Xifópagas Capilares entre Nós
Rio de Janeiro, 1984

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (2007). Direction and script: Evandro Salles based on Tunga’s work Lezart (1989) and text Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984). With Diana Hammar and Julia Hammar. Filmed in Brasilia. Cover photo: Juan Pratginestós.

The Twin Tale

by Jochen Volz

When seeing the conjoint twin girls dressed in white, connected to each other through their blond hair, a strange mixture of curiosity, shame and familiarity seems to inhabit us. The girls stroll through the space, observing their surroundings, but not paying attention to those who are watching them. They seem not to depend on anyone, they are two children in one unit and in harmony. They are in their own world. We are the voyeurs, we try to understand their condition, their age and their innocence. We might be surprised by their appearance, but we seem to recognize what we see.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós is a performance piece by Brazilian artist Tunga (1952-2016), featuring twin adolescent girls who unexpectedly appear in the museum galleries or its surroundings. They are dressed in matching white, simple strap sandals or plain shoes and are wearing one large conjoined wig. The performers are instructed to behave inside the gallery like any other visitor, looking at the works on display, and to always be conscient of their connectedness.

“They are two sisters that love each other and are amazed at everything they see. They walk hand in hand, share secrets with each other, and from time to time sit in a corner to observe things around them. (…) They don’t talk to anyone else, not for antipathy but for being shy”, says the description given to the performers. The presence of the girls blurs the line between reality and fiction.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós was first staged at an event titled Utopia e Entropia in Petrópolis, in 1984, and shortly after presented at Tunga’s exhibition at Gabinete de Arte Raquel Arnaud Babenco, in São Paulo. Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós gained an additional layer when on view at a psychoanalysis congress, the II Congresso Brasileiro da Causa Freudiana do Brasil, in October 1985 in Rio de Janeiro. There Tunga published a pamphlet as an insert to the magazine Revirão 2 – Revista da Prática Freudiana. The text in the pamphlet opens with the affirmation that in the years since 1980, the narrator had come across data and facts, which he would like to recount as a witness. In one of the passages, the narrator refers to a text by Danish naturalist Pieter Wilhelm Lund (1801-1880), widely considered as the father of the Brazilian palaeontology and archaeology and known for having been a great storyteller himself.

In the fictive narrative attributed to Lund and referring to Norse mythology, the story is told of twin girl sisters who had been connected by their hair. It is said that their singularity was tolerated during childhood but reaching puberty their presence was understood as a threat to their people, and therefore the sisters were supposed to be either separated or sacrificed. As the girls refused to have their hair cut, they both were beheaded. The hair with the two attached heads was then hung into a tree, but over time the skulls separated from the scalp, leaving the blond hair behind as a macabre trophy. The story then continues that an outlaw passed by, took the finding off the tree and decided to give it to his lover as a present, who safeguarded it with care but used a pair of hair to be woven into a piece of silk. While doing so, she realized that the hair gradually transformed into fine metals and gold.

The story published by Tunga in the pamphlet cannot really be traced in Scandinavian mythology. But similar tales do exist, such as the story of the golden-haired goddess Sif, who had her locks cut off by Loki and finally substituted by artificial hair made from gold threads. Tunga’s version of Norse mythology, though, seems just as plausible, similarly familiar and unsettling.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós is undoubtedly one of Tunga’s best-known and most enigmatic works. Tunga evokes here a very particular image, foremost in the viewer’s imagination, equally triggered by seeing the work performed, reading the text about its mythical origin, seeing a photograph documenting the work or hearing about it as a rumour. There are very few works in art history with a similar capacity of synthesis, timelessness and poetic force. The motive of an eternal search for one’s twin is universal, just as is the fear of separation. We seem to recognize an ancient myth in the work, even if we never had seen nor heard of the conjoint twins before.

Furthermore, Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós is a vital work also to the understanding of Tunga’s practice in general. It is an extraordinary introduction into the visual, material and poetic vocabulary of Tunga. Hair, braids, knots, the calm, the skull, the scalp, the human body and the trophy are recurring elements in Tunga’s sculptures and drawings. Precious metals such as copper, brass, bronze, lead or gold are repeatedly used materials. Even the poetic figure of the palindrome reappears throughout the trajectory of the artist; one might recall for example the two large sculptural installations Lezart (1989) and Palíndromo Incesto (1990-1992).

