Élle de Bernardini is a Brazilian artist who works with photography, performance, video art, installation, and multimedia pieces that merge 2D and 3D forms of expression to explore her identity and subjective dimension as a transsexual woman. Her work, far from being a mere self-reflection, is a way of exploring issues of gender, sexuality, politics and identity at the intersection between the history of art and humanity, and the reality and current condition of LGBTQ people.
Bernardini is one of the leading exponents of the current scenario of young contemporary Brazilians who are challenging persistent forms of 'coloniality of power' and reacting to radical forms of discrimination that characterise the political agenda of President Jair Bolsonaro, also known as 'The Trump of the Tropics'. Against the discriminatory ideologies that are now dangerously validated by some political leaders in the Western world, enfants terribles like Bernardini defend, through art, the idea that it is necessary to build new social strategies capable of fighting the identity boundaries imposed by the 'technology of power' and that compartmentalise human beings into pre-established social roles and rigid identity profiles.
Both sensual and sexualised, Élle de Bernardini's work brings to mind specific moments in 20th century art history when women and female identity conquered a space in a predominantly male and phallocentric art world. Visually, many of her pieces recall the sensory appeal and visceral connotations that flow from the works of Louise Bourgeois and Méret Oppenheim, two artists who - in a historical period when women were almost exclusively regarded as subjects and muses of the men who dominated the art-intellectual scene - became central figures of Surrealism, produced some of the most significant works and actively participated in the movement's meetings and exhibitions.
The artist's work is permeated with eroticism and raw instinct and gravitates between dark connotations and joyful humour. Through this dichotomy Bernardini emphasises that, however proclaimed, the diversity of sexuality and cultures based on gender as an identity rather than a biological prerogative are still considered by many societies and classes as controversial and even shocking. Their visual puns explore the different possible associations that shapes and materials such as vinyl, leather and fur create in our imagination, leading to the subversion of conventions about body parts associated with gender, and the relevance attributed to these parts as absolute determinants of how we feel, belong and experience the world.
Bernardini is also a classical dancer trained at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and is currently studying philosophy at the Federal University of Santa Maria, in Rio Grande do Sul. In 2020, she participated in the 12th Mercosur Biennale under the curatorship of Andrea Giunta. In 2019 she debuted at the International Biennale of Performance and Activism in Bogotá, Colombia. Other highlights of 2019 are her presence in the exhibitions 'Feminist Stories: Women Artists after 2000' at the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), and in 'Experiments on Collectivity' at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. In 2018 she showed her work in the exhibition 'Trans-in-corporados' at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Art (MAR-RJ). His works are part of the collection of several Brazilian museums such as MAM-Rio, MAR-RJ, Pinacoteca do Estado, MAC-RS and MARGS.
By Kalinca Costa Söderlund