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Ernesto de Sousa Exercícios de Comunicação Poética com Outros Operadores Estéticos

João Seguro


Ernesto de Sousa, Exercises of Poetic Communication with Other Aesthetic Operators—a conversation with some intervenients. 




João Seguro (JS): Isabel, 2021 marks Ernesto de Sousa’s 100th birthday. Considering the work you have been continuously doing for Ernesto’s Estate over the last 30 years, how did you prepare/devise the actions/events to celebrate the occasion? 

Isabel Alves: This process has been developing since 2019 in conversations with universities (FBAUL, FCSH-IHA), institutions (Gulbenkian, Biblioteca Nacional, Galerias Municipais de Lisboa, MNAC, Cinemateca-ANIM), and editors (Edições do Saguão, INCM). 

I must confess that I am not alone on this path. Some members of CEMES José Miranda Justo, Emília Tavares, Marco Reixa, Hugo Canoilas, have been the most engaged ones; friends and other people who admire the work of Ernesto de Sousa have also been of great help. 

Celebrating the centenary of Ernesto de Sousa was a challenge in this pandemic year. Even so, institutions such as Gulbenkian (Luiz Vaz 73, on stage at the Grand Auditorium, directed by Rita Fabiana and Jaime Reis) and MNAC (MY FRIEND / MEU AMIGO, exhibition researched by me, produced by Emília Tavares, with design by Francisca Rodrigues) immediately came forward with excellent programmes. 

Tobi Maier enthusiastically joined the project at its beginning (he was co-editor of the OEI magazine, 80–81) and invited Lilou Vidal to curate Ernesto de Sousa, Poetic Communication Exercises with Other Aesthetic Operators, at Galeria Quadrum and Galeria Av. da Índia. This exhibition will be on view until late February 2022. Lilou Vidal, was introduced to us by Hugo Canoilas, and she proved to be the ideal curator for the centenary. She showed a great deal of empathy for Ernesto’s references and art. Lilou Vidal was also key in making it possible for these two magnificent exhibitions to travel to France. 

Cinemateca has presented a restored copy of Dom Roberto in a special session presented by Salomé Lamas, within the scope of the above mentioned exhibitions. It consisted in a projection of Ernesto de Sousa's altered negatives of Dom Roberto and the reading of an assortment of texts. 

The colloquium organised by Mariana Pinto dos Santos (IHA) and Ana Barata (Gulbenkian Art Library) revealed new interpretations of the artist’s thought, and featured very interesting contributions by Ana Cancela, Maura Grimaldi, Paula Pinto, Joana Ascensão, Margarida Moura, Paulo Pires do Vale, Miguel Wandschneider, Maria Manuela Restivo, José Agúndez Garcia, Andrés L. Mateo, Pedro Barateiro, Salomé Lamas, Pedro Proença, João Seguro, and Vera Mantero, among others. 

On this occasion a book on Ernesto de Sousa’s photography was published in the pH collection of INCM directed by Cláudio Garrudo with text by Emília Tavares and it was also very positive that Edições do Saguão launched the second edition of Ser Moderno em Portugal. In the near future two books will come out, the first of the exhibition Ernesto de Sousa, Exercises of Poetic Communication with Other Aesthetic Operators, with texts by Lilou Vidal and José Miranda Justo (published by Galerias Municipais de Lisboa) and the other one regarding participations to the colloquium organized by Mariana Pinto dos Santos (IHA). Two magazines were published: Perspective 1 ("Cinéma, critique, arts visuels: autour de José Ernesto de Sousa [1921-1988], and Arte e Cultura Visual, CIEBA, FBAUL. 

JS: Tobi, a couple of years ago, together with Hugo Canoilas, you were one of the editors of an extensive publication on Ernesto de Sousa’s work and legacy. Was that what sparked the shows you now host at Galerias Municipais de Lisboa? 

