Waterline / Linha D’Água
Art-Life Rituals for Radical Tenderness (1/12)

Waterline / Linha D’Água

Working with indirect and non-human languages, telepathy, noise, spectrums of light, and material residues of vibrant matter that keep occult memories from others’ point of view, Rubiane creates visibility for the lines of forces and (almost) invisible energies acting in the gaps.

English translation by Tom Nóbrega

WATERLINE, by Rubiane Maia
Folkestone, UK, June-July 2021

Cover image for the "Linha d'Água" PDF
PDF deste artigo disponível em português aqui

Waterline is a project consisting of two actions: one that I performed myself, and one that I developed as a set of instructions for others to perform anywhere in the world. It is a poetic response to the invitation to co-sense, with some affirmations from the text Co-Sensing with Radical Tenderness. However, it is important that the intimate, affective dimension supporting this project is also made visible: being someone who currently lives, and who has always lived on islands, having the sea constantly within sight brings me some kind of comfort and familiarity—its fluidity, its colours, its ever-changing behaviour, the unique shine of its translucent surface.

Both actions take an encounter with the Sea as their starting point. In Yoruba tradition, in the Ifá poems, Olokun is the name of the divinity responsible for the seas and oceans, considered to be the first great spirit to inhabit the Earth with its vastness, beauty, and mystery. They are often represented as being half human and half fish; at times feminine, at times masculine, sometimes androgynous. Moving beyond any of their shapes, Olokun could be translated as a force encompassing the entire cosmology of the underwater depths. In that sense, Waterline emerges as a gesture that seeks to approach and to make contact with the unlimited memory archive of the salty waters. An attempt to give account of everything the waves bring us at the seashore; a proposal in which physical, conceptual, and ritualistic atmospheres cross each other. 

There are also the highs and lows of the tides in connection with the moon phases. This movement of flux and reflux was one of the first phenomena that allowed humans to create a correlation between celestial and terrestrial events, and therefore to be able to make predictions about the climate and to compose systems of time division.

Three pages from the book "Co-sending with Radical Tenderness." The first reads, "Integrate with a wider metabolism, with a much longer temporality than your human body." The second reads, "Deactivate your expectations for belonging and focus on unlearning the logic of separability." The third reads, "Understand that the earth is not an extension of our bodies, it's the other way around."
Excerpts from the book Co-sensing with Radical Tenderness

The Challenge of Co-sensing:

How could I be able to become integrated to such a vast metabolism, to a temporality so much wider than the duration of my human body? How could I disentangle so many expectations of belonging? Which strategies should I use in order to unlearn the logics of separation I was taught again and again since I was a child? How could I open my body so as to allow it to be/to become the extension of the body of the Earth? 

Ritual Action

Basic premise:

Waiting for the sea to say yes.
Accepting that it is impossible to hold the sea-body in my arms.
Escaping the thoughts and voices who keep insisting on the idea that us [humans] are the only source of intelligence on the Earth.
Making space for every doubt and uncertainty, trusting the feeling that there is no such a thing as a perfect formula for integration.

Every beginning holds a secret within it. Or many.
Something remains hidden in order to preserve its own mysterious existence. In that sense, the desire of becoming fully integrated with the mystery brings about a certain kind of expectation, through a process mediated by both desire, yearnings and chance. One needs to refuse the feeling of frustration: after all, such an event will never depend solely on our conscious decision.

You make a movement, you wait for a sign. 
You make an invitation,  you wait for an answer.
One needs to be attentive enough in order to notice the hole, the crack, the scission, when something suddenly opens up in a lucky strike.
None of this can be forcefully arranged, but it can and it should be dreamed up.

When the sea plays with us, it simply and gently dismantles everything our smallness has built.

All documentation photos by Manuel Vason

I carry three pockets with me.
Inside each one of them, there is a different repertoire.

Inside one of the pockets, there is the first island,
a location is as geographically distant as it is emotionally close. 
Inside another pocket, a second island,
the present time, the floor my feet step on right now.
Inside the last pocket, the third island,
the promise, the journey, the possibility of any future.

Three islands,
salty taste in my mouth,
visions of beyond
goosebumps in my skin,

Active memories condensing into a physical, sensorial plane of existence, 
things that keep refusing to disappear.
The constant exercise of being available.  

