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Nilsinho Pause

Written by Michel Peres

Edited by André Colabelli

Translated by Vanessa Guedes

Copyedited by Marina Ferreira

Nilsinho Pause, the most ex­tra­vag­ant and hated Bahian artist of all times, watches with a pinky on his lip as the guests eat corn­bread and fubá cake served at the ver­n­is­sage. 'This is my body' is the title of the trick, and it has its own ritu­al­ist­ics for the ex­hib­i­tion, from the waiters’ cloth­ing (wear­ing mankinis) to the Ma­ra­joara pot­tery used to serve the food. Yes, it was a long way from the little mar­kets of Itapar­ica to Le Maison du Schwar­zko­gler, and Nilsinho knew it; he wasn't just any slack-lipped am­a­teur who got his turn at the fan­ci­est mu­seum in Paris, one of the last re­spec­ted art strong­holds in the Old World. One eye on the cat and an­other on the door. That was Nilsinho's motto.

Guests gather around. Sophia An­tipolis' ex­ec­ut­ive ap­proaches the artist, fol­lowed by an über­model. The über wears a sky­diving jump­suit and uses crutches that splash Mon Guer­lain every five minutes.

“What is it made of?” asks the ex­ec­ut­ive, point­ing to the plate.

“Of mommy's pla­centa,” Nilsinho replies, in a French from Feira de Santana. The model laughs, throw­ing her crutches up high.

Typ­ical Nilsinho. In his per­form­ances and tricks, he al­ways mixes ele­ments ex­trac­ted from his own body, or from fam­ily or friends. He’s used blood, se­men, shit, dandruff, phlegm... When he sched­ules a visit, people wear hel­mets and put cam­eras in the toi­lets, watch­ing his move­ments. Nilsinho never gets car­ried away. “Fifth world art, djow,” he says, “fuck­ing mar­ginal art.”

798’s Bi­en­nial. Nilsinho flies to Beijing, eager to show off a fresh trick to the Latin Amer­ican Pa­vil­ion. He in­vades Des­vio para o Ver­melho, by Meireles, ty­ing clothesline ropes from a corner to an­other in the room; on the clotheslines, dozens of hanging aie-aies face vis­it­ors and journ­al­ists. They are fed by as­sem­blers that run through the clotheslines, car­ry­ing a worm shake that is squir­ted dir­ectly into the little creatures' mouths. After a week of the ex­hibit, the stench of lemur ur­ine and fe­ces is so pun­gent that it softens the curi­os­ity of any­one in­ter­ested in the works from the Brazilian wing. There are ru­mors that Ar­gen­tina and Venezuela are up­set. An An­golan dip­lo­mat asks, “Is that part of the art­work?”, he looks at the sole of his shoe, dis­gus­ted.

At the time of the Morn­ing Show, un­em­ployed people, old ladies and stu­dents don't take their eyes off the holotv. The host dances for the guests, who are seated on a wide sofa made of liz­ard leather. Among them, Nilsinho, king of the tricks. He wears an as­trakahn hat and a fluor­es­cent rub­ber mack­in­tosh, even though the tem­per­at­ure in the stu­dio is about 30ºC.

“Nilsinho,” says a journ­al­ist, “the art­work that caused a com­mo­tion in São Paulo is yours, right?”

Nilsinho shakes his head say­ing no. “Yes,” he replies, “Let Bosch Know About It'. I made it for the city's an­niversary. It was a lot of work in­stalling the palm trees, but I was sat­is­fied by the res­ult," he says, giv­ing a wink to Goro, the four-armed singer, who rolls his eyes.

“Con­tro­ver­sial work... Do you know why?”

