Maria Sécio River Gurara

What is your relationship with death?

  • Its hard to have a relationship with death without ever having any experience with it. I had a period in my life that I was convinced I would die at any moment. This thought consumed me so much that I wouldn’t sleep.
    Anxiety, that so far had been a silent creeper … saw the perfect timing to flourish and I would puke through the night because I couldn’t remember how to breath. Neverthless this was just the fruit of my imagination. I guess its hard to go through the living without ever coming to the realisation that everything has an end.

    Afterall death is as natural as living and its actually a fundamental human strength to acknowledge the vulnerability of all living things. In my case, thoughts of death came hand in hand with anxiety and my brain could not make sense of anything without falling in depression. 

    When I changed from film production to photography in university I saw this fear slowly fading away from my priorities. I was no longer so weak that I had no self confidence and by slowly submerging myself with projects and ideas I could finally take my head out of the water and breath. For many years I felt so ashamed of having this fear consuming my ability to live that this is actually one of the first times that I am transparent about it.

    To be perfectly honest with you, what really helped wash away my irrational fear of death was to experience ketamine. Drugs are often put under a pejorative umbrella but in reality, when wisely dosed, can be beneficial for us to understand ourselves and each other better, aswell as to overcome traumas. Ketamine made me travel trough depths of existence that were bigger than myself, you or anyone …

    It brought me closer to my individual by stripping myself from my ego withouth leaving any anxiety. From seeing myself drifting naked in a dark empty surrounding like the universe, I overcame my surreal thoughts and woke up to the simple realisition that there is no bigger waste of time than worrying about what is to come.

    Accepting life as it is is an essential benefit to live it fully. Accepting the unforeseen events, the random and unfair sometimes is also fundamental to go though experiences with a more positive drive.

    As for now I am living so death is not yet my problem just another mystery. And when I am indeed close to death, I also don’t know how it will feel like but I hope that is the ultimate psychedelic experience. And after that who knows? Who should care? Or more like why should you worry? Just make a nice scenario of what it is for yourself, believe it or not because in the end it doesn’t matter when you are dead, just while you live.   

How much the experience of others, even if they are extraneous to ours, can affect the perception of the world that surrounds us? In your work you seem to connect your personal fear to a negative experience you didn’t live in the first person, but lived by someone who’s really come to you, your father

  • When I was 14 years old I had to cross the Tejo river by train to go to school. From the lower deck of the bridge, where the train passes I could look down and see the river far away. I was so fascinated with this view that it went into my dreams and for a while I only dreamt of this same travel  …the only difference was that in the dream version while looking down I could see all the boats, airplanes, cruises sank under crystal clear waters.

    One morning, while going to school I opened the newspaper and there was a small picture of a ship half sank in the water, the next thing I remember is waking up without realising I had fainted. In 1989 a ship broke in half in the coast of sesimbra. My dad was in the marines at that time and was called to its rescue but the ship had created a strong maelstrom around itself and everything that would get close would be swallowed together.

    They waited there for 8 days to collect the bodies, because 8 days is apparently how long it takes for a body to sink bloat and come back to the surface. The ship that remained there, laying at the bottom … was called River Gurara. River Gurara became then the name of my fear and fascination, the imagination of what lays underneath but also the hope to overcome the fear of it. The experiences of that day, the deaths and the traumas are not what is present in this new River Gurara… this new setting evokes a challenge to face heads on the unknown and accept it as it appears. 

During the executive production of River Gurara how did you feel? Did you join it as a cathartic and conscious process or did you live this experience without any emotional control?

  • My intention with River Gurara was never to portray a traumatic experience, rather I wanted to show myself how the aquatic world has its inherent mysteries but those mysteries don’t have to be haunting neither harmful. I have always had an immense fascination with staring at the water surface, watch it dance, morph and glow in reflections. But the fear of what lays underneath has held me at land for too long. Like death, the sea is scary and full of unresolved answers but I don’t like to be bound by my own fears and because of that I had to create my own fictional realm for what lays at the bottom of the sea.

    I wanted to trick myself and create a cathartic world of rejuvenating sensations, like a purgatory for those who need to overcome themselves or simply dream forever. At first this wasn’t a conscious decision, it felt more like a subconscious and impulsive one which I later on reflected upon. But the best was to flow in between impulses and consciousness in order to sometimes evaluate my actions. Since I know I am prone to impulses and irrational thoughts I am conscious I need to keep question myself and based on that whenever I feel my emotional control slipping through my fingers I let it slip only until  where I have the grip to hold it again back to reflection. 
Using Format