Tobi Maier: Hugo might have told me about Ernesto already during our student days at the Royal College of Art (2004—2006), in London, but it was only around 2011 that I started researching more. Around that time, Hugo and I collaborated on the organization of his project for the 30th São Paulo Biennial. During the second half of 2012, we both spent some time together with the editors of the Swedish OEI magazine in São Paulo. Cecilia Grönberg and Jonas (J) Magnusson were invited for a residency during the Biennial, and we subsequently edited issue “OEI #60–61/2013: Extra-disciplinary spaces and de-disciplinising moments. In and out of the 30th Bienal de São Paulo.. The magazine was released during 2013 as a document of the exhibition and includes a spread featuring material from Hugo´'s research on the Portuguese Bandeirantes and his exhibition at Casa de Butanta. Our research in Brazil triggered the subsequent OEI #66/2014: "process/poem (poema/processo)" which I also co-edited with Jonas and Cecilia. During 2014, Hugo introduced the idea for a magazine on the 1977 exhibition Alternativa Zero and Ernesto de Sousa to Jonas and Cecilia. Over the following years, we spent several research periods in Portugal. These intense extended stays were an opportunity to meet artists from Ernesto´s generation (and/or their heirs) and make direct contact with their work and their archives. Aside from Ernesto's work, I learned about the oeuvres of Túlia Saldanha, Irene Buarque, Ana Hatherly, Alberto Carneiro, Álvaro Lapa, Elvira Leite, Eduardo Batarda, and Ana Jotta, among others. For the issue, I translated myriad texts by Ernesto as well as contributions by Portuguese scholars and curators into English, a great opportunity to deepen my knowledge on Portuguese art history. OEI #80–81: The zero alternative: Ernesto de Sousa and some other aesthetic operators in Portuguese art and poetry from the 1960s onwards was finally launched in 2018 in Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon, where this special issue also accompanied the exhibition Supergood—Dialogues with Ernesto de Sousa, at MAAT, in 2018, curated by Hugo Canoilas. In Vienna we presented the magazine at the Secession, and, for the launch in São Paulo, Hugo and I organized the exhibition Nós não estamos algures at the Portuguese Consulate together with Isabella Lenzi in September 2018. The artist E. M. Melo e Castro was present at the opening and launch conversation. When Isabel Alves approached Galerias Municipais about a possible exhibition for the Ernesto de Sousa centenary in 2021, I knew there were many artists looking at his work, and that his production as a curator, a filmmaker, and an artist merits to be shown in a survey. We were fortunate to find in Lilou Vidal an enthusiastic curator, who offered a new reading of Ernesto's oeuvre and motivated a younger generation of artists to do the same when producing new work. 

JS: It’s interesting you mention all those occasions where in a way or another Ernesto’s work was placed within an international context, unlike most of the previous incursions on Ernesto’s legacy. Also, your current tenure as Director of the Galerias Municipais de Lisboa favours that internationalist approach. Would you like to descant on that programmatic posture? 

Tobi Maier: It has always been my intention to continue working from an international perspective within the program of Galerias Municipais. Our predecessors brought the work of Jota Mombaça, Carlos Motta, Runo Lagomarsino, and Fernanda Gomes, for example, to our galleries. We integrate international artists in our programme, or collaborate with curators from abroad, as well as critics, writers, designers, publishers, and do so very consciously and carefully, with a belief that the contact created can be a sustainable and continuous one. Another example: when Brazilian artist Irene Buarque, who has been living in Lisbon since the mid 1970s, approached me in 2019 about the 40-year anniversary exhibition at Cooperativa Diferença and her desire to celebrate its co-founder Alberto Carneiro with an exhibition, we agreed to do a two-venue show that would also take place at Galeria Quadrum, where Carneiro had a strong presence during his lifetime, he did with five solo exhibitions there. We invited Claire de Santa-Coloma, who was living here at the time, as well as Ana Lupas and Lala Meredith-Vula, to exhibit in analogy with Carneiro. By weaving these narratives together, one starts seeing Carneiro’s work in a different light. I owe this analogical approach in part to Luis Enrique Pérez-Oramas, a mentor whom I admire for his poetic vision and deep art historical knowledge; who taught me so much by always looking for the different layers that compose an artist’s oeuvre; and who encouraged me to analyse how these layers relate to artists from different generations and geographies. 


Hugo Canoilas: The international context in which Ernesto de Sousa's project is placed means that his work is intertwined with some contemporary aspects of production, thus contextualising a potential future that might happen in front of us as an artwork. 

