WATERLINE | LINHA D'ÁGUA 
Photograph and 360˚ vídeo by Manuel Vason
Radical Tenderness is called upon by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) collective as a political practice of healing that invites us to attune ourselves to the living metabolism of the planet, which has an intelligence far beyond what humans can fathom. We systemically deny our entanglement with the Earth—the land, the water, its many beings and spirits, cycles and trauma—and separate ourselves from its bio-intelligence. The limits of human understanding of this cannot be overcome through business-as-usual approaches that are readily offered in modern society.
The invitation to “reattune to metabolic entanglement” through radical tenderness consists of making ourselves more available to re-learn, to co-sense our inseparability from all other living beings on the planet, and from the planet itself. We are part of a very complex and multi-layered web of relations which are in constant movement and which require continuous care and digestion. It’s not only about connecting to/through the “good stuff,” but also about composting individual and systemic shit that is part of the metabolic cycles we are part of. Facing the unsustainability of modernity and its interconnected violences is not easy. It hurts our multiple and interdependent bodies in so many different ways, a reality that is being further exposed by the covid-19 pandemic as well as the many other emergencies related to the climate crisis.
Through the pedagogical-affective invitations of Radical Tenderness, the GTDF collective has been nurturing an affective space for confronting the complexity of the problems we are implicated in. This approach invites us to move away from the prescriptive politics that are usually encouraged and rewarded within modernity/coloniality. These politics of intellectual certainty, human exceptionalism, false securities, and consumptive entitlement deepen our separation from the planet’s metabolism. Radical Tenderness, as a healing practice, asks us to disinvest from such politics and to try to listen to what is beyond what we can understand or even imagine.
Experimenting with this healing practice to reattune to metabolic entanglement, the collective has been creating a poetic landscape of its intimate and collective (un)learnings, yearnings, and challenges, which have been collected in the text, Co-sensing with Radical Tenderness. This series invites artists to experiment with Radical Tenderness as a sensed-experience in their daily lives by creating performative rituals based on an encounter between the text and their own embodied poetics. Each artist chooses between 3-6 phrases in the text to create two ritual actions. The first is experienced locally by the artist and presented here in a format and duration of their choice. The second is created by the artist as an invitation to be experienced by others.
We have chosen to begin this curatorial experiment by working with Brazilian artists. As Brazilian curators of the series, we thought this was a good place to start because the modern system’s false promises have long been shattered by the country’s ongoing inequalities and violence towards Indigenous, POC, and LGBTQIA+ communities and the Earth itself, currently amplified by the far-right government of Bolsonaro. In this scenario it has become viscerally clear to many that the affective sensibility that can be summoned as resilience must be anchored in other realms of metabolic intelligence.
The articles in this series are featured in English, with Portuguese versions downloadable as PDFs.
Look the complete series here.
The Challenge of Co-sensing
How could I be able to become integrated to such a vast metabolism, to a temporality so much wider than the duration of my human body? How could I disentangle so many expectations of belonging? Which strategies should I use in order to unlearn the logics of separation I was taught again and again since I was a child? How could I open my body so as to allow it to be/to become the extension of the body of the Earth?
Waterline is a project consisting of two actions: one that I performed myself, and one that I developed as a set of instructions for others to perform anywhere in the world. It is a poetic response to the invitation to co-sense, with some affirmations from the text Co-Sensing with Radical Tenderness. However, it is important that the intimate, affective dimension supporting this project is also made visible: being someone who currently lives, and who has always lived on islands, having the sea constantly within sight brings me some kind of comfort and familiarity—its fluidity, its colours, its ever-changing behaviour, the unique shine of its translucent surface.
Both actions take an encounter with the Sea as their starting point. In Yoruba tradition, in the Ifá poems, Olokun is the name of the divinity responsible for the seas and oceans, considered to be the first great spirit to inhabit the Earth with its vastness, beauty, and mystery. They are often represented as being half human and half fish; at times feminine, at times masculine, sometimes androgynous. Moving beyond any of their shapes, Olokun could be translated as a force encompassing the entire cosmology of the underwater depths. In that sense, Waterline emerges as a gesture that seeks to approach and to make contact with the unlimited memory archive of the salty waters. An attempt to give account of everything the waves bring us at the seashore; a proposal in which physical, conceptual, and ritualistic atmospheres cross each other.
