Center for Art,
Research and Alliances

Guiding Question 2022–24

"Os brancos dormen muito, mas só conseguem sonhar com eles mesmos” (White people sleep a lot, but only dream about themselves), writes Davi Kopenawa, the philosopher, shaman, and spokesperson for the Yanomami people in Brazil. Not to dream about ourselves means dreaming about beings of the forest, the water, animals, of invisible beings or of the universe. [Davi Kopenawa, The Falling Sky (2013)]

The Years of Dreams: How can we dream not only about ourselves?

For The Years of Dreams 2022–24, what matters is the body. This body. A body existing in a particular space-time, rooted in its location and its origins, and yet never truly "fixed" to any one place. Inhabiting this body is a journey through continual consumption and production, through which we are interdependent on each other, and with everything around us. The body, therefore, is not a theme to us—there is no about in the way we work, no defined meaning or end-point—but rather a concern, an investigation, that will accompany us over the next few years.

Throughout The Years of Dreams we will unpack our ongoing questions and reflections on how Western-imposed, universalized ideas and standardized definitions of the body came to accrue their cultural dominance, and how they have persisted over time. How were these ideas of the body formed? Who has maintained their development? Who has benefitted from such maintenance? And to expand these questions: How might we disrupt or resist these definitions? Who else before us has unveiled or overturned them? How do we connect with and continue that work?

Emerson Uýra performing Espiral da Morte, at Conjuring #3, 2022
Emerson Uýra performing Espiral da Morte, at Conjuring #3, 2022

The "discovery" of the Americas—enacted through a blueprint of foundational violence, invasion, dispossession, rapacious extraction, expropriation, and theft—enabled Europe to situate itself at the economic and epistemological center of the modern world system, whereby knowledge is produced through self-proclaimed "rational thinking." This system of expansion pretends knowledge has no locus, even as it declares itself the center of all. It insists its terms are legible, that its roots are infallible logic—even as it reveals its own irrational impulses to dominate and contain. Descartes’s proclamation of a delineated body and mind, alongside so many other enduring myths of "science," has generated and upheld an image of humans as abstracted from all social, sexual, and racial realities. Recognizing these historical dynamics and the ideas they have spawned is no small task. Reconnecting the mind and body, resisting such false dichotomies, and nurturing anti-essentialism is hard—but it is not impossible. We now have scientific research on the gut-brain connection, and we also know that modernity’s project of a "universal history"—the writing of the history of humankind within a framework of progressive and linear time and space—is a Western construct, and it is on unstable ground.

For The Years of Dreams we will invoke the thinking of Davi Kopenawa, a member of the Yanomami people of North Brazil, a shaman, a human/land-rights activist, and a philosopher, to open us to a multitude of journeys and a new consciousness of the world, as both whole and yet never total. "Os brancos dormen muito, mas só conseguem sonhar com eles mesmos” (White people sleep a lot, but only dream about themselves) writes Davi Kopenawa. Not to dream about ourselves means dreaming about beings of the forest, the water, animals, buildings, concrete of invisible beings or of the universe. We will invoke Kopenawa’s thinking to guide us in asking: How can we dream not only about ourselves?

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