I think it's important to underline the work of Ernesto de Sousa as a whole, as something that allows for breaking the axis of artist's practices—usually from the studio to the gallery or from the studio to the institution. The manifold contemporary possibilities of the work carried out by artists—as writers, researchers, cultural producers, curators, etc.—are meant to be embodied by the institutions. To embody the work of Ernesto de Sousa (by the institutions of contemporary art) is to embrace artists as thinkers and agents that will transform the rigidity of the institution, that will bring wonder in both form and content, that will make contemporary art happen in front of us.  


JS: Lilou, it’s unanimous that you were the right person for the job. Can you tell us about your background and the beginning of your relationship with Ernesto’s oeuvre? How did it grow from there to actually curating a two-venue show, both an historical presentation and an update on how the younger generations plunge into Ernesto’s milieu? 

Lilou Vidal: Well, Hugo (Canoilas) definitely has an important role in the circulation of Ernesto’s work. I mean, in this chapter he is literally the link for my encounter with Ernesto’s work. I hadn't heard about his work before he introduced me to Isabel Alves and José Miranda Justo, three years ago. 

He really wanted me to meet them (typical of the great intuition of artists, probably anticipating a potential connection). After our dinner, the same day, Isabel even gave me the key of Fala-so’s place to sleep there. I really didn’t know where I would end up; I just knew it was his former studio. Then I found some books there and became intrigued by his writing and his works. At the time, I started thinking about an exhibition for an art centre in Belgium (Le Delta), reflecting on the question of binarism and the dissolution of identity-based determinism through bodies and words. After an important visit at Isabel's, I started studying his work. Ernesto’s fabulous, inclusive formulation “Your Body Is My Body, My Body Is Your Body” resonated so strongly that, in addition to including his work in this exhibition, featuring artists from the late 1960s to the present day (including Simon Asencio, Gianfranco Baruchello, Tomaso Binga, Irma Blank, Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz, Ernesto de Sousa, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Karl Holmqvist, Derek Jarman, Ketty La Rocca, Hanne Lippard, Mélanie Matranga, Rory Pilgrim and Michele Rizzo), I used a part of his sentence for the title of the exhibition (This My Body, My Body Is Your Body, My Body Is The Body of the Word). I studied his work on this occasion and presented the work Olympia in that exhibition, synthesizing his very idiosyncratic approach toward photographic images, words, and their interrelation. I was also captivated by the intimate relation he established between the notion of eroticism and revolution as transgressive forces, as well as by his polyglottic languages. 

I've been immediately impressed by Ernesto’s visual work and anti-academic writing style, reflecting on numerous contemporary concerns relating to the notion of pluriversality, and his counter narratives against the dualism of thought. I found his approach so fresh and inspiring. I think Ernesto has been an important figure of inspiration for many of us. I recognise the generous all-embracing and curating approach of Ernesto in Hugo’s work for instance. 

So, going back to it, a year later I received this invitation by Tobi Maier from Galerias Municipais. My first reaction was surprise, as I’m not a specialist in Portuguese avantgarde. I knew what Tobi had developed with Hugo on Ernesto’s work, and first wondered why me? But then I accepted the challenge, as I understood that Isabel and Tobi were interested in my “outsider” approach to his work (in the sense that I’m a foreign curator and able to bring other references/links to the table). I also heard later that some artists, such as Ricardo Valentim and Pedro Barateiro, encouraged this choice. Then I felt confident and supported, and decided to start this challenging work. You could imagine the huge effort it implies to dig into this ocean of works in such a short amount of time, with lots of translation exercises (as I don't really speak Portuguese, despite my Latin base), and jump into the history of the great Portuguese avant garde scene. 

I’ve been coming to Portugal often to do my research thanks to the Galerias Municipais residency. We went through hundreds of archives, documents, day and night, with Isabel, and I was lucky that Isabel speaks French and English and accompanied me in this long process. Nothing could have been done without her. She opened her door and her memory for us; she devoted all her time and knowledge to me. We still haven't stopped discussing some archives. It’s an endless research process. I remember some evenings Isabel would translate articles in the kitchen until midnight. 

I’ve also been in close contact with a great intellectual family of people and friends who have done extensive research on Ernesto’s work and legacy, such as José Miranda Justo, Mariana Pinto dos Santos, Miguel Wandschneider, Paula Pinto, Hugo, and Tobi, of course, to name a few. 

So, the question was how to approach this centenary exhibition, what I could do, what could I could bring to the table and develop. 