“Look, sweetie, those Sampa people are kind of posh, you know? I could be wrong, but I think it was the pneu­matic ser­vants’ fault that I in­stalled on each one of the three hun­dred palms at the con­struc­tion site. They made every tree shake whenever someone called one-nine-one re­port­ing death or rape. The work­ahol­ics were un­com­fort­able see­ing the trees shak­ing like a horde of schizo­phren­ics in the middle of Paulista Av­enue. When they brought the back­hoes, I chained my­self and mes amis to the trees. After threat­en­ing to sue, everything came back­wards, show­ing their asses like some ba­boons. Yes, I did it. Bunch of losers.”

São Paulo be­hind, Nilsinho de­cides to at­tack Mi­nas Gerais (land full of skel­et­ons in the closet, as he usu­ally says) dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Gast­ro­nomy Fest­ival of Ouro Preto. As a guest artist, he ex­hib­its in one of the local bo­degas. Chooses Ver­ti­gem, the only Es­cherian res­taur­ant in the state (com­edy shows, homemade geribirita and balut ice cream with beak and everything). People drink at tables that re­semble stair­cases, mak­ing the waiters go up and down in post-New­to­nian steps. Nilsinho ap­pears at Ver­tigo's kit­chen and shouts, “Fetch me the sponge you guys most used today.”

With DNA from cli­ents' saliva ex­trac­ted from the sponge, strands of hair ac­cu­mu­lated on en­gin­eer­ing stu­dents' bed­posts, and a To-Pleas­ure king-size In­cubus model doll, with help from the Bioin­form­at­ics De­part­ment Nilsinho designs an or­gan­re­ceptor cap­able of serving Ver­ti­gem's cli­ents, cal­cu­lat­ing ten­sion in beams, dis­play­ing tem­per­at­ure, and work­ing as a local guide. Things are go­ing well un­til a dean thinks it would be ok to let the test-tube abor­tion snort a line. The guy likes the taste and, when in a fis­sure, goes into a frenzy, beat­ing up people on the street and des­troy­ing 18th-cen­tury churches (Art His­tory teach­ers have strokes one after an­other, fall­ing like dom­ino pieces at Direita Street). Ter­ror runs down the com­munity, un­til the Castle of Nobles frat house takes the golem as a pet, feed­ing it with con­trolled doses of powder heated on a mir­ror and Sega Sat­urn. He be­comes the car­ni­val king and a cul­tural her­it­age of Ouro Preto, even be­com­ing a char­ac­ter in one of the block parties. Dark side of the story? Re­ports of tour­ists dis­ap­pear­ing are kept un­der wraps with the spread­sheets of the Sec­ret­ary of Tour­ism, de­lighted with the in­crease in the city's rev­enue. Part of the funds thick­ens one of Nilsinho's bank ac­counts, who doesn't stop re­ceiv­ing in­vit­a­tions from other tour­ist cit­ies.

Even so, post-wealth de­pres­sion strikes our hero. Tokyo, Lon­don, Sydney, Abuja, Rio... all those are already blessed by the touch of Nilsinho, who ac­cu­mu­lated prize after prize, honor after honor. The last one is an hon­or­ary doc­tor­ate from the Günter Brus In­sti­tute (in his ac­cept­ance speech, Nilsinho de­fen­ded the ser­vices provided in the name of art by David Paker Ray and spent an hour prais­ing the be­ne­fits of rang­pur for elim­in­at­ing armpit odor). But all that doesn’t amount to any­thing...

At the peak of his ca­reer, thirty years on his shoulders, Nilsinho be­gins to re­think his life. Deep down, his true dream never came true: hav­ing a street named after him in Itapar­ica, his ho­met­own. Des­pite his rough child­hood (street kid, full of green heroin, body marked by vi­ol­ence and vices), he loved his ho­met­own. Thus, he de­cides to act on his own. He spends months locked in his four-story bun­ga­low in Ro­cinha, plan­ning his biggest pro­ject. It would in­volve turn­ing one of his arms into a baobab. “The is­land will now have some of my love”, he sings in fal­setto, the whole com­munity listen­ing.