Many of Tunga’s works derive from or correspond to stories. Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós, though, is special as the narrative and the physical manifestation of the work co-exist, without one being the illustration of the other. Poetry and sculpture are two sides of the same artmaking, and both are totally connected not only two each other, but to Tunga’s practise at large. Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós is a sculptural thought or a visual poem, leading to many other stories.

I had the great privilege of working with Tunga for almost three years on the Galeria Psicoativa at Inhotim, a 2.200m2 gallery showcasing permanently keyworks by Tunga, including sculptures, drawings, installations, film and performances made between the early 1980 and the pavilion’s inauguration in 2012. It is the largest presentation of Tunga’s oeuvre worldwide and includes some of his best-known pieces, including Toro (1980), Ão (1980-81), Lezart (1989), Palíndromo Incesto (1990-1992), Nociferatu Spectrum (1999-2001), À la lumière des deux mondes (2005) and Cooking Crystals (2008-2010), amongst many others. The exhibition is organized in such way that one work naturally leads to the next, and that the viewer moves from one to the other in a spiral route. And it is an active process of reading of the works and their connections that allows to decipher the many narratives, poems and role plays that exist between them.

Tunga described the gallery using the metaphor of a particle accelerator: each person who enters the place is the representation of a particle, and the interaction between them, including their experience with the art, would be what would define the space. Tunga himself was able to make and remake these connections constantly and with great speed, recalling natural or spiritual science, literature, mythologies and philosophy.

I only truly understood Tunga’s mastery, though, when during the opening four performance works were presented within the galleries: A prole do bebê (1989-2001), Debaixo do meu chapéu e Ponta-cabeça (1995), Tereza (1998) and Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós. Over one hundred performers were engaged in various activities circulating between the visitors. Soup was served and music played. It was beautiful and chaotic. But when the conjoint twins appeared, time seemed to stand still and the noise in the gallery faded away. Tunga knew his repertoire perfectly well, and each work became an ingredient in a magical process of energy transformation.

Simultaneously Present

by Guy Brett

I have the impression that the museum or the gallery is not the real home of Tunga’s sculptures. [1] Nor any site, even outdoor ones, consecrated to the exhibition of art. They seem to come into their own, to take on their true vitality, as part of the literary, photographic, video or performance narratives which Tunga has ingeniously contrived for them (these have almost always involved collaborations with other artists and performers). And this despite the fact that materiality, material presence, material inflection, seems to be Tunga’s essential language.

Perhaps this impression originated in my first experience of Tunga’s work, which was not in a gallery exhibition but in his house in Rio de Janeiro. Estrada do Sorimã 512 lies at the foot of the great rock Pedra de Gávea, smooth, vertiginous, covered in vegetation, radiating heat, a pebble magnified a million times – contradictions of scale, weight, substance, which seemed to be prolonged as one entered the work space shared by sculpture, books, kitchen equipment and a low-slung hammock.

A long tress, enormously heavy made of braided lead wire, clung to the floor. A rude “club”, a conglomerate of lumps of magnetic iron, leaned against a wall. The motif of the tress of hair was taken up in an image painted in delicate brush-strokes on a large piece of fine silk hanging from a string (an image bearing also a distinct resemblance to the force-fields of iron-filings round a magnet). Equally intense, in this first impression, was a feeling of the physical reality and presence of certain materials, and of intellectual bafflement. An individual object – a metal comb holding a mass of coppery wire, for example – captured the attention because it made a startling and unexpected analogy or meeting-point between “sculptural” energies and those of the human body. But none of the objects to be seen, each so distinct in its own material identity, seemed to be related to the others. I had a powerful sense that familiar certainties, that accepted morphological systems of relationship – the plastic, the serial, the generic –, no longer applied, and that these objects were the result of searching for some new order of relationship. But it was not a question of finding a merely intellectual “key”, because of the work’s overwhelming sense of immersion in the physical world, which threw into question the relationship of materiality to meaning.

An “installation” by Tunga is a way of combining the discreetness of objects with a process of their “mutual contagion” (to use his own phrase). A way of combining fixed with fluid identities in the form of a circuit, or continuum, of the flow of energy. In Lezarts (1989), for example, the metals iron, copper and lead are linked both elementally, as if they generated electricity between them, and figuratively in the image of the hair and comb. The combs in some way control the unruly hair/wire as a sluice-gate channels water, or wiring, switches and junction-boxes control electrical currents. The braiding, too, introduces an element of pattern, order or “culture” into the wildness of the hair/electricity. But the pattern of braiding is also analogous to the snake’s skin, a pattern of nature. Similarly, magnetism is here presented in a random, disorderly form very different from its concentration in the carefully-wound coil of the electric motor. All in all, Tunga’s installations heighten tensions between order and chaos, in a way which rebounds on our habitual ways of delineating and naming portions of reality.

