35th Bienal de São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec 2023
Free Admission
35th Bienal de
São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec
View of the work The Wake, by The Living and the Dead Ensemble, during the 35th Bienal de São Paulo – choreographies of the impossible © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

The Living and the Dead Ensemble

A spiral is the image that opens Ouvertures (2019), the first film by the transnational collective The Living and The Dead Ensemble. The image is the synthesis of what moves the group’s creative process: a sinuous line in a continuous movement of approach/departure, from inward/outward, without beginning or end. In the films and installations of this collective, creating is a matter of traveling, displacement – Haiti-France, forest-beach, past-future, revolution-crisis. Poetry, performance, film, music, and theater are merged with varying and blurred intensities – as in The Wake (2019–ongoing), the group’s second work, which is at once a multichannel installation, a play, a film, and a radical Black manifesto.

The spiral shapes the creative process that is built in act, in incarnation, and in evocation of ghosts – making visible and alive those and that which never ceased to be there. Thus, to the rhythm of the créole, poets and revolutionaries from different eras meet and converse through processes of fabulation and activation. Speech blurs the boundaries between the dead and the living – as the group’s name states. Frankétienne, Toussaint Louverture, Édouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau and so many other artists/intellectuals/ revolutionaries confabulate in the proposition of a Caribbean imagination that is utopian, urgent, and timeless.

In this sinuosity, the voices – of ghosts, revolutionaries, and members of the collective – overlap in images multiplied on simultaneous screens or in sounds that are echoed by the members of the group that are on a stage. In this amalgam proposed by the creations, raps, speeches, narratives of Black revolts, a cacophonous chorus is formed in which the chaotic materiality of sounds and stories is intrinsic to the senses of the works. And fire (a recurring element of these productions) blazes on the nights when revolutions are dreamt of and remembered. The flames destroy and transform – also in continuous movement. Following this displacement in between (worlds, times, countries), the music and dance performed by the collective members summon the body to burn also, and invite those who watch to glimpse (im)possible utopias in the flesh of the works.

kênia freitas
translated from Portuguese by philip somervell

The Living and the Dead Ensemble are a group of artists, performers and poets from Haiti, France and the United Kingdom. They were formed at Port-au-Prince (Haiti) in 2017, in order to produce a performance of the play Monsieur Toussaint, by Édouard Glissant, translated to Haitian Creole. Through their plays, performances, films and installations, their works explore different possible methods of recounting the past and the present through a Caribbean lens. Their first film, OUVERTURES (2020), was awarded at the Berlinale (Berlin, Germany). They have presented their works at the Sharjah Biennial 15 (UAE), and the Badischer Kunstverein (Karlsruhe, Alemanha), after a residency at the institution. Their members are Cynthia Maignan, Dieuvela Cherestal, James Desiris, Léonard Jean Baptiste, Louis Henderson, Mackenson Bijou, Mimétik Nèg, Olivier Marboeuf, Rossi Jacques Casimir and Sophonie Maignan.