Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva: Sensing Salon by Ricardo December 09, 2019 0 News, Research

Date:14th to 18th January of 2020

HANGAR – Centro de Investigação Artística
Rua Damasceno Monteiro, 12
1170-112 Lisboa

Co-produced and co-commissioned by
KADIST, Paris, in the framework of KADIST’s three-year project Not Fully Human, Not Human at All, curated by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, together with Hangar, Lisbon and Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon

Photo: Sensing Salon, Artspeak, Vancouver (November 24–December 16, 2017) photo by Erik Hood


The Sensing Salon is a studio practice, conceived by Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva, that expands the image of art beyond objects, events, and discourse to include the healing arts. Through formats that facilitate collaborative studying and experimenting with different practices and tools for reading (e.g. Tarot and Astrology) and healing (e.g. Reiki and Political Therapy), it fosters a form of sociality that attends to our deeply implicated existence.

For this occasion, the Sensing Salon will assume a two-parts format: a private study group (with guests) during four days (Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 January) which will culminate in an open-sharing of the process of Friday 17 January evening and a one-day public symposium, on Saturday 18 January.

The study group will gather guests who will take part in the symposium as well as Lisbon-based artists, activists and intellectuals. The study group will depart from the question that closes Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s film Serpent Rain (2016): “what would become of the human if expressed through the elements?” A question inspired by the sense that the grip the metaphysics of linearity (and its attendant onto-epistemological descriptors, such as separability and fixity) has on our imagination accounts for the prevalence of violence in modern global existence. From experimenting with practices and tools that presume deep implicancy (such as Tarot, Reiki, Astrology, etc.), over five years now, we found that, among other things, they create a form of sociality that does not presume the fundamental separability that prevails in philosophical, social scientific, and commonsensical representations of existence. An important aspect of these practices is that the classic elements (air, fire, water, and earth) and correspondence (or similarity) constitute their lexicon and grammar. By framing the question(ing) of the human around the possibility of describing it using the elements, we hope to create a study space to explore the possibilities that open up when similarity replaces linearity as the metaphysical basis for thinking and existing.

The study group will gather for 4 days (from Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th January) and dedicate each day to the study of the human through one element. We have invited guests to frame the work on each element and open up some possibilities of rethinking the category of the Human through their practice and the way it relates to that element. The 4 guests are:

– Air (abstraction, formal cause, interpretation, shape, power as rule): Mark Harris is an academic and former land rights lawyer working on themes related to indigenous rights and water.
– Fire (transubstantiation, final cause, creation, beginning, power as energy): Jota Mombaça is a writer and performer who has worked on the relation between humanity and monstrosity, the end of the world, anti-colonial justice and visionary fiction.
– Earth (motion, generation, material cause, raw material, consolidation, power as oppression): Kobe Matthys/Agency is an activist and artist whose practices include permaculture and other sustainable methods.
– Water (Distillation, relaton, efficient cause, nutrient, extraction, power as relation): Stacey Ho is a Vancouver-based artist whose work explores intimacy through building relations which may be expressed as infusion as well as writing.
On Friday 17 January, at 7pm, we will host an open event where all that we were able to gather and experiment will be shared with a wider public, together with Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s film Serpent Rain (2016).

On Saturday 18 January we will host the symposium Toward a Transformative Theory of Justice, which will elaborate on the questions that guide this iteration of the Sensing Salon. We will attempt to weave together the Elements, our guests’ practices and the ways of thinking about Justice that those open up. Raquel Lima will give the keynote lecture.


January 14 -17 January, 2020
Study Group (private sessions/by invitation)

January 17, 7pm
Public Session of the Study Group + Screening of Serpent Rain (2016), by Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva.

January 18
12-5pm: Symposium Toward a Transformative Theory of Justice
12-13 Introduction to the Sensing Salon & the question of the Human by Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva
13-14 Keynote Speaker: “IntRAsectionality of black aether in Portugal: women, water, fire, earth and air” by Raquel Lima
14-15 Lunch Break
15-16 Elemental Panel: From Air to Water (Mark Harris & Stacey Ho)
16-17 Elemental Panel: From Earth to Fire (Kobe Matthys & Jota Mombaça)
17-18 Discussion and Drinks

About the project Not Fully Human, Not Human at All

A Curatorial Collaborative project, conceived by KADIST, Paris, and curated by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, spans over three years (2017-2020). It focuses on Europe as a geographic and conceptual framework, and reflects on the dehumanisation that characterises many of the activities that humans have been doing in the name of “humanity” throughout various civilisations. The title is borrowed from Donna Haraway’s text “Ecce Homo, aint’ (Ar’n’t) I a Woman, and Innapropriate/d Others” where she quotes Hortense Spillers, a black feminist theorist, about the disposability and inexistence of any legal subjectivity of slaves in America.