An audacious proposal in early modern sculpture was Gabo’s creation of a “virtual volume” by means of a vibrating wire. Its insubstantiality overturned traditional sculptural concepts, but there still had to be the notion of a ‘real’ volume in relation to which the other was seen as “virtual”. Tunga would supersede the dichotomy: “When you plunge into water, the shape you make is real not virtual. When I enter a room an equal quantity of air leaves the space”.[2] How to indicate this reality? An early series of sculpture which Tunga made (Exogenous Axis, 1986) were formed by, so to speak, solidifying the air between two body profiles of a particular person placed face to face (the seven objects in this series were derived from seven women who represent something outstanding in Brazilian society for Tunga). This interval of air materialised as a steel chalice (the head) mounted like a precious receptacle on a bell-like pedestal of turned wood (body). The solid of the sculpture is everything which is not the image of the person but is their presence, paradoxically.

At our first meeting Tunga gave me a small booklet. Purporting to be (perhaps really being) a reprint from Revirão 2 – Revista de Prática Freudiana (Rio de Janeiro, 1985), it spun a fantastical yarn to account for the way Tunga’s objects, though apparently distinct, were linked and echoed in one another. He begins with his own narrative of his (1981) project to make a film while travelling through the long curved tunnel of Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers), just outside Rio on the São Conrado-Gávea road, a film which was then joined to make a loop, a tunnel-without-end, “an imaginary torus(topological ring) in the interior of a mountain”. And he is led on (or sideways) by the discovery of newspaper cuttings and anthropologists’ reports to make weird connections. For example: the ‘hair’ theme originates with a scientist’s report about Siamese twins joined by the hair. After their death the strange trophy of their scalp passes to a woman who extracts two blond hairs from it to embroider an image from her dreams. As she does so the threads turn metallic, apparently to gold. The scalp passes to the Temple of Yun Ka, where the men engage in painting images on silk with gestural brushstrokes while biting their tongues! They were so entranced by the woman’s embroidery that they kept her there in a state of perpetual sleepiness to produce the somnolent images brushstroked on silk. This is the origin of the silk paintings (seda = silk, is the same root as sedative in Portuguese). And so on. There are other far-fetched links. (As I read I began to become uncomfortable with the traditional male/female roles assigned in the story, but then I thought they were perhaps an outgrowth of the archaism of the literary style, and Tunga might say anyway that these male/female traits are aspects of a single self. He likes to cite somnolence and indolence as a feature of his own way of working.)

Why construct this alternative “documentation” which mixes the plausible and implausible, the phantasmagoric and the mundane? Perhaps to mock the accepted raison d’être for artistic production which is given by the museum and the art market milieu, by inventing another “circuit” which crosses the world, time, as well as the anthropological, paleontological, zoological, paranormal and medical spheres (tongue-in-cheek of course, since he reveals that each of these discourses is as bounded as any other). It could be a way of countering the fixation on the autonomous art object by means of a fable where one object or body is immersed in another ad infinitum (in his story he moves from the commonplace to the ultra-precious, and from molar to mountain). In Tunga’s film O nervo de prata (The Silver Nerve), made with the film-maker Artur Omar, this notion is extended by the metaphor of swallowing which occurs throughout the film.

Tunga’s recent book Barroco de lírios [3] (which he edited, wrote and laid out himself), is clearly an attempt to present his work in luxurious photographic detail, while moving it from the dull, flat time and space of gallery and museum shows to a more mysterious and potent dimension. Each sequence of images encapsulating a particular work is accompanied by a text typographically woven into the brilliant montage Tunga is able to produce as he moves along from page to page.

A memorable sequence, (“Ao”), begins with a small circular ring of cine film mounted like a jewel on a silver page. Then follows a loose transparent acetate sheet printed with the X-ray image of a human skull on which a circular void suggests a brain trepanation. But the cloudy brain seen through this cavity turns out, on the next page, to be a smoke ring floating in space. Immediately following are photos of the interior of the Dois Irmãos tunnel, which we plunge through over several pages while the smoke ring lingers in the tunnel’s vault. Suddenly the smoke solidifies, so to speak, into a set of massive oxidised iron rings, bringing us abruptly to the other end of the sensory spectrum in which our earthly bodies live their lives. The iron rings, only the smallest of which, perhaps, one could lift by hand, fit neatly into one another. Parallel with our bodies, our minds contemplate Tunga’s exegesis of an abstract construct: the topological ring (in exhibition contexts, the circular tunnel has been shown via projection of the loop of film and the iron rings shown as sculpture).

