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Itaú Cultural Encyclopedia


Élle de Bernardini (Itaqui, Rio Grande do Sul, 1991). Visual artist, performer and dancer. Many of Bernardini's works are supported by the artist's own figure or other structures that refer to the body. The works create sensory experiences that are opposed to attacks against gender freedom.


Bernardini has studied classical ballet since childhood and becomes one of the few transgender dancers to join a female ballet class at the Royal Academy of Dance in London (2011). He studies Butô with the Japanese artists Yoshito Ohno (1938-2020) and Tadashi Endo (1947), in 2012. From 2015, he concentrated his interest in visual production, but the intensity of his scenic presence and the search for syntheses, which artist experiments at Butô, mark their performances.


In the dance / performance Corpo à Beira da Crise (2013-2019), social and identity struggles that do not express themselves verbally are fought in the performer's body. In this work, there is already a dialogue with the concept of “speaking body”, investigated by Bernardini in the Manifesto Contrassexual (2000), by the Spanish philosopher Paul B. Preciado (1970). When studying philosophy at the Federal University of Santa Maria - UFSM (2015), her interests turn to thinkers who approach sexuality by questioning the gender categories founded on a binary, male and female system.


The Contrassexual Manifesto proposes sociability based on the understanding of the subjects as “speaking bodies” imbued with potentialities, overcoming the notion of gender. Such a discussion emerges in different works of the artist, as in the series Contra Contrasxuais (2019). Although they bring something organic, it is difficult to assign a direct reference to such forms. They multiply by malleable surfaces, such as fabric, vinyl, silicone, leather, rubber, in organic and inorganic textures and tones.


Behind the organic project is a visual code that, according to Bernardini, represents the five main erogenous zones of the human body: penis, vagina, scrotum, breasts and anus, signs that metamorphose between themselves. The colors are also coded, with the recurrence of different skin tones, between roses and blues, culturally associated with the feminine and masculine genders, but distanced from the current interpretation. The artist unfolds this body mapping in landscapes and objects that approach abstraction.


In some works, the schematic appearance of the counter-sexual forms alludes to hieroglyphic writing. In the installation Tumba (2020), the wall lined with gold leaves inscribes the bodies of the observers in a scripture proposed by the artist, in order to grant greater freedom to the bodily syntax of verbal and visual discourses. Gold is also given the role of attracting the observer into the discourse.


The honey and gold leaves that Bernardini applies to himself for the performance Dance with me (2018-2019) refer to the works of the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) and his idea of ​​social sculpture. They also contain a subtle irony. Dance with me combines senses: the vision, the smell, the hearing awakened by a repertoire of Brazilian music considered of good taste by the more affluent classes and, mainly, the touch, in the dance with the artist. Sensory plurality corresponds to the diversity of dissident bodies. With her nudity covered in gold, the artist dances in the exhibition space, playing with the popular expression used to repudiate a person: "even if someone was covered in gold". Bernardini responds to this implied statement by painting himself gold and inviting his interlocutors to dance, defending the acceptance of bodies that move away from heteronormativity.


In the series of photoperformances A Imperatriz (2018-2019), with his pictorial presence in red, Élle occupies icy and imposing architectural spaces, representative of political and cultural power. Using jewelry and haute couture clothing as a strategic resource to enter such spaces, which impose certain patterns of behavior, the character created by Élle intends to seduce the institutions and pave the way for other trans artists. The visit to these spaces represents a symbolic repair of the historical injustice generated by the absence of trans people in the collections and artistic spaces. With the incorporation of a performance photograph to the institution's collection, the work acts on the art system itself and its strategies of choice.


Bernardini's works are dedicated to tact, perhaps the sense most capable of pushing the limits of sociability conventions. Sexualities and identities gain materiality through the skin, a social organ, and for this reason it is so emphasized in many of the artist's works, as occurs in the installation Transdialética (2020), a work that consists of a synthesis of the artist's previous propositions and presents a model of non-binary sociability, provided by sensory experience.

Exploring different textures, as many as there are differences between bodies and identities, Élle de Bernardini's works address political and gender issues through acting in the symbolic field, proposing ways to think about current society and to forge a future society, more egalitarian.


Entry - Itaú Cultural Encyclopedia

Élle, your body is our measure

It is a work of resistance: it is difficult to be an artist, it is difficult to be a woman artist, it is difficult to be a trans woman artist, it is difficult to be a trans woman artist and to be inserted in the commercial and institutional circuit. Élle de Bernardini's production faces these and other issues incessantly, proposing new system models and offering revolutionary solutions. From the research on contrasexual forms (derived from the theories of the queer philosopher Paul Preciado), the artist started to create series of works that put into question the status of the symbology of colors, the rules of behavior of the body, the fetish about the object of art, taboos on dissident sexualities, language gaps and power structures.

