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domingo, 30 de março de 2014

Sebastiao Resende


Arqueologia do efémero

Por ANTÓNIO CERVEIRA PINTO

Sebastião Resende — 'Fecit Potentiam', uma instalação irónica sobre a natureza ambígua dos chamados 'museus de arte contemporânea', que, na realidade, são os lugares por excelência do espetáculo das artes sob o efeito intenso das modas que passam, e onde a especulação financeira que alimenta o valor imaginário dos objetos temporários da arte compra a necessária legitimidade, com a colaboração paga dos escribas de serviço. A obra principal desta exposição é uma maqueta sumária do Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, que foi estrategicamente povoada com casulos de bichos da seda (Bombyx mori) que por lá viveram a sua metamorfose. O que se expõe é, assim, a memória arqueológica de uma ilusão. Um artista não precisa de produzir muitas obras, nem de fazer muitas exposições. Uma só obra de arte, desde que seja simultaneamente intuitiva e inteligente, basta para fazer a diferença e deixar um testemunho honesto às gerações futuras. É o caso desta 'Fecit Potentiam'.



Texto de apresentação da exposição [por Sismógrafo]

“Fecit potentiam” é o título da exposição de Sebastião Resende (Oliveira de Azeméis, 1954) patente no Sismógrafo de 8 de Março a 5 de Abril de 2014. Com curadoria de Óscar Faria, a mostra é composta por um conjunto de trabalhos inéditos – escultura, fotografia e instalação –, que não só prolongam as linhas de pesquisa anteriormente desenvolvidas pelo artista, mas também revelam um novo corpo de investigação: uma alegoria acerca das metamorfoses da arte e da vida realizada a partir do acompanhamento do processo de transformação do bicho-da-seda depois de invadir maquetas de museus. As obras agora reveladas podem ser ainda interpretadas como um comentário aos paradoxos e contradições inerentes a um tipo de arte de pendor conceptual, que, apesar de fazer da ideia e da linguagem os seus domínios, não deixa, contudo, de sentir o apelo pela produção de objectos. Na primeira sala do Sismógrafo, Sebastião Resende propõe duas esculturas de grandes dimensões, sendo que numa delas o artista integrou uma série de terras e areias provenientes de várias geografias – de Cabo Verde à Palestina. Este trabalho é colocado em diálogo com oito fotografias, as quais, tomando como modelo as imagens habitualmente realizadas por instituições museológicas, revelam os materiais ocultos no interior da peça escultórica. O espaço seguinte é totalmente preenchido pela obra que dá título à exposição. “Fecit potentiam” é uma instalação composta por uma maqueta – onde se reconhece o Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves –, imagens que documentam diferentes fases da sua realização, sons e um “atlas” dedicado à bombyx mori, o nome latino da mariposa com origem na larva mais comumente conhecida como bicho-da-seda.

Inspirada no título de um dos movimentos do “Magnificat”, de J.S. Bach, precisamente intitulado “Fecit Potentiam”, a exposição de Sebastião Resende traduz assim uma vontade de transgressão dos limites, sociais, institucionais, económicos, que ainda continuam a condicionar quer o fazer artístico, quer os modos de acesso e transmissão de um saber em constante mutação. Ao olhar-se para as marcas, resíduos e matérias orgânicas que ainda habitam a maqueta exposta no Sismógrafo, não pode deixar de pensar-se numa desejada e heterodoxa ocupação de um espaço, o museu, cada vez mais sujeito a uma condição de mausoléu. Como se lê no Cântico de Maria, contido no Evangelho Segundo São Lucas, o texto que serviu de base para o compositor alemão estruturar a sua peça e aqui apropriado como metáfora do acto criativo: “Manifestou o poder do seu braço e dispersou os soberbos. Derrubou os poderosos de seus tronos e exaltou os humildes. Aos famintos encheu de bens e aos ricos despediu de mãos vazias.” Há uma potência a realizar. O exemplo vem-nos da curta vida de uma larva, que se transforma em mariposa, para logo morrer. Como refere Giorgio Agamben: “Nós devemos ainda medir todas as consequências dessa figura da potência que, doando-se a si mesma, se salva e cresce no ato. Ela obriga-nos a repensar do zero não apenas a relação entre a potência e o acto, entre o possível e o real, mas também a considerar de uma forma nova, na estética, o estatuto do ato de criação e da obra, e na política, o problema da conservação do poder constituinte no poder constituído.”