Behind all this is felt, throughout Tunga’s work, the formidable matrix of tropical nature. It is all the more powerful for being conjured up tangentially, in fragmentary, old-fashioned, leisurely texts which draw on the mannerisms of science, liturgy, esoteric lore, travellers’ tales, explorers’ adventures, naturalists’ narratives, experimenters’ reports. In this “art” book the ambience of science is the predominant conceit; as far as I could make out the word art, or artist, is used only once in the entire book and that is to describe a certain Cuban cigar-roller, who, following the many images of reciprocity and “mutual contagion” traced in the book, “smoked as he made cigars, and … made cigars as he smoked”.

Perhaps one of the aims, or side-effects, of these stories is to reexamine, or to play with, the notion of narrative in relation to other structures. The narrative element would seem to conflict with the idea of a circuit: narrative appears to lead somewhere, to have a beginning and an end, whereas the circuit is a continuum. Narrative is a thread (“yarn”), like the thread out of the labyrinth, or like the gold thread in embroidery which enriches the surrounding dross. It also connects with the hair-wire in Tunga’s sculpture, which runs in a continuum from chaotic hyperbolic excess to orderly braiding (an “orderliness” which introduces another kind of visual energy). Scientific investigation itself seems to have a borderline with narrative, beginning, following up and analysing clues which lead to some kind of final proof (in Tunga’s stories there are narratives which come through at second or tenth hand, and many things which may or nay not be evidence). In fact Tunga’s stories, as a further complication of the workings of language, play with or against scientific investigation as such, by insisting on describing every object or event in terms of others. Is a non-metaphorical language possible, or is metaphor the sine qua non of language to such an extent that science’s attempt to describe or know an object in “itself”, and not in terms of another, or, correspondingly, the art institution’s attempt to isolate the object from life-experience, is a kind of folly or mania?

The literary elements of Tunga’s presentation do not, in turn, negate a concern with certain ‘sculptural’ questions. Clearly, from one point of view, the legacy of modern art up to now could be seen as attempts to a work out in visual terms a new conception of relationship, change and metamorphosis which goes beyond classical space/time. At first artists struggled directly with that inherited space/time.

The surrealists’ language was built from incongruity of relationships. As everyone knows, one of their inspirational sources was Lautréamont’s phrase about “the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing-machine on an operating-table” – essentially a still-life image. And the surrealist “shock” tended to come from the incongruous combination of conventionally-depicted objects (de Chirico, Oppenheim, Magritte, Dalí), hybrid bestiaries (Lam, Ernst), perspectival realism made eerie by the dream (Delvaux, Balthus), and so on. The components of the surrealist object and even the Duchampian Ready Made needed to keep their unitary, everyday identity for the change of context, or as Duchamp said, the “new thought for the object”, to take effect. The concept of relationship and morphology underlying what is broadly known as abstract art seems to be based on another model: natural or organic structures as revealed by the physical sciences, for example, plant growth, crystalline or cellular structures. Biomorphism (Miró, Calder, Arp, Schwitters) occupies some sort of middle-ground between abstraction-concretism and surrealism. Other artists came to one or more structuring elements, rather personal to them, which would allow serial development: plus-minus and asymmetrical horizontal-vertical equilibrium (Mondrian), arabesque (Matisse), pictographs and notation-systems (Klee, in whose work they are combined with plant-growth, crystalline formations, etc), gravity-less geometry (Malevich, Lissitsky), force-fields (Moholy-Nagy, Vantongerloo), and others. These structural elements, the remnants of classical space, were increasingly kineticised.

What is so striking about these forms of production is each one’s characteristic of a species or genus. Matisse said: “No two leaves of the fig-tree are exactly the same, but they all proclaim ‘Fig-Tree’!” The art work proclaims this inner logic or authenticity which is also a proclamation of the artist’s identity. But, paradoxically, because of another logic, that of the art market and its institutions, this organic metaphor of production and identity became a mechanical one: of the production of a type of commodity which is highly individual and instantly recognisable. Some artists’ work implicitly recognises this change and plays upon it (such as Andy Warhol’s). But new strategies are also being proposed, which can be located as much in a Brazilian as an “international” history. Tunga’s search for a new order of relationship, a continuum where one body or discourse is immersed in another, is one of these strategies, of which experiments in the relationship between physical object and verbal text is an essential part.

