Indigenous communities hold some of the most pristine sections of the rainforest and have long been targeted by illegal logging and mining operations. Since the pandemic began, Brazil’s environmental agency has scaled back its enforcement measures, leaving the forest and its Indigenous tribes even more vulnerable to daily deadly threats.

Emerson Uýra
(Born in 1991 in Santarém, Brazil. Lives and works in Manaus, Brasil)

Emerson Uýra is a hybrid entity made of Emerson Munduruku, an Indigenous artist, educator, activist, biologist, and ecologist, and Uýra Sodoma, a drag queen persona born in 2016, who embodies a “tree that walks” via performance and photo-performance. “Until the age of 25,” Emerson said in a recent recorded studio visit for the São Paulo Biennial, “I lived essentially what a marginalized, Indigenous, trans, and LGBT person lives in a Brazilian metropolis, until then without any contact with art. In the meantime, I graduated in biology and did a master’s in ecology. It was a time when I reconnected with myself, with my grandma, with the forest, and also with my people. Like most of the people around me, I spent a lot of time very distressed about the injustice and violence in our everyday lives. So, living as Uýra meant having the chance, the great joy, and the path to move towards justice, and towards cures for these colonial diseases, which are multiple, constant, and very natural.”

In her performative photographs, Uýra Sodoma exposes and aims to cure the diseases caused by a systemic, white, colonial, sexist mentality and violence. She challenges the notion that trees are inert bodies that have less value by becoming a “tree that walks.” This transmutation, the possibility of abandoning one temporary structure or body and exchanging it for another, allows Uýra to reclaim her body and the right to use it––an act of reclamation also connected to the many Indigenous people who are in the process of returning to their ancestral land.

Emerson Uýra lives and works in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, a vast area almost five times the size of Germany that is home to the world’s largest remaining tropical forest reserves.