I Gisberta (2015)


Paulo Aureliano da Mata, I Gisberta. Body art made in Porto, Portugal. May 2015. Photograph by Tales Frey, 39 2/5 x 39 2/5 inches (100 x 100 cm). Edition of 5 with 2 APs

Edição 1/5 + 2 P.A. pertence ao Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, Niterói, RJ, Brazil

Edição 2/5 + 2 P.A. pertence ao Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.



feminine proper noun


1) If the only consequential manner of evoking the dead is through taking care of the living, let us revisit here the thread of exclusions successively imprisoning transsexual Gisberta Salce, which was finally undone through her death, subjecting the emptiness on which she was forced to build her whole life. Judith Butler – in Frames of War: When Life Is Grievable? – suggests that life’s choices are social practices that define which lives will be grievable when they end. Gisberta’s recognizable life was solely the one tattooed by the time she lived in Porto (Portugal), first as a cabaret and gay club star mimicking singer Daniela Mercury and later as a specter far too present through her history of violence and transphobia.


2) Pedro Abrunhosa’s “Balada de Gisberta” [“Gisberta’s Song”], from his album Luz [Light], launched in 2007: Perdi-me do nome, / Hoje podes chamar-me de tua, / Dancei em palácios, / Hoje danço na rua / Vesti-me de sonhos / Hoje visto as bermas da estrada, / De que serve voltar / Quando se volta p’ró nada. // Eu não sei se um anjo me chama, / Eu não sei dos mil homens na cama / E o céu não pode esperar. / Eu não sei se a noite me leva, / Eu não ouço o meu grito na treva, / E o fim vem-me buscar. // Sambei na avenida, / No escuro fui porta-estandarte, / Apagaram-se as luzes, / É o futuro que parte. / Escrevi o desejo, / Corações que já esqueci, / Com sedas matei / E com ferros morri. // Trouxe pouco, / Levo menos, / E a distância até ao fundo é tão pequena, / No fundo, é tão pequena, / A queda. / E o amor é tão longe, / O amor é tão longe / E a dor é tão perto. [I lost myself from the name, / Today you can call me yours, / I have danced in palaces, / Today I dance on the street / I have dressed up in dreams / Today I wear the shoulders of roads, / What is the good in coming back / When you come back to nothing. // I don’t know if an angel is calling me, / I don’t know about a thousand men in bed / And heaven can’t wait. / I don’t know if night takes me, / I can’t hear my scream in darkness, / And the end comes to get me. // I have danced samba on the avenue, / I was a banner bearer in the dark, / The lights went off, / It’s future going away. / I wrote desire, / Hearts I’ve already forgotten, / With silks I killed / And with irons I died. // I have brought little, / I take even less with me, / And the distance to the bottom is so short, / In the end, it’s so small, / The fall. / And love is so far away, / Love is so far away / And pain is so close.]


3) Fragments from Alberto Pimenta’s book Indulgência Plenária [Plenary Indulgence] published in 2007 by &etc publishers (Lisboa, Portugal): A tua vida / foi o teu pecado / Gisberta [Your life / was your sin / Gisberta – p. 24]; E as tuas unhas / e a tua língua / iam passando / iam-se fixando / arranhando / camada sobre camada / a cama doutros corpos / Aliados e concorrentes / reconhecidos velhos / e conhecidos novos / E / sendo também arranhada por eles / e gostando mais de o ser no corpo / que no Espírito / que conservaste intacto e sem malícia / Inatingível / a tudo e a todos [And your nails / and your tongue / were running / were fixing themselves / scratching / layer upon layer / other bodies’ beds / Allies and competitors / recognized old ones / and know new one / And / being scratched by them as well / and enjoying more being it in your body / rather than in your Spirit / which you preserved intact and without malice / Unattainable / to everything and everyone – pp. 13-14]; Então sentas-te / e Procuras a tua mão / para entrares no teu romance (Then you sit down / and Look for your hand / so you can enter your romance – p. 36].


