What does it mean to love yourself? How can love be radical? Antonio Obá responds to questions including “where do you consider home?” and “What is your favourite childhood memory?”, providing a more personal insight into the artist and a foundation for the intimate conversation held as part of a three-part digital series, 'Radikal Self Love', which took place ahead of Liverpool Biennial 2023
- What is the song you play the most when you’re working?
It depends, I listen to Milton Nascimento’s albums a lot, and also Nick Drake’s; but lately I work listening to some philosophy lectures, or sometimes, I choose to be completely silent when I am working, especially in the mornings.
- Which book do you always return to?
The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (Grande Sertão: Veredas) – Guimarães Rosa
The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri
- Do you have a mantra? What is it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about a Latin phrase attributed to Saint Benedict that says: “Ora et labora“. I believe that daily work in the studio can be seen as a kind of devoted obstinacy.
- What are the ingredients to your favourite dish?
Nothing exceptional. If it’s well done, I’m sure I’ll like it. If it has beans, I’ll like it even more.
- Where do you consider home, and what is your favourite place there?
I think that with the passage of time and the movement that each work requires, I have conditioned myself to take an affective place with me (which has a lot to do with the place I came from), but which is also moved and affected by the places I temporarily stay when I travel for work or rest. Some works have presented themselves to me precisely when I was far from home.
Choosing a specific place, in this case, does not seem coherent to me. There are places I have visited and, until I visit them again, I cultivate a certain affection in my memory; I recreate the streets, I remember the smells, and the light, and this becomes part of me as a memory of the place. I imagine that this composes inner places that you carry as a reliquary of sensations.
- What is your favourite childhood memory?
One that is particularly memorable is from when I entered the Room of Miracles alone- a church in Trindad- Go, a countryside town I used to visit every year with a caravan of devotees. I especially remember the ex-votos and the smell of burning parafin from the candles.
- What does self-love mean to you?
One aspect of what I understand as self-love has to do with a certain willingness of spirit to put oneself to the test. I think that most of us spend a good part of our lives without knowing much about ourselves, at least I put myself in that group. We are given so many experiences, traumas and memories without asking, without sometimes being aware of them, that as a consequence we allow ourselves to be erased, taking these garments as truth. I am not saying that this is good or bad, it is what it is. Independent of what we want, it is what configures our character and also a certain love for who we are. To love in the sense of always being willing to re-evaluate your position in the world, allows an availability of spirit to see oneself in relation to others who are constantly teaching you something more in relation to what you choose to offer of yourself, or to deny- to love in the sense of always being an apprentice of something as vain as life. Above all, the idea of self-love reminds me of what a poet-friend wrote: “in the end, it’s about learning to extend one’s own existence.”