Wagner Schwartz received the first death threat two days after lying naked on the floor of a museum in São Paulo. It was October 2017 and the Brazilian artist had invited members of his audience, which included children, to adjust his body: move a limb, roll him over, that kind of thing. This was for a dance piece called La Bête, a work he had already staged many times at home and abroad. So it was a shock to suddenly find himself the target of an increasingly emboldened network of rightwing and evangelical Christian groups.
“Having children touching and being exposed to a naked strange man is wrong,” he says, but he does add: “Our legal institutions are the ones to deal with it.” Nonetheless, Schwartz was forced into hiding and, shortly after, boarded a flight to Paris. “I was frightened,” he says. “Justice in Brazil does not protect those who are threatened.