Introductory text for the exhibition [by Sismógrafo]

“Fecit potentiam” is the title of the exhibition by Sebastião Resende (Oliveira de Azeméis, 1954), at Sismógrafo from the 8th of March to the 5th of April 2014. Curated by Óscar Faria, the show is comprised by a collection of unseen works – sculpture, photography and installation –, that not only extend the lines of research developed previously by the artist, but also reveal a new body of investigation: an allegory about the metamorphoses of art and life made possible through the accompaniment of the transformation of the silkworm while it inhabits museum mock-ups. The works now revealed could furthermore be interpreted as a commentary on the paradoxes and contradictions inherent to a type of art of conceptual slant, that, even by making ideas and language its dominium, does nevertheless stop feeling the appeal for the production of real objects. In the first room of Sismógrafo, Sebastião Resende proposes two sculptures of great dimensions, being that in one of them the artist has integrated a series of soils and sands from various geographies – from Cape Verde to Palestine. This work is placed in dialogue with eight photographs, that, taken the images usually produced by institutional museums as a model, reveal the materials hidden in the interior of the sculptural piece. The next space is completely occupied by the work which also names the exhibition. “Fecit potentiam” is an installation comprised by a mock-up – where we recognise the Museum of Contemporary Art of Serralves –, images that document the different stages of its conception, sounds and an “atlas” dedicated to bombyx mori, the latin name of the moth that originates from the larvae most well known as silkworm.

Inspired on the title of one the the movements from J.S.Bach’s “Magnificat”, precisely entitled “Fecit Potentiam”, Sebastião Resende’s exhibition translates somehow a will to transgress social, institutional and economic limits, which still condition both artistic practice and the modes of access and transmission of a knowledge in constant mutation. Looking at the marks, residues and organic mater that still inhabit the mock-up shown at Sismógrafo, we cannot but wonder of a desired heretical invasion of a space, the museum, more subject than ever to a mausoleum condition. As written in the Canticle of Mary, from the Gospel of Luke, the text that served as a basis for the german composer to structure his piece and here appropriated as a metaphor for the creative act: “He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” There is a potential to achieve. The example comes from the short life of the larvae, that transformes into moth, to soon die. As Giorgio Agamben refers: “We should still measure all the consequences of that figure of potential, which, in the act of giving up to herself, is saved and able to grow. She makes us rethink from scratch not only the relation between the potential and the act, between the possible and the real, but also to consider in a new way, in aesthetics, the status of the act of creation and completion of a work, and, in politics, the problem of the conservation of constituent power in the power constituted.”

artista/ artist: Sebastião Resende
título da exposição/ title: Fecit Potentiam, 2014
curadoria/ curator: Óscar Faria
local/ venue: Sismógrafo
morada/ address: Praça dos Poveiros, 56
1º andar, salas 1&2
4000-303 Porto, Portugal
mail@sismografo.org
www.sismografo.org
datas: 8 Março/March a 5 Abril/April 2014

quinta-feira, 13 de março de 2014

TOYZE : a smile a day



Not identical twins


By ANTÓNIO CERVEIRA PINTO

        “… certain characteristics become more alike as twins age, such as IQ and personality” — Wikipedia.


António Salvador Carvalho and António José Carvalho are identical twins, or MZ twins, known by close friends as Tó (the older twin - and for the purpose of this writing called T) and Zé (the younger one, Z). TOYZE is a recent trial to fuse both siblings into a single author and signature. It is a tentative third fictional author looking for an impossible dream: complete identity bioengineering. In the context of this project, Z is the most active half of TOYZE and the one responsible for “A smile a day”. This is a work-in-progress around the new meta world of meaning and communication known as comics, street art, toys or, as they like to call it, ‘bonecos’. T is presently in China developing a 3D studio.

T, the older twin, approaches representation as a complex fabric of drawings, erasures, superimposed images, layering sketches after sketches until a last picture come along as a result of a hand battle with the many artifacts, characters and ghosts of his convulsive imagination factory.