Artistic commissions that emerge with this project have been done in collaboration with the institutions in three different countries in Europe: Lumbardhi Foundation in Prizren, Kosovo, Netwerk in Aalst and Contour Biennale 9 in Mechelen, Belgium, and Hangar and Kunsthalle Lissabon in Lisbon, Portugal. The commissions talk about repressed ancient female knowledge and power through re-living of the local urban myths and Greek mythology (the project Europa Enterprise initiated by Andreja Duganđžić, Jelena Petrović and Lala Raščić), about the role of the Western legal system in the construction of extractivist, racist and neo-colonial global nation states (project The Empire of Law by Daniela Ortiz). Sensing Salon of Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva is the third and last commission of the project.

For more information:

KADIST believes contemporary artists make an important contribution to a progressive society, their work often addressing key issues of our time. KADIST, a non-profit organization dedicated to exhibiting the work of artists represented in its collection, encourages this engagement and affirms contemporary art’s relevance within social discourse. Its programs develop collaborations with artists, curators and many art organizations around the world, facilitating new connections across cultures. Local programs in KADIST’s hubs of Paris and San Francisco include exhibitions, public events, residencies and educational initiatives. Complemented by an active online network, they aim at creating vibrant conversations about contemporary art and ideas.


Denise Ferreira da Silva’s academic writings and artistic practice address the ethical questions of the global present and target the metaphysical and ontoepistemological dimensions of modern thought. She is a professor and director of The Social Justice Institute (GRSJ) at the University of British Columbia. Her art-related work includes texts for publications for the Liverpool, São Paulo and Venice Biennales, and for Documenta 14, as well as collaborations with Arjuna Neuman in the films Serpent Rain (2016) and 4Waters-Deep Implicancy (2018); and events (performances, talks, and private sessions) and texts related to Poethical Readings and the Sensing Salon, with Valentina Desideri.

Valentina Desideri (b. 1982 in Rome, lives and works in St- Erme and Vancouver) is an artist who reads, writes and is committed to organize within different communities, including Performing Arts Forum in France. She trained in contemporary dance at the Laban Centre in London (2003–2006) and later on did her MA in Fine Arts at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam (2011–13) and is currently a PhD student at the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She does Fake Therapy and Political Therapy, she speculates in writing with Stefano Harney, she engages in Poethical Readings with Denise Ferreira da Silva, she is part of the Oficina de Imaginação Política.

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez is an independent curator, editor and writer, she lives and works in Paris. Among the projects and exhibitions she curated are: “Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton” (Mechelen, 2019), “Defiant Muses. Delphine Seyrig and Feminist Video Collectives in France in 1970s-1980s” at the Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid and Museum LaM, Lille (with Giovanna Zapperi, 2019), “Let’s Talk about the Weather. Art and Ecology in a Time of Crisis”  at the Sursock Museum in Beirut (with Nora Razian, 2016), “Resilience. Triennial of Contemporary Art” at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Ljubljana, 2013), and in France: “Becoming Earthlings. Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge #18” at Musée de l’Homme, Paris (with Alexander Klose, Council and Mobile Academy, 2015), “Tales of Empathy” at Jeu de Paume, Paris (2014).
She is a co-organizer and co-founder of the seminar “Something You Should Know” at EHESS, Paris (with Elisabeth Lebovici and Patricia Falguières), and a member of the research group Travelling Féministe, at Centre audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, Paris. She is the chief editor of the publishing platform Versopolis Review, between 2014 and 2017 she was the chief editor of L’Internationale Online, and between 2012 and 2014 she was the chief editor of the Manifesta Journal. Between 2010 and 2012, she was co-director of Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers.

Corazon del Sol
Jota Mombaça
Kobe Matthys/Agency
Mark Harris
Stacey Ho
Raquel Lima

Study group participants:
Ana Balona de Oliveira, Ana Bigotte Vieira, Cristina Roldão, Fallon Mayanja, Mamadou Ba, Mariana Silva, Paula Caspão, Margarida Mendes


HANGAR – Centro de Investigação Artística
Rua Damasceno Monteiro, 12
1170-112 Lisboa