Museu do Côa, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal, 2015
Exhibiting Artists: Alexandre Farto (Vhils), Miguel Januário, Paul Arraiano, Pedro Matos, Ricardo Passaporte, Sandro Resende and Susana Anágua/Ana Romana.
Curated by CPS
In Foz Côa we are so close to the beginning of all that we call Art, that we can say we are close to the rst gesture – the rst gesture that distanced us from the animal world, that distanced us from the mere work for physical survival and brought us to the symbolic dimension, the gesture with which we opened the doors of the creation of a parallel nature (Art) that has erupted and interrupted, for good, Nature’s equilibrium.
How does an artist of our times, forced to be aware of all the history that rises before him, face that rst gesture? With what spirit does he dare to proceed with his work having nearby the rst examples of the rst men? Can we, without fear, state that he does it without ruptures, in continuity with his ancestor: aware of death and of sex, as exceptional moments in the social continuum he belongs to, and using art as a technique, simultaneously misstructuring and integrative of all the surrounding reality, continuing the rst gesture, engraved in the caves or rocks, that summoned animals and Men, and men and women (sometimes exchanging roles), hunters and hunted, dead and injured, and the unborn, for a parallel reality. Bataille, Blanchot, Leroy-Ladurie have thought, as philosophers or historians, what each one of those rst gestures might mean, as they clung to the bodies or clung to the spirit, where it was implied as sacred or as a technical means, as a reference or as freedom.
Blanchot talks about that rst gesture that every artist continues today, Bataille of the joy of representing and how art goes beyond the mere useful dimension of magic. The rst gesture is not one of work but a festive one (though sacred); what is represented is not an illustrative prison but a symbol of open and contradictory senses. Contemporary art stresses that freedom to its paroxysm: rendering abstract, dematerialising or, on the contrary, overloading, detailing. But at no moment does today’s man detour from the essential road drawn by the ancient man.
Who is that Man? The one who appears to be rescued in the photographs of Sandro Resende? The Man who has lost the social references or the one who, by organizing his world in a different manner, is pushed away from society? Or that one who shows the two times of his face in the serigraphy of Alexandre Farto? The Man that, aware of the reality of life and death, balances between both, quoting both, revering the ephemeral beauty of his body but also his reverse through the composition of a contemporary Vanitas?
This humanity, the artefacts that it produces and the way that they serve it and how it uses them in return to know and transform and also to represent the world that surrounds it, can be evoked in the diversity of images collected on the wall of Ana João Romana and Suzana Anágua. It is a collection of an encyclopaedic diversity, which gathers two essential languages developed through the course of the history of human culture: the book (with the word and the image) and photography. Placed on the wall, in a montage that recalls the renaissance and the illuminist cabinets de curiosités, those dissimilar elements provide purely visual (artistic) information on the main theme of the exhibition, helping to pulverise the suggested paths.
One of them is the Landscape path. It is upon the landscape and on the landscape that Man has intervened since he de nitely separated from Nature (not so much due to the hunting gesture but mostly due to the art gesture). By registering the pattern of distant surfaces (like those we can see in a ight) or by suggesting the texture of the things that are close (those we can touch), does the landscape
have the mission to reveal what is far and what is close, of placing us in a real and symbolic space? We approach what is far, through Paulo Arraiano’s sedimentary landscapes simulating dragged or torn materials by winds or tides (commonly referred to as ‘lunar landscapes’ when we encounter areas without any reference points, deserted). And in the roughness, erosion and breakdown of the urban walls of Pedro Matos and Ricardo Passaporte we can grasp the remoteness of distant landscapes. Finally, in the recollection of urban materials and manual interventions on them, Alexandre Farto gets us closer to the primal gestures: urban debris act as natural elements of the cities, the mechanical or manual drilling act with steel instruments (lancets) is a direct heir of the prehistoric work in stone or bone tips, and the re-assembly of elements puts us on the path of the construction of houses, alongside with altars.
Another chosen path is the dominant use of language in works of art. Language is a human instrument of communication, as human (arti cial/cultural) as an artifact and Art are. We now know that, not only in music or in oral or written poetry but also in art, the word can replace the image (even better, it can become the image or articulate with it). Is this what is con rmed in the works of Miguel Januário, Sandro Resendo and also Ana João Romana and Susana Anágua? The rst two artists rehearse sentences of a concise content, full of meaning(s) in themselves and play with rich duplicities resembling, for instance, the archaic sentences and the divinatory sayings. The latter ones develop one of the oldest ways of registering the known and the unknown, the existing and the desired: the listing method (in this case, the moons of the solar system). A list can be read or sung and, in ancient societies, it was meant to be memorised and passed on; in our present society, it is essential to account for possession and loss, knowledge and actions, frustrations and desires.
On a full moon night, to look at the images carved on the rocks; to look at the source of that light; the revelation, in those sinuous shapes, of the animals overlapping themselves in the race for the terrestrial mountains where we now stand. On the surface of the moon, images born out of the clippings of light and shadows also grow.We have always tried to devise in them gures for our supernatural narratives. until one day, when the distance between two points was beaten, Man could take a closer look at the craters of the moon and look, in the opposite direction, to the richness and colourfulness of the moving images on earth. This is the journey of a double destination that the CPS artistic project summarises in an exhibit and an edition that complement and reinforce each other – in the route we will take next, we will speak about the two dimensions of the intervention without establishing any clear distinction between them. There is a common reality (that is conveyed by the proportion between the mass of the two planets, the fraction 1/81, which was the title chosen for the project) but every artist has created the means and the vehicles with which they decided to follow the path.The only difference between these artists and those who engraved the themes that were dear to them, on the rocks of the Côa Valley is, precisely, the diversity of solutions and interpretations allowed today to those who assume the inheritance of our ancestors’ rst gestures, faraway so close.
Text by João Pinharanda.