“Thought and language are inherently systematic and fixative, while nature is inherently elusive and protean.” [4]Tunga appears to position himself to throw into question whether such a dichotomy is simply either true or false. And in doing so he illuminates, I feel, a fascinating and abiding problematic of Brazilian art. The duel between conceptual ordering and prolific nature, between cerebral schema and biological pulse, runs in many guises through the work of Brazilian artists and thinkers in the 20th century. It can be found in Oswald de Andrade’s writings during the first explosion of Brazilian experimentality in the 1920s, when he said that in Brazil “We have a dual heritage: the jungle and the school”, [5] and in Sérgio Camargo’s white reliefs of the 1960s, a precise, condensed, refined interfluidity of order and chaos. Paradox and irony only add to this richness of opposites: for example, one could compare the way the “body” is present in Waltércio Caldas’s apparently disembodied and cerebral contemporary work with the way the “mind” is illuminated in Lygia Clark’s “language of the body”. The notion of vivências – a word intended to reverberate with the sense of immersion in the world, lived experience, the fusion of sensory and thinking processes – was a favourite of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica. They often used it as a check for gauging the efficacy of a proposal in the face of the alienations of intellectual academia, commercial consumption and the institution of art. Thus Oiticica could sometimes execute the elegant reversal of his own premises in order to sustain the living thought in the material from being reduced to an inert object. He could apparently empty his work deliberately of the sensuous delectation for which it first became celebrated (for example in his early Bolides, Nuclei and Parangolé), and introduce the notion of the “supra-sensorial”, a skeletal, almost indentityless structure, a framework for the spectator’s own imagination to inhabit, a response which was invited without coercion, without goal. It was not the object which was important but the way it was “lived” by the spectator/participant. His descriptions of his own works treated them rather as if they were verbs, not nouns.

Oiticica produced a remarkable and rather little-known object near the end of his life, the Ready Constructible (1978), which was accompanied by a verbal text in the form of notes. He invoked Duchamp in his title only to show how far he felt he had moved from the Frenchman. This unprepossessing object, this cube of hollow mass-produced bricks and cavities, was Oiticica’s “most extreme exercise” in the interpenetration of, or “fine line” between, opposites in a universalist sense: between the non-determined and the precisely-structured, between “brutalism” and “mathematics”, between the ready and the unfinished, between inside and outside, open and closed, between the earth and every human construction:

an exercise in the concretion of the not-concluded
the proposal of determined structures in the exercise of the indeterminate. [6]

Despite the very different sensibilities – and the different generations – of Oiticica and Tunga, the meaning given to the material object by Oiticica’s notes about it makes one think again about the imaginative element represented by Tunga’s texts in relation to his sculptures. Tunga’s stories “romance” his sculptures. And yet, since these texts have such a strong element of the literary conceit, tall story, artifice or play, we have no need to solemnly accept them in an earnest spirit of information or pedagogy. They are further scraps of material, and we are therefore redirected again to the material-linguistic transformations, and their closeness to an organic core, which is where I believe Tunga really wants our attention to fall.



1. Parts of this essay were originally published in Tunga: 1977-1997. New York: Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies, Sep.-Nov. 1997.
2. Statements by Tunga. Notes taken by the author during a discussion with students at Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, in December 1986.
3. TUNGA. Barroco de lírios. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 1997.
4. MUECKE, D. C. Irony and the Ironic. London: Methuen, 1977.
5. ANDRADE, O. de. Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto (1924). In: ADES, D. et al. Art in Latin America: the Modern Period. London: Yale University Press, 1989.
6. OITICICA, H. Notes on the Ready Constructible (1978). In: Hélio Oiticica (exhibition’s catalog). Rotterdam: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, 1992.

Catherine Lampert
Art historian and curator
Lives and works in New York

She was Director at the Whitechapel Gallery when Tunga exhibited there in 1989 and began working with him in 2003 on the monograph Tunga published in 2020. Among other exhibitions and books, she is known for her work on Auguste Rodin, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Euan Uglow, Francis Alÿs, Peter Doig and Paula Rego. New publications are forthcoming in 2021-22.

Catherine Lampert saw Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós for the first time in 1989, when she organized Tunga’s exhibition in Whitechapel Gallery, London, and then, on many occasions over the years at several institutions. For her, the identical twins’ age (they shouldn’t be too young) and the setting where they appear (the more mysterious, the better) are key elements of the work. Lampert also reflects upon the relevance of the double in Tunga’s work and shares one of the artist’s poetic quotes: “The real problem of how to be a human being is the melancholy of being together, the melancholy of being alone, the melancholy of continuity and the possibility of establishing continuity between two continuous bodies.”

