Berna Reale’s Harsh Realities

Last month the United States was devastated by an outbreak of police shootings targeted primarily towards black males. In 2016, at least 136 black people died at the unjust hands of civil servants sworn to protect us. Meanwhile, data supplied by the World Health Organization indicates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. It is tragic, it is terrifying, and it is the truth. Police brutality, and gender directed violence are rapidly growing issues across the globe.

Berna Reale, artist and criminal expert at the State of Para Centre of Scientific Skills in Brazil boldly exposes issues related to violence, inequality, and criminal justice prevalent in her work Untitled (2011), and Paloma (2012).

In Untitled, Reale is naked and bound to a long pole by her wrists and ankles, and paraded through crowded streets by men in surgical masks dressed all in white. The graphic display elicits questions of inequality through her highly vulnerable position and the gender of her captors, marking the helplessness women face to the more physically dominant male, the control men wield over their bodies, and the accountability men are stripped of for their actions signified by their immaculate clothing.

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Berna Reale, Paloma, 2012

Paloma reveals another unsettling reality as Reale, this time wearing a black police uniform and a dog muzzle, is mounted atop a horse painted bright red. She patrols eerily uninhabited streets suggesting the vacuous nature of day-to-day police tasks, in contrast to imminent threats and dangers that are left undealt with. The alarming color of the horse seems to imply both violence and self-inflation as it guides the viewer’s eye along with Reale, controlling our experience.

Historically, power and corruption go hand-in-hand, the two are like an undesirable marriage between dangerous partners, clinging to each other’s greedy and insidious thresholds. Berna Reale’s films bravely expose this shameful unity and her use of dramatic color and scale portray the imperative nature, as well as the immensity of these issues not only in the vast country of Brazil, but on a global level as well.

Berna Reale: Singing in the Rain is on view in the Codec Gallery through November 5, 2016

written by: Letice Blanchard