To start off the trick, Nilsinho goes after an old friend, Ad­elaide Bedu, a bio­chem­ist for a Sino-Ni­gerian phar­ma­ceut­ical group, drum­mer of Mega­Cu­tie band and a gar­age­keeper in her spare time. They sip bottles of tarubá in her apart­ment, while smoking fat joints of Ur­uguayan hashish.

“What's in it for me, djow?”, Bedu asks, wear­ing a kepi with Toten­kopf and whirl­ing a drum­stick à la Neil Peart.

“Fame”, replies Nilsinho, after let­ting out smoke from his lungs. He coughs and wipes a tear away, watch­ing for dandruff husks on the floor. “And a few bucks too, of course.”

“Well... that's gonna take a few ses­sions of xeno­trans­plant­a­tion, some gene shots and some dips into your epi­gen­et­ics.”

“Dips... for what?”

“En­tropy, puppy. Turn to where your mommy and daddy ooze out of your skin.”

“I know, I know…,” Nilsinho speaks. Like shit he knows.

“And I'm gonna need a whole bunch of golden plas­mids.”


“Gold, djow,” she says rub­bing her thumb against her fore­finger. “Lead green goo?”


“Green goo. Like a slime. Ghost­busters style, but Chernobyl-like.”

“No clue.”

“En­tropy it!” Bedu says. She drinks the tarubá and throws the bottle away, soon ab­sorbed by the in­nate dis­sem­blers of the ce­ment and the wall paint. “Let's go. It’s on you…”

Many scalpels, gene gun cart­ridges, and Je­sus guar­aná later, Nilsinho leaves Bedu's gar­age with his new pro­ject: the mutant baobab-arm, able to grow and shrink at his will. Like a men­tal erec­tion.

“Achtung what you’re gonna drink at those crappy mix­olabs, djow,” Bedu ad­vert­ises.

“Ja, ja, Fräulein,” Nilsinho agrees, feel­ing his body weigh heavy on one side. Oth­er­wise, he feels as ra­di­ant as a stu­dent on the last day of school. The whole af­ter­noon just for Dor­i­tos and telekin­etic jerk-off. The baobab-arm stretches, bar­ing wooden veins. People from the is­land are go­ing to be sick, Nilsinho thinks, jump­ing in ex­cite­ment.

Back to Itapar­ica. Nilsinho strolls along the shore, car­ry­ing the baoba in a shoulder strap. Between in­sults and spits, he feels like a drag queen, parad­ing to the is­land's en­vi­ous ple­beian crowd. They shout: queer, fag­got, Satan's darling, freak, jambo as­shole, South­east­ern knick­knacks, Ipan­ema knees, douch­erain, cheese bread but­tocks, agreste nazi, and many oth­ers ad­or­able nick­names. Nilsinho blows a kiss away and smiles, rolling out onto the hot and fly­ing sand.

Un­til the day he for­gets Bedu's ad­vice and walks into a mix­olab at Mar­celino's street. There, he drinks an avo­cado smoothie pro­cessed on an Ap­plera DNA syn­thes­izer. Un­for­tu­nately for Nilsinho, the Ap­plera was in­fes­ted with teliospores, a Ust­il­ago may­dis vari­ety from Tierra del Fuego. Nilsinho doesn’t have time to step out of the place when the un­ex­pec­ted hits him. His thigh stretches back, de­vel­op­ing a stark tone of baobab.

“I bet it's one of those pranks,”com­ments a Yan­kee tour­ist in a broken Por­tuguese, tak­ing a bite of a tex­tured guará meat sand­wich. “Where are the cam­eras?”

Fuss­ing over his situ­ation and shak­ing in im­possible moves, Nilsinho drags him­self out­side. The sun makes him dizzy, his fore­head sweaty, his gut hot as a punc­tured ra­di­ator. His Spice Girls tank top rips off, the girls' faces open­ing space for his now hairy wooden chest.