“Now that I’ve seen the work seven times, the last one in 2018, I realize it’s very important for the girls to be more like eleven, twelve, when they’re arriving at puberty. They’re distancing themselves from their families, they have a certain inner life and character; and, perhaps, indifference, in this case to an audience. The visitors at Whitechapel were absolutely transfixed by these wandering girls, it was something they didn’t expect.”

Diana Hammar
Personal Trainer
Lives and works in Amsterdam

Graduated in physical education from the Universidade Estácio de Sá, Rio de Janeiro; specialization in rhythmic gymnastics.

Julia Hammar
Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro

Spezialization in postural correction (RPG), focused in the rehabilitation of neurological, trauma-orthopedic and chronic pain patients.

Julia and Diana Hammar are two of the identical twins who participated in the performance in several iterations. They were invited by curator Evandro Salles and they traveled to Brasília to shoot the film included here. They also worked in the original opening of the exhibition Arte para crianças in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Vila Velha. Julia and Diana especially remember the strangeness they felt upon seeing the wig that joined their two heads together and the powerful connection they felt upon sharing that experience.

“Children came up to us, they wanted to touch the wig and to touch us, they asked us questions… but we had to pretend we didn’t hear anything, that we didn’t see anything. The children said: ‘they don’t talk, they don’t understand our language’. And we had to stifle our laughter because we couldn’t react.”

Beverly Adams
Art historian and curator
Lives and works in New York

She is the Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 2019. Prior she was Curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas (2014-2019); Curator of the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection in Phoenix, Arizona (2001-2013). Curator of Latin American Art at Phoenix Art Museum (1997-2001). She has a PhD in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin.

Beverly Adams highlights the disparate impressions that Tunga’s works provoke in North American and Latin American audiences. She particularly remembers the publication of Barroco de lirios, in which the artist included a text with the same title as the performance Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós. Adams then brings the reference of a painting by Alberto da Veiga Guignard, who painted a portrait of Tunga’s mother with her twin sister. In Guignard’s painting the women’s hair visually merges with the intricate carving of the bench they’re sitting on, creating an illusion reminiscent of Xifópagas Capilares.

“The performance has always been, for me, this kind of mythical origin for Tunga’s works. I always thought of it as a missing link, but when I thought of it in connection to all the other works —to the sculpture, to the text—there really wasn’t a beginning or an end. It always felt like these, somehow, were part of a loop (…). When we consider the work of Tunga, we get stuck in this torus, which is an important figure for Tunga; an infinite loop which is part of the oneiric and poetic universe that he creates.”

Laura Lima
Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro

Solo exhibitions of Lima’s work have been presented in venues such as Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, Argentina; MUAC, Mexico City, Mexico; Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland; Casa França Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Fundação Eva Klabin, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands; SMK-National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark; and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, Brazil. She participated in the 24th and 27th São Paulo Biennales; the 2nd and 3rd Mercosul Biennales in Porto Alegre, Brazil; and the XI Lyon Biennale in 2011. The artist received a BA in Philosophy from the State University of Rio de Janeiro in the 1990s and also studied art the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro.

For Laura Lima Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós was a significant milestone in the Brazilian art scene at the time, but that it’s also a very topical piece that continues to influence Brazilian artists. She highlights the connection between the bodies and the gamut of metaphorical quotes it contains. Lima also adds that Tunga constructs a new pataphysics, through a mythical story, of its psychic games with language and the alteration of perception.

Xifópagas is a universal piece, a benchmark for Brazilian art, due to its amazing ability to draw from other areas or use other empowering languages. It is a work that certainly was part of my imagery when I created some pieces at the beginning of the 1990s. It’s interesting because I’ve never seen a performance of Xifópagas Capilares. I wasn’t a witness, I didn’t see it, but I think this work would be present in any footnote of thought and references of a Brazilian artist.”