Apart from the 1987 retrospective Itinerários and the one curated by Helena de Freitas and Miguel Wandschneider in 1998 at Calouste Gulbenkian, exhibitions of Ernesto's work dealing with one specific aspect of his production (due to his heterogeneity) were usual. Some focussed on Popular art, or photographic works, or specific mixed-media pieces such as Nós Não Estamos AlguresLuiz Vaz 73, Almada Um Nome de Guerra, etc.

So, my first question was how I could somehow cover it all (an impossible task, of course) and show his polymorphous work while emphasizing this heterogeneity—for instance, showing popular art and the avantgarde not as a rupture according to a linear conception of art history, but as a whole (his engaged spirit had been there since the beginning, beyond style and its classification). 

So, I asked Tobi if it was possible to have two venues: one focusing on re-enacting his first solo exhibition in Portugal, A Tradição como Aventura, 43 years later in the same space, at Quadrum, and another exhibition at Galeria da India, approaching a different family of works and interactive, collective, and curatorial projects carried out between the 1960s and the 1980s. 

Since Tobi was well-aware of Ernesto’s cyclopean work, he supported and accepted this idea. 

Rather than using a chronological approach, I deployed Ernesto's text formulas (which appear on top of the exhibition walls) to show his great conceptual inventiveness. We’re guided through typographical sentences of Ernesto (with an original font he used), together with a selection of his texts (in the show and the downloadable handout). It was very important for me to embody his writing practice as well as his visual and curatorial work in this exhibition. 

Knowing the vast scope of his work, mine could be only a fragmentary approach; nonetheless, I feel it's a suitable one, considering his kaleidoscopic oeuvre. It was also necessary to challenge the classical monographic and retrospective formats. His work and writing focus on the idea that his production needs to be completed by the other “aesthetic operators” (artists and public). Rereading his work is part of Ernesto's legacy. It was only natural to apply this exercise within a young international and Portuguese generation of artists. But I wanted to avoid doing a group show; I wanted to create a real intimacy between his work and those of others. So I invited eight young artists (Pedro Barateiro, Isabel Carvalho, Salomé Lamas, Hanne Lippard, Sarah Margnetti, Nils Alix-Tabeling, Nora Turato, and Ricardo Valentim, including the Treffen in Guincho collective, which Hugo has created, with 13 artists) to make a new work based on Ernesto. They all reacted very positively to this invitation. Some of them—especially the Portuguese artists—knew him well, but for others he was a discovery. All of them studied his work, and we developed a real conversation about it. It was beautiful to see how his work resonates with some of the topics they're currently working on. So as not to do a group show, for this exhibition I focussed on the liminal area of the insert. The works are inserted within the archives, sometimes literally, or use the main body of the archives to create new works (Salomé Lamas, for instance, but I will let her talk about it). Or through an intergenerational dialogue, for instance (I will talk about the one not participating to this conversation). Nils Alix-Tabeling’s work,inspired by the minority culture of folk art reflecting on the queer practice of sculpture and craftmanship, is shown on a 1960s Ernesto-inspired display between the works of Franklin and Rosa Ramalho. 

Based on the enigmatic Roman profile Ernesto used as a leitmotiv image in his exhibition A Tradição como Aventura, Sarah Margnetti's painting installation alongside the windows of Quadrum emphasizes some details of that face, especially the scar on the profile of the sculpture (underlining the enigma already signaled by Ernesto via the photographic enlargement process). Isabel Carvalho’s tattoo work applies the principle of graphic intimacy (expressed in Ernesto de Sousa’s essay "Graphic arts: a vehicle of intimacy") through the body of the visitor, who is invited to wear a tattoo (with the wonderfully poetic and political phrase "corpo de in(ter)venção colectiva"), thus seeking to create a new community through the hashtag on social media. Examining the communication strategies of mail art, Ricardo Valentim presents a new work inspired by a 1970s Ernesto postcard which featured a 18th-century decorative sculpture with a sentence inscribed on it: "Keep in Touch," in the mail art archives. The work will be sent to the visitors over the duration of the exhibition. In response to Ernesto de Sousa’s fascinating identification and interpretation studies of traditional Portuguese culture, Oficina Arara reinterprets images from his collection of popular sculpture photographs. These works stem from a collaboration Paula Pinto developed some years ago with the collective which I found really interesting. I also invited Nora Turato, whose practice looks into internet-based idiomatic languages to produce a new work on the Quadrum chapter. She has designed two posters that interact with Ernesto de Sousa’s text works, representing sentences floating on virtual black pages (open tabs). 