4) Freshman year of high school, Zênite School, Inhumas, Goiás, Brazil, 2001: “[…] I have a body and everything I do is a continuation of my beginning[1]: I complete myself with pieces of a shattered mirror when I see myself here in that morning’s visible invisible. There is no life lived, an untouched multicolored substance reigns in my body. She utters banalities that I cannot exactly grasp. The word wankingsaid by a boy who was older than me – was just as corrosive to my being as that moment. A pity kiss – “You’re fat, but I’ll kiss you anyway” – still hurt me as I had been devoured not long ago; ultimately culminating in my thinness’s disorder. In myself, the dry-sex gifted years before by that hand that touched me already existed, as also did the unkindness of my Father’s work partner who told me my child’s legs were pretty. She keeps on saying words that people say to me about myself. I’m (re)constructed by her hand. I’m frozen, disquietly observing without any focus everything around me. She still cries, screams, punches the tabletop, and, sometimes, lean on it. HERE IN MY SCHOOL PINK PANTIES ARE BANNED. OUTSIDE, YOU CAN WEAR WHATEVER YOU WISH. I don’t understand what pink piece of clothing is being referenced as everything in me was superficially turning gray, except for an orange-colored bracelet with silver spikes that was buckled to my wrist. To put me down before a classroom of thirty-four students, the same number of my book’s page, was the principal’s task for about one hour. Her mission was between biology and physics classes. That night I dreamt I could fly, and I improved my skill with my body on phantom-bodies, specters of undead deaths, my God. Somebody, please, take me out of here. Matheus, where do you rest on me that cannot be revealed in reality? I just loved and you were intimidated by that. “Se eu soubesse que o amor te envaidece / Não teria dado a chance que eu te dei” [“If I knew love made you proud / I would not have given you the chance I gave you”] [2]. Sensitivity already contained that carries the weight of everything that happens to me. Someone rests at the bottom of the well, drops slide on my nose and fall on my journal, to which I stare where I hear everything they say to me. Damned hag just like the viper plants that twisted on the school’s garden.

I’m tired, that’s all. ON YOUR APPLICATION FORM IT SAYS MALE GENDER AND NOT QUESTION MARKS, DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. Tiredness makes me statistic, voiceless like a colorless scream, with no blood flow. She spits harsh words to me as if the eternity of some death that doesn’t reach me. Don’t stone Mary Magdalene; it causes great pain, it hurts greatly. I lean on my pas written at that moment as an armor for that war. Loves, sufferings, emotions, desires, dreams, hopes, etc. end in me. My voice becomes a woman’s whisper singing to a child almost asleep in the cradle of a bedroom logically-conceived-built for their normative survival. “It is free, you can eat as it’s on us, this delicious savory treat!” she would tell me two weeks later because she was afraid her little joke had gone beyond the limits, as I was hurt just for existing.

The third memorable phrase in the whole discourse established on that battlefield was lost in time in my being just like a blank imagined in a second after another second marked by the clock’s hand that would at any moment announce a blissful recess. “Don’t run away, but go[3] towards your immensurable fate. I run, but I cannot leave; the hall with human voices still permeating when I see that gate that was specially locked by her in me.


5) …silence, SI-LEN-CE… In February 2006, thirteen teenagers, some of them students at the São José Workshopan institution located in the town of Porto entrusted with fostering children, which has connection to the Catholic church and was partially funded by the Portuguese governmentassaulted, tortured, and violated Gisberta for many days in an unfinished building at Fernão de Magalhães avenue, where she was living as homeless. (A white, blond, 16-year-old young man, who felt protected by the group of thirteen teenagers, intercedes to ask them to stop, but with total lack of compassion as he refused to help Gisberta.) After those days, six young men came back to the location and, assuming she was dead, they decided to get rid of her body. First, they thought about burning it, but ultimately decided to dump Gis’s body in a thirty-three-feet deep well, hoping she would sink. The BRAZILIAN ended up drowning to her death… Forty-five years old, transsexual, sex professional, substance-dependent, HIV-positive… On February 22, one of the young men had a fit of guilty conscience and told what had happened to a school principal. That same day, the body was recovered by firemen from the well. (In come the white, wealthy Portuguese Government and Justice trying to blame the victim and publicly “smother” the event.) The trial started on July 3 and went on for twenty-nine days… “Innocent little children” in a “bad taste joke that ended badly.” MY NAME IS GISBERTA. I WAS TORTURED, RAPED, MURDERED. FOR THE JUSTIC, I DROWNED AND IT WAS THE WATER’S FAULT.


