Heaven Underneath

Interactive Installation 

by Luciana Ohira & Sergio Bonilha

Agostinho da Silva (Oporto, 1906 – Lisbon, 1994) describes in several philosophical essays the “Festa do Divino” (a popular celebration, present in many portuguese-speaking countries) as something very unique because it doesn’t refer to an event in the past but for a world to come. According to Agostinho, it probably started in Abrantes (PT) during the 14th century and has always followed a script in which a child (as a symbol of purity) is crowned “emperor of the world”, a banquet is equally served to all persons (without any distinction of origin or social class) and all local prisoners are released; the goal: to prepare ourselves for an utopic future where no one will be oppressed or live under unequal conditions.

During the early 1990’s, Agostinho da Silva was invited to take part in a special tv series titled “Conversas Vadias” (RTP, 1990). During one of the episodes he argued about this celebration as the following: “What seems to me is that we are going into something like the utopia that the Portuguese and some Italians called the Age of the Holy Spirit. First, this is an era in which children grew to the point that their spontaneity and ability to dream became infinite in a way that those capabilities will be able to guide the world. Second, from now on life will be more and more free of charge.”

Very well, but almost thirty years after the interview at RTP, it doesn’t look like we are getting near to this free future; perhaps something drove us away from this world to come. Maybe it was too early those days to Agostinho see in Portugal the effects from so many neoliberal prescriptions taking over all around the world…

As pointed out by Dardot & Laval in “La Nouvelle Raison du Monde” (2009), neoliberalism gained control over individual’s aimings in a deep psychological level which could make neoliberal ideas seem almost natural. Sort of like at the “Societies of Control” concept described by Deleuze and Foucault, for Dardot & Laval, if the individuals are like enterprises, it is presumed that even idleness would not be immune to an economical thinking, so, free time would be also guided by a generic desire for good performance and success.

The present project intends to make visible this context and proposes a practical approach for questioning it. “Heaven underneath” is an environmental intervention that uses well-known urban devices (street furniture, telematic networks and surveillance systems) to build small rest areas where people can practice birdwatching.

But why to observe birds?

Wild birds belongs to no one, they are like “commons”, totally away from the notion of property (both statal or private), just like Michael Hardt defines a non-property in “The Common in Comunism”. But also, because birds can be saw as an allegory of freedom, by using the surveillance system for birdwatching, we want to replace the focus over potential suspects and start paying attention on free individuals that are living here despite of us and our economics. Therefore, observing them, besides a way of learning some freestyle ornithology, can be an opportunity for learning a different way of being in this world.

Back to the “Festa do Divino”, if a celebration held in the present celebrates the future, giving us an opportunity to experience the utopia of equality, what or who prevents us from extending such experience into the future right now

about the artists

Luciana Ohira (São Paulo City – 1983) and Sergio Bonilha ( São Paulo City – 1976) are multimedia artists working together since 2005, mainly on interactive installations, objects and interventions (not necessarily for human interaction) which are more like situations in which other individuals or environmental forces will generate the artwork itself. Both hold master degree on Visual Poetics at University of São Paulo and now living near Bolivia and Paraguay at Campo Grande, they work and research connected to the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul. During the past years have shown their projects around the world at institutions like AIRY (Japan), BinauralMedia (Portugal), MACUF (Spain), MoTA (Slovenia), NAVE (Chile), SESC (Brazil) and many others.