Z, the younger twin, not a perfect clone of T, uses his hand as an almost invisible link to what appears as an uninterrupted flow of synthetic imagery, and highly condensate visual narratives that run toward any void available. Some artists and styles have had a great influence on his work: Jacinto Pereira da Costa (a late Renaissance Portuguese artist that painted Sala dos Capelos inside the old Coimbra University building), Walt Disney and comic books in general, but above all the Italian comic artist Jacovitti, author of Jak Mandolino character, as well as the Japanese manga artist, illustrator, and painter, Suehiro Maruo.

Both these twins are prodigious draftsmen, running vague influences from Goya to ‘U-kyoe’ and Manga, Anime and post-Pop adventures like the ones by Japanese artists and collectives like Chiho Aoshima, Henmaru Machino, Aya Takano, Bome, Enlightenment (Hiro Sugiyama), or smart artists like Takashi Murakami, or even Amerindian as well as African folk art.

Eroticism not to say some Porn morphs and radical comments on culture make a clear point as their nihilist attitude towards ‘contemporary art’ and the horrendous conceptual litany that took over hundreds of art schools and the so-called ‘conversation’ of art.

They oppose to this new academia and to this all-over enforced concept art a back to basic deviation. They insist in a wild ‘teknné’, that’s what they do.

For TOYZE not to go with the trend and not to obey the new bureaucratic avant-garde establishment means a complete lack of rampant ambition. These two artists couldn’t careless more about art dealers, museums, ‘biennales’ and art critics than two butterflies running wild in a green field on a Spring sunny morning. Tant pis pour eux! Or tant pis pour nous?

Read more

Puerta Cerrada | Gallery 1

segunda-feira, 10 de março de 2014

Joao Vilhena



Silly selfies, or not

by ANTÓNIO CERVEIRA PINTO

Invitation to art in returning times of plagues and misery

Thirty-two adulterated Western art portraits and the explosive phenomenon of ‘selfies’ come together in black-and-white digital photo-montages by Joao Vilhena. Three of them are repeated in full color. As we write, photos shared every week on social media outnumber the world population. Time to resume some important topics of the late 19th and 20th centuries aesthetic discussions, notably those introduced by Rimbaud (“Je est un autre”), Walter Benjamin (“The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does the psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses”), and Roland Barthes (“ça a été”).

Young Portuguese artist Joao Vilhena (Lisboa, 1983) learned sculpture and painting at ARCO art school in Lisbon. Vilhena’s artwork is about cinema, literature and visual arts, playing with great variety of media: painting, sculpture, photography and video. In 2005, he has published an unauthorized biography where his supposed death and fictional narrative evolve from private to public issues. Joao Vilhena has been doing self-portraits since 2003. By 2013 he began using his iPhone to play with Instagram selfies and impersonate several characters of known paintings, using for this purpose the Meisner technique of self-expression, learned from theatre director and friend John Frey.

To take selfies, as well as ‘silly selfies’, and publish them on social networks is common practice by Joao Vilhena and many other artists today. The critical point here is the translation of these selfies to something else when the artist moves them from his smart phone to an art gallery.

Using photo reproductions of painted portraits, depicted from European and American art, as background for superimposed self-portraits has good chance to reignite the discussion about portraits, self-portraits and photography, as an anthropological testimony of what in Freudian vocabulary we should call narcissism.

As Christopher Lasch so well put it:
More than anything else, it is this coexistence of hyper-rationality and a widespread revolt against rationality that justifies the characterization of our twentieth-century way of life as a culture of narcissism. These contradictory sensibilities have a common source. Both take root in the feelings of homelessness and displacement that afflict so many men and women today, in their heightened vulnerability to pain and deprivation, and in the contradiction between the promise that they “have it all” and the reality of their limitations. (1)
Narcissism is an opponent force to rogue selves. To put it blatantly, this psychological powerhouse works against the danger of developing an everlasting immature personality and, on the opposite side, alienation. Narcissism is a necessary condition of art and a necessary drive to power, but not enough. Subjectivity, to become art, or power, needs an appropriate pool of genes, apprenticeship, peer revue, work, coherence, strategy, luck, sagesse, feeling, zeitgeist, visibility and resilience.

Real world, and cultural environments, that oppose to us an external strength —as space, time based events, and collective memory— are unavoidable ingredients of the social personality that impregnates ideas, actions and representations. Thinking, symbolic language, and images can make the fabric of society if in the presence of inter-subjectivity and social dynamics. The I and the Other are necessary agonistic elements of human life. Because of the huge continent of repression imposed upon us by the laws of physics and nature, but also by education and institutional consensus, we need some degree of freedom and anarchy in our intellectual and creative activities as a necessary counterpart to those systemic and massive external impositions.

The creative process of art is beyond mind-boggling selfishness and beyond herd flocking. Because of narcissistic half-nature of art, creativity do not allow alienation and reification to force artworks to become irredeemable shadows in dark caves. Moving back and forth is the narcissistic performance that keeps individuals and groups in equilibrium, enabling them to develop curiosity for knowledge and enjoy art, given the appropriate linguistic tools. From the repressed I to Others, as moving through lost paradise, oneness, and flesh, our face reflected by the lake is always alert.

As long as we are able to discuss taboos and dig the deep reservoir of irrationality using both science and art, the philosophical road is pleasurable.

Why does Joao Vilhena self-portraits almost everyday? As I measure the profusion of Instagram selfies around the planet, I guess these derivative displays work as pop-up backgrounds for more elaborate gestalts. Reality is greater and deeper than images, but do we see anything but pictures? Is any pure and abstract mental image different from a, let us say, sensual image of a lover breast?

To myself the first and relevant approach to an author’s work begins by judging his off-springs with no clue whatsoever about the artist’s ideology, preferences or intentions. I know this is a (post-Greenberg) Kantian methodology. I agree that it overrides context and language games in the first place, and that it dismisses cultural studies with a bang. I call on my defense though the heuristic argument stretching that this is a first instinctive step before the rational discourse that ought to be called in to defend my judgement. Instinct is a diversified and interconnected pile of layers though, not a virginal vibration of senses. It is because of the inherent subjectivity of art that she cannot be completely subsumed under a reasoning process, and this is also the circumstance that authorizes instinct to prevail as a necessary preliminary act of a fair aesthetic judgement.

In the Spring of 2013 I saw “American Psycho, 04” by Joao Vilhena, a large photograph depicting a man with a man in his arms, suggesting to my mind an homoerotic parody of Michelangelo’s Pietà.

There’s nothing to laugh about in this elegant and almost minimalist staged portrait. I see drama in it, but not the S&M inferno staged at the “Way of the Cross”. At first glance it seems a stage photography from some fashionable Opera performance. It is a cool picture. A few months later, Instagram ‘selfies’ by Joao Vilhena came to my Facebook News Feed almost on a daily basis. A different tale is now being told, nine years after the first photograph by Joao Vilhena that called to my attention.

The epistemological value of Smart photography

Never before has photography expanded in such a massive fashion as today. Smart photography is covering the entire planet not as an aftereffect of digital replication of all possible worlds only, but rather as a new skin. Understanding this all-over _-scopic_ drive is a huge task for many years to come. Radical transformations in the entire _technosphere_ as well as in arts and entertainment are in fast-forward mode to unknown territory. Never before subjectivity, cultural intercourse and science-technology were that close to each other, even if we should underline that this new proximity is still inconscient, and many of the actor-networks (ANTs) of the growing galaxy are still reluctant to properly discuss new collaboration protocols.

The following transcription of Walter Benjamin’s famous writing (2) is a clear anticipation of today’s Photography and should feed many discussions to come.
Evidently a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man. Even if one has a general knowledge of the way people walk, one knows nothing of a person’s posture during the fractional second of a stride. The act of reaching for a lighter or a spoon is familiar routine, yet we hardly know what really goes on between hand and metal, not to mention how this fluctuates with our moods. Here the camera intervenes with the resources of its lowerings and liftings, its interruptions and isolations, it extensions and accelerations, its enlargements and reductions. The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses. (2)
In the era of Photoshop, not to mention Staline’s removal of Trotsky from photos during the Russian Revolution, we should ask how far does photography tells you the truth. Technology can make both fake and true images of reality. Who’s to decide? A photograph of a familiar person or house is accepted as a testimony of existence and resemblance of that person and house, independently of the formal quality of the picture. A bad mobile snapshot, or a out-of-focus _snapmovie_ of my already gone dog, as well as an old carefully retouched photo of my mother done by a dedicated Oporto professional ninety-one years ago, show me beyond any doubt, scientific or other, that these beloved once living creatures existed, were as I see them today, thanks to photography, and that nothing changes this as I’m alive and keep this invaluable treasuries with me. The power of photography comes from the fact that it is an objective image recorded by a physical or computational algorithm, stronger than any human eye-hand capture. But it also derives from the narcissistic inner power of any portrait that in itself generates a special aura around representation. Roland Barthes captured the secret of photography with three words: “ça a été”, “this-has-been”.

