The 17th photoshoot of the “100 NUDE Shoots (of Hugo)” Project was chosen to also become part of the 17th edition of the 2016 Satyrianas Festival as a collective performance in homage to Phedra de Cordoba, cuban, transsexual actress, diva of the Roosevelt Square — the main independent theatrical nucleus of São Paulo — who died April 2016. Called “100 NUDES Celebrate Phedra”, the performance featured dozens of participants enrolled via social networks and was photographed by Lenise Pinheiro, great name of brazilian theater photography, who accepted the invitation to lend her vision to register this tribute.
Rodolfo García Vázquez, founder of the Satyros theater co. — Phedra’s home for her last 15 years — shared with us before we began the performance his vision about the transsexual diva’s relation with her own body:
“What I thought was incredible about Phedra is that she had no shame of her body. Her old, altered body carried her story with pride. She did not use it to deny her story, as so many of us do. She started her transformation in 1969, when she was Felipe, a young male singer and dancer. She got a silicone implant in 1972, when the implant technology was precarious, and she carried her hard, petrified implant through to old age with no desire to replace it. Phedra carried the results of her transformation with pride. She did not do transgendering surgery because at the time the procedure was illegal and even more difficult than today. She assumed her penis, her “spongy flesh,” as she called it, as a part of who she was, and dealt naturally with it. Two years ago she was filmed completely naked for the Satyros’ “Thou shall not Die” performance. Her old, modified body was projected onto the big screen with all her wrinkles and quirks, and she had no vanity or shame of it at all.” — Rodolfo García Vázquez
The performance, a collective impromptu where the participants were stimulated by the light, by images and songs of Phedra projected on the people and walls of the Satyros gallery, as well as by the words and testimonials of Rodolfo, Lenise Pinheiro and the homaged actress herself, was also live broadcasted to an online audience of more than 500 people. A parade of naked Phedras, their bodies free, illuminated by their own light.
Alessandro Sbampato, one of the performers who enlisted to participate after seeing the call for performers on the social networks, told us what participating in the performance/photoshoot meant for him:
“It was a liberating experience for me. I am not an actor, I am an architect and a teacher, and now also a performer, since my research subject deals with the relation between body and landscape through art. Rodolfo García Vásquez’s initial speech about Phedra’s body as a collection of her own memories was fundamental for me to let go. I am 48 years old, my body was once that of a rower, a cyclist, but I eventually reached 170 kg. I have since reduced my stomach and now I’m gradually rebuilding my body. Not that I underwent surgery due to social pressure, on the contrary: when I was fat I was in a comfortable situation within the ‘bear’ universe. It was a matter of survival. As I lose weight, my body has been transforming, and, added to the passing years, this appears as marks on my body and brings aesthetic discomfort. Before we did the performance I commented with Lenise Pinheiro about how when watching Bacantes, I was impressed by the dignity of the old nudity of Vera Barreto Leite, resplendent onstage. If she, who was one of the most beautiful women in the world, is not ashamed of the body she has today, why should I? I am rebuilding from the need to find the body that supports everything I want to do. As in Agrado’s monologue in Almodovar’s “Todo sobre mi madre”, we are all the more authentic, the closer we are to what we see ourselves as a person. The body is our boat and our home. The body will always be our last barricade.”
To Lenise Pinheiro and the illuminated performers who undressed for this tribute, my most sincere and — for Phedra — eternal gratitude: