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Alice Joana Gonçalves’ Exotic Question

Words:

Edd Norval
May 20, 2022

Portuguese performance and visual artist Alice Joana Gonçalves explores the complex relationship between people and place - be that environment, architecture or landscape. In her latest performance, the relationship is interrogated even further when the audience becomes a part of the show.

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JOY & Collective Practices for Pleasure is a participatory hybrid experience, whereby the audience joins in with the show’s communal spirit. It’s not just paying lip service to a gimmicky sing-along either - the show is a profound and cathartic experience, where the compounding effect of happiness reverberates around the cosy confines of the venue.


Community, as both concept and practice, is becoming increasingly fragmented in our digital world, where our lives are lived online for so much of the day that there’s no such thing as ‘logging off’ anymore. In these online communities, we can wear masks like avatars, becoming whoever we want, but the self cannot be realised truly in the absence of the collective. As humans, we become our finest self in the presence of others.

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Groups reinforce certain qualities and it is the idea of Gonçalves to utilise the group as a means of amplifying the positive energy that her performance fosters. It has gone beyond the realms of the new age and into mainstream science that a healthy community environment is the optimal conditions for a healthy individual. That’s one of the things, beyond diet and exercise, that many of the world’s Blue Zones - where populations reach optimal longevity - have in common.


Initially, scientists were baffled as they saw the fairly high-carb and, at times, unhealthy eating habits in the community in Sardinia, Italy, that they studied. They couldn’t identify what it was that made these people live such long and healthy lives. Until, that is, they experienced the effect themselves, becoming more a part of the community in which they were once only onlookers. As a result, their outlook on life felt that little bit clearer. Change is often experienced, rather than learned. The intangible and hitherto abstract idea of the intangible aspects of community suddenly began to move from social studies into hard science.

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It is with this in mind that Gonçalves and her group aim to promote self-healing through group participation, evoking ideas of tradition and ritual, quasi-esoteric methods that get real results. Rather than prescribing pills or passively enjoying a podcast, the artist wants her audience to immerse themselves in the practice of healing as a whole.


Holistic in every sense of the word, this performance straddles the line between art, therapy, activism and wellbeing, introducing individuals to each other through an exchange of energy, heightened to something joyous, moving, honest and raw, something that could, in the eyes of the artist and the event’s organisers, contribute to a happier, healthier and more connected society.

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