Well over a billion photos are shared on social media every day. This huge quantity of portraits, self-portraits and other photo images raises new questions about the future of photography itself. How should museums and art museums in particular deal with this demographic explosion? What percentage of this population fit in an art category? Who’s to decide? Should we keep art bureaucrats and speculators in place? Do future museums have any other choice than becoming virtual? Take Joao Vilhena’s mutations, from selfies to _art as photography_. Where should we put these hybrids in a museum, or in a archive? How should we adapt our curatorial activity to this new stuff? Is this another issue for _cultural studies_ to dissect? What experts have to say about this?

When we do selfies by such great numbers what are the implications from a Rimbaud-Benjamin-Barthes point of vue? Are we simply tele-transporting ourselves to a digital planet? Are we extending reality into a new realm and preparing some preliminary stage of a future synthetic humanity? And if so, is it possible to extend otherness to pure mathematics and radical abstraction and recombine this stuff as a new bios in a not so distant future? Is there a secret plan underway that we know nothing about? Could it be done without artists knowing about it? I have my doubts.

Je est un autre
Maintenant, je m’encrapule le plus possible. Pourquoi? Je veux être poète, et je travaille à me rendre _Voyant_ : vous ne comprendrez pas du tout, et je ne saurais presque vous expliquer. Il s’agit d’arriver à l’inconnu par le dérèglement de _tous les sens_. Les souffrances sont énormes, mais il faut être fort, être né poète, et je me suis reconnu poète. Ce n’est pas du tout ma faute. C’est faux de dire : Je pense : on devrait dire : On me pense. - Pardon du jeu de mots.

- Je est un autre. Tant pis pour le bois qui se trouve violon, et nargue aux inconscients, qui ergotent sur ce qu’ils ignorent tout à fait!
[I/O]
Now I am going in for debauch. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a clairvoyant: you won’t possibly understand, and I hardly know how to explain it to you. The point is to arrive at the unknown by the dissoluteness of _all the senses_. The sufferings are tremendous, but must be strong, to be born a poet, and I have recognized myself as poet. It is in no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. It should be said: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

I is someone else. Much the worse for the wood that discovers it’s a violin, and to hell with the heedless who cavil about something that know nothing about! (3)
[E/O]
Agora vou debochar o mais possível. Porquê? Quero ser poeta, e trabalho para me tornar vidente: jamais compreenderá, e eu seria incapaz capaz lhe explicar. Trata-se de chegar ao desconhecido através do desregramento de todos os sentidos. Os sofrimentos são enormes, mas é preciso ser forte, nascer poeta, e eu reconheci-me como poeta. A culpa não é de todo minha. É errado dizer: Eu penso. Deveria dizer-se: Pensam-me. Desculpe o trocadilho.

— Eu é outro. Tanto pior para a madeira que se descobre violino, e que se lixem os inconscientes, que sofismam do que nada sabem! (3)

If anything, this famous letter by Rimbaud to his teacher, written at the age of sixteen, shows the inner drama of the Narcissus that lives in each of us, and frequently drive artists to great pains.

THIS TEXT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR

JOAO VILHENA — I/O
Galeria Luís Serpa Projectos, Lisboa
13 March > 30 April 2014
Opening 13 March 2014 [Thursday], 6pm > 8pm
Thru: April 30 

Also on this exhibition and correlated talk:
Exhibition catalogue @ Puerta Cerrada

NOTES

1. Lash, Christopher. _The Culture of Narcissism - American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations_. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1979. Quote in: “Afterword: The Culture of Narcissism Revisited” p.248 (1990).

2. Benjamin, Walter. _The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction_(1936).

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm

3. Rimbaud, Arthur. _Lettres d’Arthur Rimbaud dites “du Voyant” / A Georges Izambard Charleville, 13 mai 1871_.

4. Rimbaud, Arthur. _Letters known as “of the Visionary” (Seer) / To Georges Izambard Charleville, 13th May 1871_.