FR: You are both artists who studied Theatre and Performance in Sao Paulo and moved a few years ago to Tupana, Amazon. When did you have the idea to come here? What made you decide to live and work in this remote area?
TCA: We arrived at a different times. I came in 2009 as part of a project that I was about to do in Sao Paulo. When I came to visit Tupana, I fell in love with the place, and I decided that this is the place where I would like to live. At the same time I wasn't satisfied living in Sao Paulo. While I was trying to find my own artistic identity, I couldn't fit myself inside the patterns of the art world. Relating to this me and Diogo, a friend of mine decided to build a place where we could live and be - as artists, as people.
FR: And how was it for you Simone? You came later.
SD: The idea of coming here occurred to me during an exchange project between two universities in Germany where Thiago, Diogo and I were invited to do performances with a group of students. We all knew each other from our studies in Sao Paulo. During a dinner we were talking about the experiences of building a house in the Amazon and how interesting it could be to collaborate with these students as a performance group in this place.
At that time I was living in Berlin for four years and we decided to gather six months later for the project in the Amazon. When I arrived in Tupana in the beginning of 2011, I had the idea to stay for a short amount of time, but I passed much more time then I expected. (…) Now I'm in my second year.
Casa do Rio
FR: You set up an artist residency called „Casa do Rio“ and invite international artists to stay and work here for a certain amount of time. What interests you about creating a place to develop ideas and artworks in the jungle far away from any art network, museums, galleries, etc.?
TCA: (…) I'd like people and guests of Casa do Rio to experience the extreme environment, the totally different culture and the people that live here. There is something that can come out of this meeting between people that stay in our house, the inhabitants of Tupana and us. In the beginning, after the house was finished, everything was concentrated here. It became a meeting place rather than a place where you just live and eat. The meaning of a house grew so much and developed into a house that's going to be built together. (…)
Besides actual works than can be created over here, I'm specifically interested in the relation that one can create and the unique experience you have here. For me it's important to share this with artists that are open to a process-orientated way of working.
FR: While I was here, I often heard you talk about the importance of exchange. What interests you in particular about this exchange, and what kind of artists do you invite for the residency in regard to that?
TCA: What interests us is an intense exchange between us, the artists that come to visit and the community (…)I was always looking for the subjectivness of art. You can experience that in a single artwork or between relationships. For instance: when you share a space and stay together for most of the time, sleep in the same room, cook together, etc. this subjectivness can transform you as an artist and as a person. That's what I was looking for and wanted to achieve with Casa do Rio.
SD: It can not only transform you, but also the people of Tupana. This exchange between us and the visiting artists made them think of their abilities. They know a lot about materials, nature or have specific ways to make tools or other objects. Since they live far away from town, they are excluded from society. (…) Handicrafts are just part of their daily life and do not mean anything special to them. I think it's interesting to exchange their technology and put value in the simple things they do. Nowadays their self-esteem has grown a lot and they are more aware of their skills. Visiting artists or other visitors often ask to show them how to make certain things.
FR: How does the environment affect your own artistic work. Could you describe the difference between working here and Sao Paulo?
SD: While I was living in Sao Paulo, I was working a lot with theatre, performance and dance. Here I think more about videos or writing. The landscape and the sounds are so strong that it sometimes feel like being in a movie. (...)In general it's often a question or the urgency of a situation that moves me to do and make something. (…) Here in Tupana I took the position of a teacher and that's a very new situation for me.
TCA: When I was in Sao Paulo, I always tried to do things that somehow could be seen or recognized. Since I came here to Tupana, I've been experiencing a lot of differences. Our first work was related to Architecture. We had to built a house although we had no clue about wood and construction. After finishing the house, a new project started. I call it the social sculpture. The people of Tupana started to visit us more and more. From that we learned their needs and then we said: Lets work with that! That means: becoming a teacher, an active member of the community and recently being active with political work.
FR: Do you think that this attitude is related to you being a performer and not something else, e.g a sculptor?
TCA: Yes, totally I think. Even during our studies at the university we had this approach. We often had to deal with unusual or quite new situations. (…) I think this openness comes from the performance.
The kids of Tupana in front of their new school.
FR: During my stay I noticed that the community of Tupana plays an important role in your daily life, e.g. you initiated or squatted the first school in this area. What exactly interests you about the interaction with the people of Tupana and do you also see that as part of your artistic practice?
TCA: Yes, it's like taking mud on your hands and being able to make something out of it. (...) Once you start working with them, you see how different things become and you don't want to stop. For instance, the meeting place in Tupana was totally abandoned before. Now they start working on it and review the sense of community.
SD: In the beginning, when we decided to squat the first school, I realized that this would be a huge responsibility. It's beautiful to see how fast they learn and how much they improve themselves. (...) For me it's more about creating a perspective or a curiosity for things when I teach the young people.
FR: In the beginning of the interview you claimed that the self-esteem of the Tupana community grows while artists or visitors show great respect for their handicrafts. Can you give me a practical example of this exchange and what resulted out of this collaboration?
SD: As I said before, the exchange between us, the artists and the community, made them think of their abilities. Thiago and I started to built a bridge. One artist named Enrique, from Spain, was very eager to get in touch with the people. He visited them a lot and learned some of their traditional handicrafts, their ideas and ways of living. Even nowadays, they still ask us when he comes back.
For example Mutuka, our neighbour boy, who started showing us how to make kanus, pedals or bow and arrow. Or Branca, the lady who makes beautiful baskets out of palm tree leaves. (…)
The close connection to the community was even for me a big change. In the city, it's so comfortable to live your life. You forget how much you can actually make or achieve in daily life and how strong one can be. This exchange shows you how big your limit is, and you realize a lot about yourself. (...)
Branca shows us how to make a basket out of palm tree leaves
TCA: There are two important issues that I can relate to this question. The first one is autonomy. Once you realise that most of the things you need are in your backyard, you don't depend that much on money anymore. The consume system and the paranoia of it in our world become quite irrelevant. I don't know if freedom is the right word, but you can make other choices. The other issue is related to our relation to nature. When nature is so close, it changes your perception and feeling for waste. For example, if I pollute the water, I cannot drink the water, because there is no water treatment here.
FR: Are there any plans and things you hope to achieve in the near or long distant future?
TCA: It's totally a work in progress. It's amazing how fast things are changing here. (…)I'm looking forward to what will come.
SD: When I started teaching this year, my goal was and is to teach the children how to read and write. I hope to achieve this until the end of the year. Later I can pass it on to someone else so I can focus more on the general work with the community.