35th Bienal de São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec 2023
Free Admission
35th Bienal de
São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec
Exhibition view of the work of Tejal Shah during the 35th Bienal de São Paulo – choreographies of the impossible © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Tejal Shah

Tejal Shah’s installation Between the Waves evokes landscapes that seem to be simultaneously extra-terrestrial and too terrestrial. One can recognize the desert, the balcony, the mangrove, the city, the landfill site, the sea or the swimming pool as ordinary locations, common places on the planet. At the same time, the performers’ clothing and the type of relationship they establish with each other and their surroundings produce an exciting strangeness. Sensuality governs contact between bodies – be they plant, animal or mineral, raw or manufactured materials – as well as the way they are portrayed: intricately. Colors, textures, and sounds of this equally raw and imagined universe are not differentiated or organized by taxonomic hierarchies. In this sensory horizontalization, a central element of modern and universalizing discourses is betrayed: the subject that produces itself as human through the separation, classification, and consequent possession of things in the world. In this work, everything is touched and portrayed as a sensitive, excitable surface, inseparable from everything else.

The head ornaments are notable for the contrast of white and the verticality through which they cut the image, a phallic aspect with no necessary genital correspondence. Although they assume a penetrative function in the more explicit scenes, they also pass for horn, fin, funnel, or cone, conferring a kind of animality and objectuality to the moving bodies. Apart from these contrassexual prostheses1, there is another element whose symbolic and performative charge is worth noting: the arrangement of artificial flowers, bath sponges, and other colorful objects carefully deposited at the bottom of a pool, with the performers swimming around it, like fish around marine corals. There is no contradiction between nature and artifice, there is only brilliance and beauty, and among the waves, the bodies orbit their surroundings.

miro spinelli
translated from Portuguese by philip somervell

Tejal Shah (Bhilai, India, 1979. Based in Bir, India) considers themselves as some kind of an artist working with some kind of nature. They are deeply invested in relationality, love, care and healing, in ways that honor differences and are sensitive to the flows of power, privilege and disadvantage along complex intersectional lines. Amongst others, Shah’s worldview is informed by nondual Buddhist philosophy and practice, queer-feminism and eco-poetics. Their works have been widely exhibited at museums, galleries and film festivals, including Documenta 13 (Kassel, Germany), 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India), Tate Modern (London, UK), and Centre Pompidou (Paris, France).

1. On the notions of contrassexuality and prosthesis, see Paul B. Preciado, Manifesto contrassexual. São Paulo: n-1, 2014. In this book, the author reminds us that the phallus is not a substitution for the penis, but the opposite, and that the penis, in turn, is nothing but a dildo of flesh.


INTERBEING: Exploring Self, Other & The World Through Art & Nonduality
Workshop by Tejal Shah
September 8, 2023 – September 10, 2023, 9 am – 6 pm
Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion