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Nuno Martins

first performed on June 29, 2019
Zaratan - Arte Contemporânea, Lisbon, Portugal
performed once in 2019


Berlin, Germany


Struggling under the pressure of making sense, of producing and performing significance, of fitting in conventional structures; confused by the cacophony of divergent expectations from society and media; caught in the contemporary faster / louder cogwheels; disillusioned by the superficiality of a commercialised art world; and therefore suffering from anxiety, from emotional and creative exhaustion, I craved a safe, intimate poetic space where I could find healing in simply being witnessed in my most vulnerable state, and reveal the rawness of my unamplified, unrehearsed voice.

The performance was conceived by monitoring and intuitively weaving a thread of synchronicities that occurred throughout my artist’s residency at Zaratan, Lisbon. The initial spark was a quote from the “Apostolic Canons,” which became the title of the piece. In an assemblage of sacred and profane texts, of fragments of my own poems, and of a long, striking silent interlude, I incarnated simultaneously—yet never quite—the high priestess, the mermaid, the hysteric, the bard, the fool.

Drawing from the glossolalic productions of religious cults, mediumistic séance and early 20th century vanguards, the performance explores the alchemy of a voice stripped of significative pretension, that, in turn, projects a sound both before and beyond language.

The performance starts as I open the door to a small, dark room in which the audience is seated in a half-circle. I am holding a large glass bowl filled with (blessed) Atlantic ocean water and papaya seeds. Akin to the priest’s ritualistic gesture on Pentecost Sunday Mass, I sprinkle water over the spectators’ heads while repeating: “It’s raining sirenes’ voices / as if they were dead / even in our memory.” The phrase is a free translation of Apollinaire’s famous calligram. It reoccurs throughout the piece as a leitmotiv, and leads to the final part, the vocal improvisation, where I add: “Their voices resound in perpetuity / and now I tremble as I dare / to add my voice to theirs,” tuning in with the idea of Marconi, the inventor of radio, that “All sound is still there, resonating around the universe however faintly.”

The scene having been set, I can finally sit, soak my feet in the bowl of holy water, and let my voice rise and dance and stumble as it pleases.