The use of soft and attractive materials - plushies, tights, pearls, gold - and the use of strong and captivating colors, at first seems to resist associations with the combative body, facing prejudices, fighting for freedom and liberation. But, in a second moment, Bernardini's strategy of appealing to touch, to seduction, and thus awakening the interest of knowing, of approaching, of valuing, attributing auras of sacred and wealth to subjects increasingly considered improper, immoral, indecent.

There are several symbologies behind the use of plush, for example: the pieces can be children's like toys, luxurious like mink coats, warm like blankets. If some of the titles in the series of works refer to physical characteristics of the body, such as “Peludinhos”, others are thought of as accessories and apparatuses used by that body, such as “Detail” - a vest to wear - or “Dois Pesos Duas Medidas ”- a necklace to wear. This implication of the body in Bernardini's work is not limited to just dressing, but also includes the spectator's active engagement in the co-creation of a piece, as in “Do It Yourself”: a series of silicone molds that can be used for molding resin or ice dildos designed for different areas of the body - just follow the instruction manual offered by the artist and enjoy / with the work.

Despite the growing waves of coldness, hardness and brutality, we must remember that we still have skin, that we are still able to relate to the world through exchanges of heat, fluids, affections and fragilities and, even more, to create new ones. skins that allow us contacts, pleasures, other bodies. This exhibition imposes on us the urgency to think about the possibilities of understanding and using our own bodies and those of others, especially in times of unification and hardening of the discourses of control, purity, innocence and chastity in detriment of freedom, autonomy, enjoyment and expansion of powers .

Julia Lima, August 2019

Black and Gold

The artist, in her recent trajectory in the visual arts, uses different media - from drawing to video. Constant in her experiments and receiving notorious attention in the last two years is her interest in exploring the production of objects in different forms, materials, colors and ways of being shown before the public's body. Within this diversity, a specific vocabulary was created: its scale transits between small and medium, and the materials tend to come from the textile universe and from what is intended for touch - silicone, plush, rings, felt, nylon and lycra are just some examples of a poetics under construction that wishes to remember body diversity and the endless possibility of sensory experiences of human existence, but without appealing to the explicit representation of the human body.

Leather brings with it an inevitable proximity to human skin; soft, foldable, tensioned on the wall, transformed into a canvas or resting on iron structures, it can be seen as a reminder of the fragility of the body itself, of its creases and pores. Regardless of how it will be seen by the public, it is interesting to note how the artist dialogues closely with the long tradition of using soft materials in art history in Brazil. The verticality and the longing for an eternal solidity of classical sculpture leaves the scene and the asymmetry and a certain volatile character of these works are praised.

If leather brings this relationship to physicality, gold leads us to an imaginary around power and ostentation; this is the same tone that has been used by so many religions in order to bring the notions of asceticism and transcendence and quickly transition from its economic value to the spiritual sphere. Unlike the leather that retains the light, the gold leaf shapes shine and reflect discreetly through space. The use of these materials creates a contrast that plays with the public's eye to an intermediate place between light and shadow, between the artificiality of luxury and the organicity of the skin, between, finally, the background and the figure.

The artist continues her research on “contrasexual forms”, a series of graphic elements designed from the reading of “Contrasexual Manifesto” (2000), by Paul B. Preciado. As some of her works here teach the public, each of these forms is related to an erogenous zone of the body and its association with gender identities: anus, scrotum, penis, breast and vagina. From these forms- drawings-symbols-letters, the artist continually creates systems that are not only designs for bodies, but also new ways of thinking about writing today.

This research on the limits of words as to the ways of writing / describing about the human body, gender and sexuality - writing that was and continues to be oppressive - led to the complex universe of hieroglyphs with their outlines and mysteries. Her writing, therefore, expands from the canvases to the fur objects, also reaching the walls of his delicate tomb. Contrasexual forms are not attached to sheets of paper and want to take over the bodies that make up the public. Showing them is more and more a physical experience and an invitation for us to articulate our own writings from this new language created by the artist.

What if we were able to perpetuate a writing that ceased to be guided by the defined inflection of the genres and invited us to fantasize about the lines before our eyes? What if we were in a world where the phobias surrounding all otherness did not exist? What if the leather suppleness of our skins was not seen as fragility, but as potency? These are some of the central questions for Elle de Bernardini. That reminds us that the revolution can begin with the creation of new forms of writing and new ways of recoding the stories of images. Utopia and art go together from Ancient Egypt.

Raphael Fonseca, March 2020

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