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Inês Brites: There’s More Water Entering the Soil
Bodies of water puddle and pool.
They seek confluence. They flow into one another
in life-giving ways, but also in welcome,
or unstoppable, incursions.’ 1
- Astrida Neimanis
This is a watery beginning. You realise you left your waterbottle behind on your way here. You think of yourmovement from the ocean onto land and how your neglect might now yield a new arrival in the form of micro-plastics. You flout those thoughts - after all, it is a privilege of your human agency. Yet, this is a watery beginning, so you ask yourself what water does: where it comes from, where it goes, and what it means along the way. As feminist environmental scholar, Astrida Neimanis reminds us our human bodies are at least two-thirds water. For her, the ‘flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves.”2
Connected albeit dispersed, relational yet undistinguishable, water troubles dominant western and humanist understandings of embodiment as self-sufficient, autonomous and discrete entities. Neimanis questions how to think our communality as bodies of water alongside our specific politics of location, i.e. how do we overcome the imaginary of water as a placeless, quantifiable unitreducible to an easily manageable abstraction by developing forms of kinship with those bodies of water in and around us? With some measure of hope, Inês Brites ’body of work offers clues as to how our connected and indebted rapport with our earth’s waters might allow us to relate differently.
For There’s more water entering the soil, Brites develops a series of new sculptures inspired in objects she found ashore: useless containers and conduits made to supporthuman activities. Brites is interested in disposable objects that have lost their utility within capitalist modes ofproduction - empty plastic water bottles, malfunctioning faucets, damaged electrical heaters, torn swimming gear, etc. In her aqueous imaginary, Brites’ practice asks that we reconsider the material agency of these leftovers from man-made currents. Involved in rescuing these objects from their arrest, she remakes the dirty and depleted in to a critique of mass production that relies on two fundamental gestures: animacy and vulnerability.
Over the course of the last years, Brites has devoted her practice to discovering the intimate relations of common household objects with the world. For the artist, planned obsolescence has distanced human life from itself and from other planetary life forms, forcing objects into a state of persistent vulnerability. Our sensory registers, Brites argues, are overloaded by immediacy and disposability to the point where we fail to recognise objects’ fundamental qualities. Beyond their intended purpose, objects host sets of relations - molecular, social, historic, both distant and ongoing - that exceed their meaning and intention. Think of a faucet’s devotion to the passage and movement of water, which in turn supports drinking and feeding life’ sever-evolving continuity. In its unintended capacity to gestate life, the faucet participates in ‘our bodies wet constitution’, fundamentally in relation to and with the world, yet vulnerably exposed to our attention.
Consider now a fishing net, how its transparency and interrupted openness do not foreclose the possibility of support but instead reveal that enmeshment is always-already porous and necessarily tactile. The faucet and the mesh’s devotion to their matter of support clearly extends to movements and affects. Absorbed in their devotion to support, contain or otherwise hold, the artist renders the tactility of encounters where movement and passage meld with their objects of support - water sipping through a bottle neck, a plastic fin fluttering in the dense ocean, a towel returning the moist of your skin to the air. Using non-toxic silicone as way of rendering their gestures as fluid, vivid and open-ended, Brites advocates for holding as a heuristic to knowing the world. By emphasising the plasticity of their relations, the artist’s material imaginaries interrupt the dominant paradigm of senseless accumulation and show that our aqueous borders are contiguous to the objects of our attention.
Both our bodies and our objects are open to rupture and renegotiation. Brites’ attentive and intentional (intentive] play with objects restores anima (soul) to the deanimated, discredited, and disenfranchised traces of human activity. By animating the relations that have been unmade, There's more water entering the soil asks us to reconsider what we make of things that are not simply ‘out there’ (as environment, resource, backdrop or commodity) but are rather contiguous and continual with human existence, central, in fact, to our own materialities. Such borderless practice suggests a feminist understanding of relationality that demands more attention to everyday abstractions - the ways in which humans have assumed the ‘naturalness’ of their environments and fundamentally forgotten the plasticity of its interactions.
Sofia Lemos, 04 / 2021
1 Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), 29.
2 Neimanis, Bodies of Water, 2.