Luisa Duarte
Art critic and independent curator
Lives and Works in São Paulo

She was general coordinator of the conference cycle “The Bienal of São Paulo and the Brazilian artistic environment – Memory and Projection”, a debates platform of the 28th International Bienal of São Paulo, “Em Vivo contato…”, 2008. She was editor, in partnership with Adriano Pedrosa, of the book ABC – Brazilian Contemporary Art, Cosac & Naify, 2014. Together with Evandro Salles, she curated the exhibition Tunga - the rigor of distraction, at the Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro, MAR, 2018. She organized the exhibition Adriana Varejão - for a cannibal rhetoric, Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, Salvador and Museum of Modern Art Aloísio Magalhães, Recife, 2019. In 2019 she was curator, alongside Solange Farkas, Miguel Lopez and Gabriel Bogossian, of the 21 Bienal Sesc Vídeo Brasil - Communities Imagined, being also responsible for curating the Public Programs of this edition, Sesc 24 de Maio, São Paulo. Organizer, in partnership with Victor Gorgulho, of the book In the tremor of the world - essays and interviews in light of the pandemic, Editora Cobogó, 2020. She is a Master in Philosophy from the Pontifical Catholic University – PUC-SP (2011) and a PhD from UERJ Art Institute (2019).

Luisa Duarte states that the rumor format fits perfectly with Tunga’s work because it is based on a mixture of reality and fiction. Duarte refers to the psychoanalytical magazine Revirão (included here below), where Tunga first published the full text of the myth of the Xifópagas. In that story, dreams and alchemy play a crucial role, on the one hand, and duplicity and continuity, on the other. Duarte links these ideas with other works, such as the video O Nervo de Prata (in collaboration with Arthur Omar), A Vanguarda Viperina and Eixo Exógeno, where the artist also works with the duality between reality and fiction.

“This is a work that exists in many languages: in the form of photography, performance, fictional text and video. And one language refutes the other, forming that idea of continuity, not of a line with a starting point and a finishing point. We are invited to approach, to see, to think about the piece from countless perspectives, never from a single one (…) In this sense, Xifópagas Capilares is also a good example of one of Tunga’s ideas, who liked to say that he was a general practitioner, rather than a specialist in a single activity.”

Archive 1 >
Images of the performance

Above image:
Xifópagas Capilares entre Nós (1984)
Kanaal Art Foundation, Kortrijk, 1989
Photo: Gilles Hutchinson

This selection of photographs unites several of the many iterations of Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós between 1984 and 2018. Some are documentations of the performance at a given location while others have been conceived by Tunga as photographs, realized in collaboration with professional photographers and existing as artworks in their own right.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
25,5 x 30,5 cm
Edition of 3
Photo: Manuel Valença

Xifópagas Capilares entre Nós (1987)
120 x 80cm
Edition of 3 + AP
Photo: Wilton Montenegro

Xifópagas Capilares entre Nós (1984)
Kanaal Art Foundation
Kortrijk, 1989
Photo: Gilles Hutchinson

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
Monterrey, México, 2001
Photo: Robert Ortiz Giacomán

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
Monterrey, México, 2001
Photo: Robert Ortiz Giacomán

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
Instituto Inhotim
Brumadinho, Brazil, 2012
Photo: Lucia Helena Zaremba

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
Tate Modern
London, 2018
Photo: Oliver Cowling

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós (1984)
Tate Modern
London, 2018
Photo: Oliver Cowling

Archive 2 >

Utopia e Entropia, Petrópolis.

TUNGA. Galeria Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo.
Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós. II Congresso Brasileiro da Causa Freudiana do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro.
Escultura 85. Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas. Curated by Cristina Arria.

De la talla al ensamblaje. Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas. Curated by Federica Palomero.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós / O Nervo de Prata. Fundação Progresso, Rio de Janeiro.

TUNGA. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Curated by Catherine Lampert.
U-ABC. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Curated by Dorine Mignot.
Lezarts and Through. Kunststichting Kanaal Art Foundation, Kortrijk. Curated by Cathy de Zegher.
Option 37: TUNGA. Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, Chicago. Curated by Bruce Guenther.

U-ABC. Fundação Caloute Gulbenkian. Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão, Lisboa. Curated by Dorine Mignot.
Interceptions. The Power Plant, Toronto. Curated by Louise Dompierre.

TUNGA 1977-1997. Bard College, New York; Moca North Miami, Miami; Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas. Curated by Carlos Basualdo.

TUNGA. Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris. Curated by Daniel Abadie and Nelson Aguilar.
TUNGA. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey. Curated by Carlos Basualdo.

Arte para crianças. CCBB, Brasília; Museu do Vale do Rio Doce, Vila Velha; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro. Curated by Evandro Salles.

Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000. Museo del Barrio, New York. Curated by Deborah Cullen.

Galeria Psicoativa opening. Inhotim, Brumadinho.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós. Frieze Live, London.

