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Greif Alumni: Q&A with Masina Pinheiro and Gal Cipreste


We periodically invite our alumni, artists we have featured in the past, to share their new work and projects with us. Masina Pinheiro and Gal Cipreste's most recent work was featured in our Guest Room "Response-ability — Touch/Change — Otherwise" curated by Renée Mussai & Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński titled "Refrão" – Portuguese for "Chorus" – the collaborative duo's work is a documentary narrated in first and third person, exploring trans narratives and the voices of non-binary people.

Der Greif: How did you resonate with Mussai's suggested theme?

The transformative proposal that Mussai brings is extremely physical, grounded in the history of dissident bodies, and this brought us closer, despite many intersections separating us. I remember a phrase by Marguerite Duras that says, "One cannot write without bodily strength. One must be stronger than oneself to approach writing; one must be stronger than what one is writing." It's possible to change "write" to "photograph." Sometimes we photograph things that are still latent, without knowing if we will publish them, if the subject will be understood or ridiculed. Every time we choose not to think about these specific consequences, it might mean that we've become stronger than the subject. The theme touched us in this way. Moreover, we are proud to be part of this curation, what a beautiful selection.

Der Greif: Could you expand a bit more on the overall project? How has it developed from 2022 up to now?

The series is a conceptual and documentary exploration of the history of the gender-disobedient voice. LGBTQIAPN+ community undeniably has a legacy of silence. This is a consequence of coercion, compulsory shame, and physical violence, which creates situations such as that Masina went through. They stopped speaking in certain social contexts for years. There are times when one cannot speak; there are times when one is too afraid; there are people who must not know about you; there are many forms of silencing. The voice itself, physically, is also highly scrutinized: the "faggot voice" is often punished with slaps in childhood, as if it needs correction. The mannerisms of speech. The binary conventions of masculine and feminine in tone. The natural and/or induced transitions through hormones and/or surgeries for vocal adjustment. The voice can be a marker that puts a trans or travesty body at risk of violence in everyday situations. It also can be a factor that prevents someone from getting a job. Therefore, voice is steeped in gender and control. There are many issues surrounding the history of the queer/dissident voice, and these are precisely what we are interested in.

Der Greif: Speaking of "voices," you've conducted dialogical research, including other people's stories, into your work to better represent the experiences of trans people and their relationship with their own voice. What does dialogue look like to you?

We have a video-art called "End of the World" in which some voices (Kaeterine Terra, Matheus Valois, and Gal Cipreste) are heard. We have some written testimonies that were recorded live, in conversation, and transcribed to be texts on the wall and on the page. Working with someone is always very unique and delicate. First, they identify with our stories, with who we are. Then they tell us how they prefer to collaborate. Some people don't like the sound of their own voice, some people just prefer not to appear in portraits. We think about the ideal technique for each of the participants. They are mostly our close friends.

Der Greif: The title, "Refrão" refers to the English word "chorus", which conveys this idea of multiplicity of voices.

The chorus is the most memorable, even the most important part of a pop song, for example. We have structured the series in this way, with some repetitions, as if they were choruses, emulating this concept of creating bridges, expectations, and playing with formulas. Gal has a passion for music/sound transitions in albums, it takes everything to another level and also reveals us something hidden to the ear-eyes or something like that kkk.

Der Greif: "Refrão" makes me think of autofiction — it’s staged, but it’s also playing on deeply biographical elements. Sometimes it’s the only way to tell a story, especially one filled with pain and trauma. Did you feel it was a way for you to reckon with your familial circumstances, as well as the shared experience of trans people?

It's surreal (and so simple) how we can tell stories so personal and yet so similar to so many people we talked to during "GH, Gal and Hiroshima" and now with "Chorus". For us, it is common to come across issues that are difficult to open up and articulate in our families, and meeting other people who have experienced similar things allows us, in a way, to materialize something that is spread among us.

Der Greif: What's this coexistence of references between human voices and birds built on?

To represent the sculptural nature of the voice, we began collecting handmade wooden whistles that mimic the sounds of birds. We fell in love with the shapes they have. The idea of a handmade voice, crafted with our nature, modified according to our identity, is wonderful. We also started to make small and large interventions on these whistles. In a sort of "surgery" with a carpenter (the artist Ighor Melo), we managed to combine two opposite whistles (one of a turtledove and another of a mallard) into a single whistle. Now it contains two voices, one low and one high, depending on how you blow it. Masina grew up with the high voice of childhood until they was 23. For a certain period, after finishing college and going to many endocrinologists, the second voice, the deep one, began to appear. Masina was ashamed and hid it. They had two voices. That's sometimes how the transition process goes. It still seems ridiculous to tell. There's also a mysterious whistle we found that doesn't make any sound. No one recognizes what bird it is, It only exists, but no one knows the sound it has.

Der Greif: Lastly, what are your main aims with this project?

We gather with people who have had to think about their own voice to survive and organize a karaoke in our home (just kidding). The goal is to reflect on the legacy of silencing and bring visibility. Initiate new conversations within and outside the community. Many people we’ve spoken to have never thought about queer voices. And we have many stories to tell.