I always like to say this exhibition is an endless common work: “An encounter and a mutual understanding, a search for consent”—as Ernesto puts it. 

One of my tasks as a foreign curator was also to turn this into a traveling exhibition and make Ernesto’s work circulate abroad. And I’m happy to announce this exhibition will be presented at FRAC Champagne Ardenne (Reims), in France (opening in May 2022), in the context of the France -Portugal Season 2022. That will be Ernesto's first “monographic” exhibition in France (granted that I’m repeating the exercises with the other artists). 




JS: Now that you’ve described the process leading to the actual shows and named the participating artists, we should now look at their involvement and interconnection. 

Hugo Canoilas, Salomé Lamas, Hanne Lippard and Pedro Barateiro—some of you have been "in touch” with Ernesto’s legacy for quite some time now, but some (I assume), like Hanne, have only recently gotten to know Ernesto's work. This could mean a different approach was adopted. Would you like to elaborate on the nature of your knowledge of / involvement with Ernesto’s legacy and on your work for this project?  


Hugo Canoilas: Certainly. It was José Miranda Justo and, shortly after, Isabel Alves who introduced me to the work of Ernesto de Sousa. Not only are their enthusiasm and work on Ernesto de Sousa's legacy quite exciting, they have also been formative for me.  The reading, writing, and work J. M. Justo has carried out contain another very lasting interest: that of heterogeneity, which made me shift from a mere interest to something more profound. Part of it is also related to the idea of aesthetic operation, which resonates in me and in many other figures of Portuguese art who seek to open up the field of work, to improve our scene, and/or dissolve the constraints surrounding the artist's work. It was in this sense that I transformed the invitation and budget to make a solo exhibition at MAAT into the OEI 81-82 publication project (with Tobi Maier, Cecilia Grönberg, and Jonas (J) Magnusson), which allowed us to create a useful tool not only for the foreign public to understand Portuguese art created between the 1960s and the 1980s, but also for the Portuguese scene. Because it was made in collaboration with three foreign authors without historical or social implications, it enabled new associations and a non-hierarchical, unbiased thought. In order for MAAT to partly fund the book, I curated an exhibition where a group of artists (Vasco Costa, Jannis Varelas, Simon Dybroe Moeller, Melanie Bonajo, Rita Sobral Campos, and Supergood) worked on a set of works, texts, or exhibitions that were central to my interest in Ernesto de Sousa's work. The idea was to create poetic immanence (an idea borrowed from Luis Pérez-Oramas and Tobi Maier's 30th São Paulo Biennial),  to bring these references into the present, to invest them with contemporaneity, to break with historical linearity, and to create community among these authors and Ernesto de Sousa. The exhibition also presented Ernesto de Sousa's collaboration with Jorge Peixinho and many other authors titled Nós não estamos algures, which was shown with the aim of organizing and systematizing it for it to be purchased by the museum; for the museum to purchase the performance and not the archival material, so it could be re-enacted in the future—which, in the end, didn't happen.  

It was also at that time that the OEI magazine was launched, during the opening days of the 33rd São Paulo Biennial, 2018. E.M. de Melo Castro showed up with the book in his hands, saying that it had been the best gift he had received in thirty years, that he had learned a lot with that book about a scene that he thought he knew well for having taken part in it. I was also responsible for facilitating the relationship between Galeria Quadrado Azul and the work of Ernesto de Sousa. This enabled the presentation of his artistic work, which is often underestimated due to the primacy his work as a curator has over the rest; but I believe they are all different parts of a whole, communicating forms that affect one another. 


Hanne Lippard: In my practice as a visual artist working with language, I am often invited to reflect upon the existing work of other artists who work within the same medium. It is not always easy to commit to such a challenge, as it requires both time and enthusiasm to study their work. However, in the case of Ernesto, it was definitely a great pleasure to be acquainted with his legacy and spend time with his works, as I had only briefly encountered his work in another show curated by Lilou, back in 2019. His way of working between politics and poetics, as well as dissolving language itself, both grammatically and linguistically, is unique to me, and inspired me to compose the piece OWN WORDS, based upon his work Palavras Proprias e Improprias. It was also an opportunity for me to learn more about the political and artistic history of Portugal. 