On the first island,
the child, the family, the roots.
On the second island,
the discovery of an uterus, the black skin, all that I am still unable to explain. 
On the third island,
the refuge, the dream, the contours of a not-yet.

Three islands in me,
Complex keys whirling all at once in a spiral movement.
Dream-institution temporarily built on a landscape
for the duration of a wave moving away.
A wave which soon after shall start to rise up again, 
covering the entirety of the drawn surface.

Scribbles, drawn with the tip of the fingers,
holes, channels of passages,
organic forms shaped with both hands,
empty spaces and recesses,
lines circumscribed by seaweeds,
the weight of the stones, residues.

The vast life,
the effort,
the exhaustion of a small body,
the muscular pain,
the smell of the sea on me,
the pull of the full moon,
the emotional turmoil,
the metabolism of the waters,
the cold breeze,
the dry sand,
the humidity,

Thirty meters,
eight hours

Ritual Invitation-Instruction

Animated GIF of a body in profile moving down a slope that represents the different water levels of the shore.
Waterline 2 PDF cover
View the Waterline 2 instructions [English & Portuguese]
The movement of the tides: the gravitational power of the Moon and the Sun act as if it were pulling the Earth towards itself. This doesn’t happen only with the water, but it is at the sea level that the effects of gravitation reveal themselves in such a visible, direct way. On the full Moon these processes are amplified, there are far higher and lower tides. During this period, our bodies vibrate intensely as emotions are heightened.

Waterlines: a superposition of transitory lines. Margins, borders, footprints, traces, prisms separating the whole into spectrums of light of different colours.

Island people: people who learn from the beginning that they must untie knots in order to survive. Those who greet the sea whenever they can, admiring the stillness of the waters, while respecting the storms. Those who wash their bodies with salt, put plant twigs behind the ears, yearn for blessings.

1. Choose an application software which allows you to check the peak periods of the high and low tides. The duration of your ritual should be equivalent to the time it takes for the tides to lower: approximately six hours. 

2. Arrange everything to start the action at the exact time when the sea reaches its highest level. Bring a bottle of water to drink from.

3. On a calm beach, choose a place to stand facing the sea and position your bare feet on the waterline.  Though this is not a fixed spot, you should be able to find it by the seashore. Should you have any doubt, look for the area where the waves reach the sandy or stony surface. 

4. Once you have chosen your starting point, stand motionless, fixing your gaze towards the horizon, while keeping your eyes open. As the sea level recedes, walk slowly towards its direction. Your body should follow the rhythm of the water descent. 

5. You should always remain upright, with your feet on the waterline. As the hours go by, you are likely to feel some physical discomfort. Accept every sensation as part of the process and remember to breathe deeply.

6. The sea is likely to reach your feet. Should it happen, feel the way the water temperature relates to your environment.

7. You are not alone. In case you so wish, you might be able to establish some communication with either the ocean or the wind through telepathy. No matter what, remember the most important thing is to remain open to listen.

8. Allow the sea to awaken all your senses.

Duration: the time it takes for the tides to descend [from its highest level to its lowest ebb]. The extension of your walk and the exact duration of the action both depend on the chosen location.

Note from Rubiane:

Lately, I’ve been interested in memory as a key concept allowing us to move between different layers of time, both in historic and geographic terms. A raw memory comprising everything that is there, including all the innumerable variations of the verb to be, and beyond. Even though there is something in me constantly trying to organize those narratives, I am totally aware of the fact that I am dealing with a chaotic force, not at all linear. Something that takes form within a moving spiral between the ethereal and the concrete world. Something completely beyond any possibility of being forgotten.

Filed Under: Multimedia & Performance


Rubiane Maia is a Brazilian visual artist based between Folkestone, UK and Vitoria, Brazil. She completed a degree in Visual Arts and a Master degree in Institutional Psychology at Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Her artwork is an hybrid practice across performance, video, installation and writing, occasionally flirting with drawing, painting and collage. Currently, she is part of the international collective “Speculative Landscapes”, a group of four women which, since 2020, has been working on systemic questions about what else institutions can be, when shaped not from stories of violence, segmentation, and extractions in the territories.

+INFO: www.rubianemaia.com

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