Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, / (- \, 2013, aluminum, powder-coated steel. Installation view, Galeria Nuno Centeno, Porto, Portugal. Photo: André Cepeda.

WESTERN ONTOLOGIES usually define things via divisions: the nonliving and the living, plants and animals, the rational and the irrational, body and mind, nature and culture. But as science, philosophy, and morality evolve, all these divisions get blurred again.

Amerindian cosmologies depart from such completely oppositional preconditions: For them, everything is people. This doesn’t mean that everything is a human being, but that everything can be a subject. A point of view is not something that subjects have over objects; rather, it is a point of view that creates the subject and gives it agency. And maybe more fundamentally, it’s a point of view that defines the ontological actuality of something: Depending on which perspective is taken, a vessel can be the incarnation of a divinity, a religious instrument, or just a pot. Similarly, a person changes depending on whether she’s looked at by her child, by her enemy, or by a panther. And maybe to a spirit, a person looks just like a vessel.

Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro calls this process perspectivism, and what makes me mention it here is the tremendous implications it has for art: If there are no longer fixed objects and subjects, then there are no longer artworks and viewers, only dynamic relations of mutual transformation. Since everything is people, the traditional division of nature/culture works in a completely new way. And I think this is a much more compelling, engaging, and intriguing way to think about art.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané is an artist based in Rio de Janeiro.