Pedro Barateiro: My input into this conversation is just to remind that Ernesto was developing his work in a context of deep manipulation by the fascist regime. It is necessary to understand his actions as ways to achieve freedom of speech, freedom of action, in an isolated country, where cultural activities were, besides elitist, very controlled. I found it very moving that Ernesto was working on ways to connect those in the fields of culture, which were often detached from one another. It is a work of construction and repair, but also a work of care. I sometimes think that our much-cherished subjective individuality is actually very much manipulated by forms of control, meaning that our distance from the world—applauded, and also so necessary in artistic creation—is sometimes too alienating.  


Salomé Lamas: Being multi-voiced is one of the characteristics that stand out at first.  I must note that Ernesto died shortly after I was born, in 1988, and that what seduces me and stands above his work is his spirit. 

He had a deep relationship with nature, with art, with literature… He read everything there was to read, from a literary point of view, be it poetry, novels, philosophy, or scientific texts. HE absorbed everything for what HE wanted to achieve; HE would be easily taken by new ideas—it is very hard to encapsulate and study his heterogenous practice. 

I feel that Ernesto somehow suffered from a certain hyperactivity, and would intentionally lose himself in each discovery, to the point of merging his life with his practice. To the extent that his research and vision would naturally transpire and materialize into concrete actions in the outside world (society)—he embodied his diverse practice. It was surely not about one production, or one show, but about an energetic path that would explode in all directions. This is particularly visible when you look at the archive. 

I get to make all the claims above because of Isabel and her unstoppable work. I have the impression that the archive was/is a home and an extension of Ernesto / Isabel’s body. It is also noticeable that the archive was/is moldable and had/has no rules, to the point that everything could/can be assembled, transformed, retransformed, and eventually destroyed. 

Isabel is not just the gatekeeper of the estate —TODAY (as before), she is a maker in the deepest sense of creation. 

I’m part of the group that Isabel named “friends and enthusiasts,” like some of my peers in this show. 

Placing Ernesto’s practice within contemporaneity and, particularly, in the Portuguese panorama is an interesting exercise. I'd like to highlight that a lot of his concerns and experiences still need to be fully mapped out, and to draw attention to the fact that they would benefit Portuguese society. 

 When Lilou came to Lisbon to curate the show, I was asked by Elias Querejeta Zine Eskola / Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture to curate a focus for a new archive on radical pedagogy, and I was working on it when we first met. It was reassuring to recognise that she had all the potential to become “friends and enthusiasts.” 

With a background in cinema, I was requested to work with materials from Dom Roberto (1962). In collaboration with Isabel, at the archives of CEMES—Center for Multidisciplinary Studies Ernesto de Sousa, I picked a selection of texts—correspondence, articles, reviews, essays, scripts, and others—that framed the artist’s socio-political intervention in the creation, production, and distribution of the moving image, with the exhibition of slides from the shooting of Dom Roberto, in 1958–1962, in which Ernesto intervened at the end of his life. On November 29th, 2021, at the Cinemateca Portuguesa—it was a privilege—Dom Roberto was screened. This is the film that best reflects Ernesto de Sousa’s intense relationship with cinema, translating his strong involvement into the development of a film culture that would be at the origin of Cinema Novo in Portugal. The session ended with an open discussion about the making of the film and its production policies. The documentation of the action was then deposited in the exhibition Ernesto de Sousa, Exercícios de Comunicação Poética com Outros Operadores Estéticos, on view at the Galerias Municipais de Lisboa between November 27th, 2021 and February 27th, 2022.  

It is clear: my interest in and affection for Isabel provide the spiritual framing and convey the core of my interest in Ernesto—my contribution is titled Action for Isabel after Ernesto (2021). 



JS: Isabel, you’ve been hosting many people working from and around Ernesto’s Estate in the last 30 years. Researchers, writers, curators and many artists have been captivated by Ernesto’s very open and somewhat kaleidoscopic approach to thought and action. Lilou just mentioned tireless sessions preparing these shows; I believe you’ve been working closely with some of the artists as well. Would you like to go through your mediating experience with the curator and artists on the shows? 