There are also the highs and lows of the tides in connection with the moon phases. This movement of flux and reflux was one of the first phenomena that allowed humans to create a correlation between celestial and terrestrial events, and therefore to be able to make predictions about the climate and to compose systems of time division.
by Rubiane Maia
THREE ISLANDS DIAGRAM [diagram of my attempts to belong]
WATERLINE // LINHA D'ÁGUA #1
Ritual-Action. The Warren, Folkestone, UK.
Waiting for the sea to say yes.
Accepting that it is impossible to hold the sea-body in my arms.
Escaping the thoughts and voices who keep insisting on the idea that us [humans] are the only source of intelligence on the Earth.
Making space for every doubt and uncertainty, trusting the feeling that there is no such a thing as a perfect formula for integration.
When the sea plays with us, it simply and gently dismantles everything our smallness has built.
Every beginning holds a secret within it. Or many.
Something remains hidden in order to preserve its own mysterious existence. In that sense, the desire of becoming fully integrated with the mystery brings about a certain kind of expectation, through a process mediated by both desire, yearnings and chance. One needs to refuse the feeling of frustration: after all, such an event will never depend solely on our conscious decision.
You make a movement, you wait for a sign.
You make an invitation, you wait for an answer.
One needs to be attentive enough in order to notice the hole, the crack, the scission, when something suddenly opens up in a lucky strike.
None of this can be forcefully arranged, but it can and it should be dreamed up.
When the sea plays with us, it simply and gently dismantles everything our smallness has built.
360˚ VIDEO [Action-Ritual, Folkestone, UK]
WATERLINE // LINHA D'ÁGUA #2
Invitation-Instructions for a Performance-Ritual | Portuguese Version PDF here
The movement of the tides: the gravitational power of the Moon and the Sun act as if it were pulling the Earth towards itself. This doesn’t happen only with the water, but it is at the sea level that the effects of gravitation reveal themselves in such a visible, direct way. On the full Moon these processes are amplified, there are far higher and lower tides. During this period, our bodies vibrate intensely as emotions are heightened.
Waterlines: a superposition of transitory lines. Margins, borders, footprints, traces, prisms separating the whole into spectrums of light of different colours.
Island-people: people who learn from the beginning that they must untie knots in order to survive. Those who greet the sea whenever they can, admiring the stillness of the waters, while respecting the storms. Those who wash their bodies with salt, put plant twigs behind the ears, yearn for blessings.
1. Choose an application software which allows you to check the peak periods of the high and low tides. The duration of your ritual should be equivalent to the time it takes for the tides to lower: approximately six hours.
2. Arrange everything to start the action at the exact time when the sea reaches its highest level. Bring a bottle of water to drink from.
3. On a calm beach, choose a place to stand facing the sea and position your bare feet in the waterline. This is not a fixed spot, but you should be able to find it by the seashore. Should you have any doubt, look for the area where the waves reach the sandy or stony surface.
4. Once you have chosen your starting point, stand motionless, fixing your gaze towards the horizon, while keeping your eyes open. As the sea level recedes, walk slowly towards its direction. Your body should follow the rhythm of the water descent.
5. You should always remain upright, with your feet in the waterline. As the hours go by, you are likely to feel some physical discomfort. Accept every sensation as part of the process and remember to breathe deeply.
6. The sea will likely reach your feet. In case it happens, feel the water temperature in relation to your environment.
7. You are not alone. In case you so wish, you might be able to establish some communication with either the ocean or the wind through telepathy. No matter what, remember the most important thing is to be open to listen.
8. Allow the sea to awaken all your senses.
Duration: the time it takes for the tides to descend [from its highest level to its lowest ebb].
The extension of your walk and the exact duration of the action both depend on the chosen location.