SALL TORO USES THE BODY AS A TOOL FOR TRANSFORMATION OF SPACES
CARMEN HUST | ARTICULATE #18 | JANUAR 2019
The Portuguese artist Sall Lam Toro (1990) uses her body as a tool for transformation of spaces. She has been bouncing between concepts/literary/cultural movements such as decolonization, neo-capitalism, queer theory, black feminism and lately rhizome philosophy within butoh-dance as the starting point for deconstruction and re-signification of these concepts and their underlying layers, new universe creations, narratives, experiments and lifestyles.
Her works explore that in betweenness of visceral and social body and all asymmetries this relationship entails. She is based in Aarhus, Denmark yet her roots lie between the Mediterranean Portuguese sea and West Africa.
The creative drive of Toro is generated by nature elements within a contemplative and even embodying sense; day-dreaming as a practice; the erotic and poetry as realms for existing as a truer self; and finally, language and languages as in moving images, visual art, sound and dance as it instigates lots of provocation within and inspires her work.
In her multimedia performance Ungendered Body, performed at Talk Town, Distortion and Cutie BPOC festivals in Copenhagen in 2017, and UGE SEX event at KUL Nordkraft in Aalborg, DK in 2018, Toro explores a way in which the body could initiate a process of reversal into abandoning racial gendered behavior and expectations from early socialization.
To many subjectivities, the experience of gender fostered by their birth sex causes trauma and desolation in many cases since we live in major hetero-normative societies that demand accurate stereotypical performances based on gender. Ungendered Body is an attempt to understand blackness, gender, sexuality, Toro’s own personal body history inserted in heteronormative, patriarchal, white, spaces, yet, yearning to move away from ideological projections that hurt the human species.
These ideological projections come from these spaces. Just like the French feminist and philosopher Luce Irigaray attempted to create a writing form – écriture feminine- or a feminine language, a theory, which unpacks the relationship between the cultural and psychological inscription of the female body and female difference in language and text, or the American professor Donna Harraway writing A Cyborg Manifesto (1984) attempting to recreate the body rejecting patriarchal notions of the body, or Patrick Johnson attempting to write an anti-essentialist blackness that could take different forms, genders, sexualities and identities.
Like them, Toro attempts to create a visual, physical and sensorial, artistic language in order to re-ascribe gender and blackness by first render the body incredibly aware and sensitized regarding ways in which the black body has been apathologized, denied, tortured, in modern times; moreover, ways in which we perform a black gender and ways in which our bodies become ‘performed’ by the other, by regulatory power and practices and institutional structures.
The preferred media to Sall Lam Toro is video and live performance, as it encompasses millions of possibilities to what we could do in terms of creativity. Video performance means eternity of the body living in a certain context, yet contingent in its meaning and life. Live performance means ethereal temporalities of an artistic experience and with that it brings a great power of transformation that lives within a specific context and mindset. Toro often combines both because it gives her the opportunity to expose different realms of the self or existence at a same time. Which, to her, is a great analogy of what identity is.
The work of Sall Lam Toro emerges in the strands of imagination that come out of nowhere at times. Sometimes they appear to her in dreams or visions as well. Other times they follow a concept that has been appearing over and over in her head or in works that she is reading or writing.
When her work is pre-thought, it’s because of a language concept that Toro’s been reading and masticating for days. The information goes to her subconscious and returns as a will to deconstruct or re-signify it somehow visually or through a choreography or soundscape. The idea of embodiment comes from a need to understand the concept/idea better in her own terms.
To Toro the key element in creating a good composition is investigating the intrinsic relationship between ideas and audience. Thinking about the audience when one is creating for a public context is a really good key for a good composition so that one could look ahead of oneself. What’s the goal with a certain piece? Is it to activate audiences towards a certain modus operandi or to have them share a certain practice or is it to provoke them and drive that provocation somewhere? Or, is it just to offer them something to contemplate and dwell on introvertly, in a quiet conversation between bodies and minds?
This article about SALL TORO takes part of ARTICULATE #18. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below