Regina Parra: Pagan: Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo

1 April - 13 August 2023

In a kind of theatrical play divided into nine scenes, Parra invites the public to travel through references in paintings, performance, sculpture, videos and neons to follow the saga of Pagã.


Barbarians, idolaters, profanes, laywomen, unfaithful, seers, or simply pagans. Since antiquity, Western imagination has found many ways to characterize women, their bodies, their attitudes, and their sexuality.


In a men’s world, the feminine has been and still is repeatedly posited as a source of deviations from the norm, and therefore as a danger to collective whenever possible. Confronting this ancient construct, which has long perpetuated patriarchal and sexist thought, Regina Parra has created a series of works establishing a critical feminist position. Now she has spent a whole year developing this transdisciplinary project for Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo, with a similar end in view.


Pagan is set out as a ritual celebration of the female body, pleasure, freedom, and vivid insubordination. As a character, an archehtype, or a mirror, as one or as many, and of course as ourselves, the woman named in the work’s title undertakes a journey that the public is invited to follow from the moment they enter the gallery dedicated to the show, on the second floor of Pina Estacao.


A combination of visual works and live or video/audio performances gives rise to a kind of play which is spread out in the exhibition space so as to intertwine drama and the experience of visiting the museum, fiction and the sensory reality of each person that goes by. In order to bring her creation to life, Regina has raged her many-sided work—paintings, drawings, videos, performances, installations, pieces in neon—alongside works by collaborators in other fields of creativity, such as dance, music, costume design, and cinema. What brings all those elements together is theater, the artist’s first area of activity. Drama also brings in a logic that has recently become more and more obvious in her visual arts production.


Pagan is structured as a tragedy, the first genre of Greek theater, which tells the stories of mythical characters and whose staging whose staging often leads the members of the audience to see themselves reflected in the play and purges their anguish and sorrow. The central character in this case ia s woman who was apparently “well”, but renounced her social position and embarked on a process of self-discovery and transformation.


The argument refers to the Greco-Roman initiation cult that appears in the frescos of the Villa of the Mysterues, built in the Italian city of Pompeii in the 2nd century B.C. Regina’s interpretation of the stoty is of a young woman who crosses the gate of the satyrs and offers herself to Dionysus, the god of theater, wine, fertility, and nature. The young woman’s path involves going down to the level of animals, literally falling to the ground, and deciding to stay there, crawling and unlearning the whole repertoire she had acquired until then. Only after this will she be able to reume her human form and reborn as a bacchante, a Dionysian priestess who realizes what is seen as divine through her own ecstasy.


Regina Parra presents this story in nine scenes, but intermIxes it with other sagas and times. In this flow of approximations and free translations, the young woman from Pompeii gets mixed up with G.H., a woman who accesses a stream of conciousness that reveals her gender and social class condition after she comes across a cockroach while cleaning her apartment in Clarice Lispector’s 1964 novel The Passion According to G.H. The cockroach, however, ends up being crushed by the closet door.


The “sleep-walker’s language”used by the central character of this paradigmatic work of 20th century Brazilian literature in her
state of acute crisis reverberates in other oral traditions equally adept at propagating emotions without making them fit into words. Thus, it is also related to the mythology of Electra, with her screams and laments, and to the breathless singing of Joe Strummer (Ancara, 1952 - Broomfield, 2002), lead singer of The Clash, in the song 
Straight to Hell (1982).


In this labyrinth of references and experiences, the vital and erotic force ceases to be a problem and becomes a solution. Instead of acting according to and consenting as law what comes from abroad, this is a call to manifest that which is inherent. For Regina Parra, theater is a ritual of “in-staging, in- corporating, in-carnating.”


Ana Maria Maia, chief curator of Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo