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Marina Cecília Resende Santos

first performed on August 11, 2020
Open sheds used for what? at El Paseo Community Garden
performed once in 2020


Chicago, IL


There is a moment peeling citrus, when your thumb first punctures the rind, that you may receive a great burst of oil coating your hands. You may pause to quietly wipe your hands clean or you may proceed to peel back the rind exposing the fruit—letting the skin fill your nail beds. Both paths surround you momentarily with sweet, fresh aromas.

“An Oil Opera” sought to illustrate moments of sweet freshness in the heat of a summer’s day through moments of intimate gestures and shared care. Performed as part of Open sheds used for what? organized by Marina and Cecília Resende Santos, the project was an overarching reminder that items hold stories and smells hold memories. “An Oil Opera’’ consisted of three distinct stations, constructed as an interactive performance during a COVID world.

“Thaw,” gifted participants a large ice cube with a local flower suspended within. Picked from around the Pilsen neighborhood, the flowers were gifts of locality during a time when people were becoming most acquainted with their places of stay. These frozen gifts became our language to describe resilience, distance, and reluctance. The second station “Grapefruit,” another frozen treat, played a significant role as a capsule of memory and intimate interaction. A fresh grapefruit welcomes one with a spritz of citrus oil aroma as it is peeled; through freezing, we diminished the usual vibrancy expected during the fruit’s opening. The final station, “Anointing,” acknowledged and envisioned a period of aftercare, culminating in a takeaway solid perfume made by Ramirez and Chalfin-Piney.

Left Ear Solid Perfume - lemon verbena, lavender, eucalyptus

Right Ear Solid Perfume - grapefruit, copaiba, basil

After receiving such frozen gifts, we invited participants to warm themselves through friction; warming hands to melt the solid perfumes and release the aromas infused within. The naming of the perfumes alluded to a starting route for personal application on the body. This work stood as a subtle reminder that care is something which starts in one place and spreads.

“We realize, in recent days, that this shared experience of the moment when you cut into a fruit and the mist flutters towards your face is not accessible or appropriate. We hope that you will have your own experience with bursting scents in the comfort of your home.”