He falls to his knees on the side­walk, pass­ers-by curi­ously watch­ing. No one helps the trick­ster who cries out for help. Tu­mor sprouts burst out of his body, fall­ing to the as­phalt like rot­ten meat pieces made from wood. The ex­pens­ive Main­bocher jeans rips from side to side, show­ing his thighs. The boy's back, now the size of a jeep Sur­rey, has thick sliv­ers of baobab grow­ing non-stop; Nilsinho looks around, opens his mouth, but his teeth and tongue melt, mak­ing room for the small roots that be­gin to in­filt­rate the pav­ing stones in the street. The pleb screams out in­sane.

A ba­nana seller slowly rides by on his bi­cycle and notes, “If this one isn't the kid who used to steal ci­gar­ettes at the mar­ket... does it hurt, little son of a bitch, does it...?”

A heli­copter loaded with tour­ists flies over the old port of Itapar­ica, which is now com­pletely taken over by Nilsinho boy. Tug­boats get around the shore, squirt­ing chem­ic­als day and night to stop the baobab logs from grow­ing bey­ond the is­land. It's like watch­ing a huge plate of noodles from the top. Build­ings, houses, bridges... everything turned into spa­ghetti. The heli­copter buzzes in.

“Ach so,” the MoMa's cur­ator, a middle-aged Ger­man, says into the mi­cro­phone, “vee are now flyin­gen over zee last vork of Niz­inho, artist ant mis­un­der­stood genius of land art. Itapahica, eh... Vee don’t know zee name yet. It is be­lieved zat a new soschi­ety lives un­der sis heap of leaves and branches, ant zat people there praise the my­z­ical ant, vhy not, mistisch fig­ure of Niz­inho Pause. It zeems to be a cargo cult, if you can call it zat. But there are crit­ics voo be­lieve zat Niz­inho took re­fuzee in Africa, dis­ap­pear­ing there as Don Se­bas­tiom.”

“Is it true that all this came out of his back?” asks a Ja­pan­ese de­signer look­ing for some trop­ical in­flu­ences.

“From the back and from Arsch, par­don the ex­prezion,” an­swers the cur­ator, “The body turned into a zigantic baobab. Vere it not for the squirts, the vork, or trick­ery, vould have already taken over Brazil, from Oiapoque to Chuí. Vich vould not be a zur­prise, given zee abzurd and fant­astisch of Niz­inho’s ouvre.”

A log, thick as a ce­ment mill, comes out from the is­land, grabbing the heli­copter like a frog's tongue, which is then pulled back into Nilsinho. Sounds of metal twist­ing. A huge burps echoes, form­ing bubbles in the ocean. Close up at the sun­set in Itapar­ica, when then...

Não liga não, baby / Don’t mind me, baby

Dá pra mim... o seu amor / Give me... your love

Dá pra mim… / Give me

Não se pre­ocupe que eu serei um bom rapaz / Don’t worry , I’ll be be a good boy

Quero seus lá­bios / I want your lips

Dá pra mim... o seu carinho / Give me... your af­fec­tion

Dá pra mim… / Give me…

Michel Peres

Michel Peres was born in Ma­toz­in­hos, Mi­nas Gerais, in 1982. He has an un­der­gradu­ate de­gree in His­tory and En­gin­eer­ing, and a spe­cial­iz­a­tion in the Arts. He wrote art­icles for the web­site Ob­vi­ous , had poems pub­lished on the web­site Ruído Mani­festo, par­ti­cip­ated in an­tho­lo­gies such as Mi­tos Mod­ernos (Pen­um­bra Liv­ros), Real­id­ades Cabulo­sas (Leitor Cabuloso web­site), Cy­ber­punk – Re­gis­tros re­cu­per­ados de fu­turos proi­bidos (Draco) and short stor­ies in the magazines Avessa, Maf­agafo, Nove Aman­hãs, Trasgo and Som­nium. He is the au­thor of “HIPER­HELIX” (Patuá, 2020).


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