Isabel Alves: Visits by those interested in consulting the estate and working together constitute moments of great pleasure, for the conviviality, and for allowing me to observe the curiosity and joy of discovery. There have been unforgettable experiences—so many that I can only choose a few. 

The first one happened in 1997, when Miguel Wandschneider dove deep into the estate to organise (with Helena Freitas) Ernesto de Sousa's exhibition and catalogue Revolution My Body at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. 

In 2002, 4 FBAUL students (João Seguro, Carlos Lérias Simões, Daniel Figueiredo, and Inês Mota) organised the conferences series "On the 25 years of Alternative Zero and Ernesto de Sousa," in which, among others, Manuel Villaverde Cabral, Miguel Wandschneider, Bragança de Miranda, João Vieira, Alberto Carneiro, Alexandre Melo, Carlos Vidal, José A. Fernandes Dias, João Pinharanda, Mariana P .Santos, Ricardo Nicolau, Ana Hatherly, João Fernandes, Rui Eduardo Paes, Delfim Sardo, Pedro Cabrita Reis, and Fernando Calhau took part. 

João Sousa Cardoso, João Fernandes and Ricardo Nicolau are also very special references regarding the recreation of Almada, um Nome de Guerra and Nós Não Estamos Algures in 2012 at Casa de Serralves. 

Almada, um Nome de Guerra was earnestly recreated by Mariana Pinto dos Santos, Joana Ascensão,and myself at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and Cinemateca. The same with the presentation of Luiz Vaz 73, the meticulous study of the scores by Jaime Reis, Ana Ruivo, and Rita Fabiana. 

Another moment of great intensity was the CEMES friends (Aida Tavares, Miguel Honrado, Cristina T. Motta, Emília Tavares, Francisco Janes) discovering the poster collection in Janas, and its subsequent classification by Ana Baliza, Joana Escoval, and Mariana Silva, which culminated in the exhibition What is urgent to show, curated by José Bártolo, Marco Reixa, and Paulo T. Silva, and set up by Hugo Canoilas. 

In 2019 Pedro Barateiro, Ricardo Valentim, and myself curated the exhibition Ernesto de Sousa: Keep in Touch, a most playful and creative experience. 

I also must mention Paulo Pires do Vale's celebration of the 30th anniversary of Alternativa Zero, Nuno Faria’s research for the Guimarães exhibition, and Paula Pinto's continuous look into it, for the V. N. Cerveira exhibition and the printing of the album Your Body is My Body

At the root of OEI #80-81, "The zero alternative: Ernesto de Sousa and some other aesthetic operators in Portuguese art and poetry from the 1960s onwards,” edited by  Jonas J. Magnusson & Cecilia Grönberg and associate editors Hugo Canoilas and Tobi Maier, was a one-month full-time period of extremely pleasant research into Ernesto’s archives. Salomé Lamas gave me the chance to accompany an exceptional, structured mind. The dossier she organised for Tabakalera is an impressive one.  

Lilou Vidal's research visits (2020–2021) for the two exhibitions—Ernesto de SousaExercises in Poetic Communication with other Aesthetic Operators—are unforgettable and hard to describe. A person of great culture, she seems to have found what she knew existed, with meticulous rigor and method.   


JS: So much information and paths which have crossed in amazing ways. Isabel, where do you go from here? What’s next for the Ernesto de Sousa Estate? 

Isabel Alves: My wish is to find the best places for the archives which are still in the house, some of which were shown over the last year—550 artworks, mail art, and the personal library of Ernesto de Sousa. Either moving them to the very good institutions that already hold the rest, or finding other solutions. That will be the next step. 



Ernesto de Sousa

Galerias Municipais de Lisboa


João Seguro lives and works in Lisbon. He is an artist and a teacher. He has shown his work in individual and group exhibitions, national and international, and is represented in several private collections. Since 2006, he has taught Aesthetics, Art Studies, Image Theory and Criticism, Painting and Contemporary Art Seminars at the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar and at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon.




Ernesto de Sousa, Exercises of Poetic Communication with Other Aesthetic Operators. Exhibition views at Galeria Quadrum and Galeria Avenida da Índia. Photos: Guillaume Vieira. Courtesy of Galerias Municipais de Lisboa.

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