Pêdra Costa on Art, Tarot, and Resistance 

This article is part of HyperallergicPride Month series, featuring an interview with a different transgender or nonbinary emerging or mid-career artist every weekday throughout the month of June.

The Brazilian performance and transdisciplinary artist Pêdra Costa also describes themselves as a tarot reader and a “visual and urban anthropologist.” Based in Berlin, Costa creates complex, layered works that reflect these multifaceted interests as well as their own nonbinary identity. Their concert series Solange, tô aberta! (“Solange, I’m open“), for example, which premiered in 2006, combines elements of Rio de Janeiro’s Baile Funk with the northern Brazil Technobrega genre as well as queer, punk, and other underground dance and musical traditions. It’s one of several pieces in which Costa makes a gesture of resistance by embracing and emphasizing art forms that have been systemically suppressed.

Hyperallergic: What is the current focus of your artistic practice?

Pêdra Costa, “de_colon_isation part III: the bum bum cream,” performance in Vienna, Austria (© Joanna Pianka 2017)

Pêdra Costa: I’m currently dedicated to enhancing my artistic performance, evident in my ongoing series de_colon_isation. I am venturing into art installation, incorporating performative activations, exemplified by my latest piece “The closet of deities” that will be featured in the exhibition Close[t] Demonstrations at the Semmelweisklinik Centre for Arts and Culture in Vienna. Additionally, for the Erste Bank Art Award 2023, my inaugural visual art accolade, I am crafting an art installation inspired by the 22 major arcana of the Tarot.

H: In what ways — if at all — does your gender identity play a role in your experience as an artist?

PC: Queerness, art, and spirituality are integral to my identity, yet they do not confine me. I believe my artworks inspired the generation of radical queer artists in Brazil, where I incorporated the term (and action!) “queer” in the arts. My music and performance piece Solange, tô aberta! (2006) serves as a significant artistic reference for it. Moreover, my work “de_colon_isation” (2016) critically examines the historical persecution of gender dissidents in Colonial Brazil, perpetrated by the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (1536–1821).

H: Which artists inspire your work today? What are your other sources of inspiration?

PC: I draw inspiration from a diverse range of artists and communities: queer artists, disabled artists, witches, QTBIPoC, and neurodivergent artists, as well as the collectives I actively participate in. My friends, who are artists and/or curators, play a significant role in fueling my creative drive. Moreover, I seek wisdom from the Global South and artistic embodied knowledge.

Pêdra Costa, “The lady in white” (2015), performance in Ponta Negra Beach, Brazil (© Arthur Little)

H: What are your hopes for the LGBTQIA+ community at the current moment?

PC: My hope is that we possess a remarkable sense of community, political strength, and resilience, along with valuable wisdom and survival strategies to confront the reemergence of an enduring social model that seeks to undermine us.