Domenico De Clario


Singclear: The Flower Bed of Desires

Domenico de Clario was born in Trieste, Italy, in 1947, and lives in Melbourne, Australia. De Clario arrived in Salvador, Brazil, on June 9, 1999, and his assistant-collaborator Lila Meleisea arrived on July 9. De Clario and Meleisea worked with eight groups of children ranging in age from five to eleven from the Canteiro dos Desejos (The Flower Bed of Desires).

In the project he developed with the children, de Clario continued to explore his longstanding interest in creating art from the ordinary events and objects of life, transforming these events and objects in a manner informed by his study of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, and in the process revealing what he believes to be the invisible structures of consciousness manifested by various architectural and geographical spaces.

Each day proceeded as follows. While all the children breakfasted, de Clario played improvised sounds on the piano. After Meleisea's arrival, she joined him by playing the saxophone during breakfast time as well. After breakfast, they began to work with one of the eight groups into which the educators had divided the children. Each group was assigned a chakra—in Yogic philosophy, an energy center located at a certain point on the body—and the color corresponding to that chakra. The session began with a discussion and an explanation of both that particular chakra and its functions, as well as the chakra system as a whole. During this time, the children were encouraged to question what was being said and to engage in a conversation in which all sorts of free associations could be made.

After this wound down as the children's abilities to concentrate faded, the improvised piano and saxophone sounds would begin while the children, who were blindfolded, were encouraged to lie comfortably on sheets of colored material corresponding to both the chakra and the blindfold color. The educator assigned to the group would talk to the children quietly, settle them down, and begin to massage them. Sometimes the children would fall deeply asleep, as occasionally would some educators. This would last approximately forty-five minutes or more. At the end of this time, they would awaken the children slowly by making slight sounds with implements and objects symbolic of the element associated with each chakra. The importance of the sounds being made with everyday objects cannot be stressed too much, because the children had to be encouraged to see the manifestation of invisible energy through visible means in everyday objects that they previously may have taken for granted—objects that had to become catalysts for other possibilities. The children would engage themselves in brief conversations about dreams they had while sleeping; they were encouraged to express themselves freely, and often the conversation would take place between the children, rather than with the adults. During subsequent sessions with other educators, the children made images with paints and colored pencils of what they had experienced earlier that day. These images were displayed in the various rooms of the Canteiro.

During his stay, de Clario organized two performances. The first took place at the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia on July 25, 1999. The children were divided into the eight groups. In the month prior to the performance, each group played with the possibilities of making sounds with everyday objects that related somehow to the elemental characteristics of each chakra. An elemental structure was built in the museum's courtyard, which the children inhabited throughout the performance. They were grouped around the soundmaking objects: chairs, water containers, various flutes, bells, the voice, and so on. They filed out dressed in white with the color of their chakra featuring strongly (this color was removable). De Clario and Meleisea then began with a short improvised session and were subsequently joined by each chakra group in turn, punctuated also in turn by a short burst of all the chakra groups playing together. At the end of the eighth session, the sound performance ended, the children removed their colors, and then they all filed out in a spiral dressed, like de Clario, Meleisea, and the educators, completely in white. They then gathered in the center of the courtyard and crouched down low, until all could hold hands or touch one another. They subsequently turned to the audience and applauded them for their attention and support. The performance was recorded both on video and on DAT tape. The second performance was an improvised, all-night, solo performance for piano and saxophone on the steps of Carmo Church that began at sunset on July 28 and ended at sunrise on July 29, the night of the full moon.

Singclear: The Flower Bed of Desires is not defined by the idea of a final product of conclusion, but by a desire to construct a process that allows the participants to contribute as creatively as possible to the spiritual and educational advancement of each individual taking part; to manifest an increasing individuation through an expression of one's creative voice, and to have this voice heard and validated by others through a final collaboration/performance. This performance was constructed around the principle that the children of Axé form one body and one entity. Within this macro-body, the interdependent yet autonomous micro-body of the Canteiro forms a separate entity. This entity included the educators, the building itself and everything in it, the two sound collaborators (de Clario and Meleisea), the cook and her assistant, the cleaner, and the security person. De Clario believes that the body can only manifest positive energy when its component parts (the chakras) are maintaining an harmonious relationship between themselves.

The success of the project depended on the quality of information that de Clario passed on to the children; this, in turn, defined the capability of each child to absorb what was being transmitted. Education (information) is universally accepted as the most powerful ally in the struggle to realize the self, and the most powerful weapon against ignorance and poverty. De Clario chose to work with the children of the Canteiro because he believed that at their young age, the educative process that allows for a deeper understanding of the invisibility of the body's inner life would be more openly received and would consequently maximize any beneficial effect on the children's physiology and psychology. Between the ages of five and eleven, one's perception of the world is still in the formative stages, and receiving such information at this point may have far more effective results than if received later in life. De Clario approached his project in the way he approaches the rest of his practice: to function as a catalyst for a more direct experience of the nexus between the visible and invisible worlds, focusing on the chakra energy-system as the primary perceptual matrix through which certain aspects of the phenomenological world (the context in which this nexus visibly manifests) may be directly confronted. These experiences may lead to the conclusion that visible and invisible are ultimately indivisible.

For the exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia, de Clario reconstructed the installation that served as the primary structure for the performance with the children, as well as a structure for collecting their tunics and sound objects. He also presented a looped video of the performance and an edited audiotape (CD) of both performances.

This text was written in collaboration with the artist.