Homenagem Tunga. Inhotim, Brumadinho.

Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós. Tate Modern, London.

Archive 3 >

TUNGA. Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós, published by Revirão 2 – Revista da Prática Freudiana, on the occasion of the Second Brazilian Conference on Psychoanalysis, a outra editora, Rio de Janeiro, 4-6 October, 1985.

See full PDF >

Archive 4 >
Selected press articles

MORAIS, Frederico. ‘Depois das tranças intrigantes, as meninas xifópagas capilares: Tunga’. 2º Caderno, O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, 10/04/1985.

MORAIS, Frederico. ‘Ivens, Iole, Tunga: a nova escultura’. 2º Caderno, O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, 1985.

‘Tunga recontrói a lenda das xifópagas capilares’. Folha de São Paulo, São Paulo, 11/04/1985.

‘Tunga e sua homenagem às Xifópagas Capilares’, Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, 11/04/1985.

‘Nas esculturas de Tunga, uma lenda oriental’, Folha da Tarde, São Paulo, 11/04/1985.

KLINTOWITZ, Jacob. ‘Tunga, promovendo perucas’. Jornal da Tarde, São Paulo, 12/04/1985.

ABRAMO, Radha. ‘Belo ritual de passagem’, Folha de São Paulo, São Paulo, 29/04/1985.

Archive 5 >

AGUILAR, Nelson. ‘Frictions baroques’, Tunga: Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2001.

BASUALDO, Carlos. ‘A Viperine Avant-Garde’, Tunga: 1977-1997, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1998.

BRETT, Guy. ‘Tunga’, Lezarts and Through. Kunststichting Kanaal Art Foundation, Kortrijk.

___________ ‘Everything Simultaneously Present’, Tunga: 1977-1997, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1998.

MIGNOT, Dorine [cur.]; AMARAL; Aracy; BEEREN, Wim; BARENTS, Els; KALENBERG, Angel; WHITELOW, Guillermo; ZURITA, Raúl. ‘Turn the map upside down; Variety and vitality in Brazilian art’, UABC: schilderijen, beelden, fotografie uit Uruguay, Argentinièe, Brazilièe, Chili, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1989.

HIRANO, Keichiro. Transformation, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2010.

MARTINS, Marta. Narrativas Ficcionais de Tunga. Apicuri, Rio de Janeiro, 2013.

PALOMERO, Federica. De la talla al ensamblaje. Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, 1986.

RAMÍREZ, Mari Carmen; WELLEN, Michael. Nested Fantasies, Contingent Beauty Contemporary Art From Latin America, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2015.

RASMUSSEN, Waldo; ASHTON, Dore; HERKENHOFF, Paulo; TUNGA; Surrealism and Latin America; The theme of crisis in contemporary Latin American Art, Latin America Artists of The Twentieth Century, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993.

ROLNIK, Suely, Instauration of Worlds, Tunga: 1977-1997, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1998.

SALLES, Evandro. Arte para crianças, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Brasilia, 2008.

SALZSTEIN-GOLDBERG, Sonia; MESQUITA, Ivo; LEIRNER, Sheila; TUNGA; VENANCIO FILHO, Paulo. Imaginários Singulares; Apresentação; A dificuldade de ser fantástico, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, 1987.

SUK-WON, Chang [chief cur.]; KIM, Yu Yeon [cur.]; TUNGA. “Exotica incognita Latin America: charting reinvention”, Man+Space, Kwangju Biennale 2000, Kwangju, 2000.

TUNGA. Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós, published by Revirão 2 – Revista da Prática Freudiana, on the occasion of the Second Brazilian Conference on Psychoanalysis, a outra editora, Rio de Janeiro, 4-6 October, 1985.

______ Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nós/ Xifópagas Capilares Entre Nosotros, Museo de Bellas Artes y FUNDARTE, Caracas, 1985.

______ Barroco de Lírios. Cosac Naify, São Paulo, 1997.

TUNGA; CIANCIOTTA, Marco. ‘…segni indicavano la pubertà di xifopaghi capillari tra noi’, in Senza Titolo, 1987.

TUNGA; LANE, Simon. La Véritable Illusion, Paso Doble nº 4, Paso Doble, Paris, 1996

TUNGA; OLIVEIRA. Luiz Alberto de, Lucidez do Paradoxo, Gabinete de Arte Raquel Arnaud Babenco, São Paulo, 1985.



Malba wishes to express its gratitude to Instituto Tunga, Rio de Janeiro, for contributing to this project.