6)In spite of everything, [this warrior] died with a smile.” [4]


7) “Doing a Gisberta” slang: Expression to designate a wild child singing and dancing Daniela Mercury playing on the highest volume at their granny’s home, just like I did.


8)there is something quite wrong, as the chasm is in people’s hearts… it’s like an intimist vision to live a dream while you’re locked inside of it, in which solitude and pain meet and become even more intense after the lights go off.


9) I + Gisberta = I Gisberta.



[1] LISPECTOR, Clarice. Near to the Wild Heart. Trans. Alison Entrekin. New York: New Directions, 2012, p. 11.

[2] Nila Branco’s song “Chama” [“Call/Flame”], from the album Parte II [Part II], launched in 2001.

[3] LISPECTOR, Clarice. Near to the Wild Heart. Trans. Alison Entrekin. New York: New Directions, 2012, p. 169.

[4] “Morte de Gisberta fica sem culpados” [“Gisberta’s Death Has no Guilty Parties”]. Correio da Manhã newspaper, Lisboa, March 28, 2008. See at: <http://www.cmjornal.pt/portugal/detalhe/morte-de-gisberta-fica-sem-culpados>. Accessed on November 12, 2015.


[Translation from Portuguese by Ana Ban.]


I Gisberta (2015), de Paulo Aureliano da Mata, na exposição coletiva Enredos para um Corpo, com curadoria de Raphael Fonseca. Centro Cultural da Justiça Federal, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil, 2018. Photograph by Tales Frey


I Gisberta (2015), de Paulo Aureliano da Mata, na 27ª Mostra de Arte da Juventude. SESC Ribeirão Preto, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil, 2016. Photograph by Camila Onofre Silva


I Gisberta (2015), de Paulo Aureliano da Mata, em ESFORÇOS #2 – Mostra de Performances, com curadoria de Caio Riscado e Lucas Canavarro. Olho da Rua, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil, 2016. Photographs by Costa (I Hate Flash)


I Gisberta (2015), de Paulo Aureliano da Mata, na exposição coletiva Maria de Todos Nós: 50 anos de Maria Bethânia, com curadoria de Bia Lessa. Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil, 2015


I Gisberta (2015), de Paulo Aureliano da Mata, na exposição coletiva Múltiplas Perspectivas e Não Menos Contradições e Sonhos, com curadoria de José Maia. I Bienal da Maia: Lugares de Viagem, 2015. Fórum da Maia, Maia, Portugal. Photographs by Tales Frey



[2019] Exposição Tão Só o Fim do Mundo. Texto de Camila Alexandrini. Centro para os Assuntos da Arte e Arquitectura, Guimarães, Portugal.

[2018] Exposição coletiva Enredos para um Corpo. Curadoria de Raphael Fonseca. Centro Cultural da Justiça Federal, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil. 

[2017] Exposição coletiva O Teu Corpo É Luta. Curadoria de Danillo Villa e Ricardo Basbaum. Arte Londrina 5, Casa de Cultura da Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Londrina, PR, Brazil.

[2016-17] 27ª Mostra de Arte da Juventude. SESC Ribeirão Preto, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.

[2016] ESFORÇOS #2 – Mostra de Performances. Curadoria de Caio Riscado e Lucas Canavarro. Olho da Rua, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

[2016] Exposição coletiva Em Tudo Quanto é Mundo Dito ou Não Dito. Curadoria de José Maia. Desobedoc 2016, Cinema Batalha, Porto, Portugal.

[2016] Exposição coletiva Sob (Ul)Trajes e Gozos. Curadoria de Suianni Macedo. Museu Júlio Dinis – Uma Casa Ovarense, Ovar, Portugal.

[2016] Exposição coletiva Em Estado de Guerra. Organização e curadoria de Paulo Aureliano da Mata e Tales Frey. Teatro Académico de Gil Vicente, Coimbra, Portugal.

[2015] Exposição coletiva Maria de Todos Nós: 50 anos de Maria Bethânia. Curadoria de Bia Lessa. Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

[2015] Exposição coletiva Múltiplas Perspectivas e não menos Contradições e Sonhos. Curadoria de José Maia. I Bienal da Maia: Lugares de Viagem, Fórum da Maia, Maia, Portugal.