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Through Windows

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José Marmeleira

 

Those who visit the exhibition Through Windows, at gallery Uma Lulik until September 19, will notice an architectonic element, leaning towards a certain lack of definition, taking shape between their own body and the artworks. It is both a panorama and a counter. A framework and a passage. An obstacle and a point of view. Curated by Miguel Mesquita, the group show Through Windows explores such unfolding of the senses originating from a defined concept and element: the window, as a screen, an opening, an entrance. Entrance—let us consider this word. At the gallery, we can go inside or just see from a distance, bend over what is before us, or invade the interior space. Perhaps unwillingly, Through Windows questions our relationship to the white cube, and puts us before the display of the artworks. Where to look from? How to look? As a mere visitor, a putative buyer, a stroller? As a peeking voyeur?

Placed on the floor or suspended from the ceiling, the pieces by AnaMary Bilbao, Paulo Lisboa, Paulo Arraiano, Diogo Bolota, and Irit Batsry form a tactile and human, objective and tangible environment.

The chaotic conjunction suggested by the pieces within the “window frame” is countered by the physical approach of the visitor, and by their gaze. Each will invent their own order, a composition. The pieces are not cancelled out in such environment. Some are opaque, while others suggest depth, or set images in motion. Some are fragile, two-dimensional, with or without volume. The untitled piece by Paulo Lisboa is a central element within the frame traced by the exhibition: a graphite monochrome, in a becoming animated by the modulations of light and shadow. Not only, and mostly, a product of drawing, but of the combination of the graphite’s physical strength and the fragile but resistant presence of the paper: a resonance, a throb. From the black background, something appears to move; something which exists there, on that surface: a living drawing. The two drawings by AnaMary Bilbao seem to have an obvious familial connection. Despite some formal similarities, they are composed of different materials. Though the processes are similar—removing and attaching, subtracting and adding—, the materials acted on (with plaster) are different: graphite on paper (in Deslocamentos 1, from 2014), and photographic prints (in Junto às portas do rio, from 2018). Both pieces allow us to glimpse small intervals, traces; but in the latter we can also see cracks of colour, gaps of light, other “windows” that bring into view that which is invisible: memory, the passage of time, a possible and indiscernible past.

The almost unexpected piece Penthouse, Variação 3 (2018) brings Through Windows to the ground, forcing us to lean into it. Seemingly a prototype of Diogo Bolota's exhibition Defeito Desfeito, curated by Luísa Especial and presented earlier this year at Quartel de Arte Contemporânea de Abrantes: Coleção Figueiredo Ribeiro, this piece displays a dollhouse inhabited by three dentures. The allusion to an uncanny domestic life—which we can see, devoid of walls, bare, carnal, with a raw, almost cartoonish sadness—suitably fits the framework of the exhibition. But other connections can be established to Diogo Bolota’s piece, such as the ones suggested by the Sensorial Divinities (2019) videos by Paulo Arraiano, the sound of which can only be heard on headphones on the other side of the counter. Having addressed progressively more the promises and projections of the transhuman, this artist proposes another kind of windows to the visitor. Sensorial Divinities quietly announces the digital immortality of the human, and the latter's amelioration via technology, artificial intelligence, algorithms, biotechnology. On the screen, sharks, fishes, and molluscs swim; reptiles, and non-human and hybrid beings move around. Landscapes are seen from above. Nature and non-nature, i. e. what is built and produced by man, merge together in the return to an immateriality, to an indifferent, transparent liquidness. What appears to be non-human is actually a product of the human, and vice-versa (in Post-Fossil A5, from 2019).

In a world from which humans seem to have been evicted, autonomous entities roam, feeding on the natural world, or feeding the natural world.

The artist does not judge these scenarios; rather, he leaves them to our experience and imagination, granted that in them there will be no acceptance of history nor need of transmitting it. To paraphrase Georges Didi-Huberman, in such world, the definite obsolescence of the human and the latter's eternal youth go hand in hand [2]. On another plane, though not too distant from the images in Arraiano’s videos, is How Real is Your Screen?, a video by Irit Bartsy (Israel, Ramat Gan, 1957). This artist’s work, a pioneer in using video and television, introduces us to a set of images: of herself, of screens, of the street and of an excerpt from a Hollywood film. At a certain point, the juxtaposition of images refers to the way the exhibition itself is displayed, intensifying and expanding the polysemy inscribed in the interpellation. Through the artist’s making, the screen becomes a non-enclosed, open instrument; and the images, recreatable, manipulable matter. The freedom of art appears almost crystal clear, a tone filled with humour and understanding. The artist manipulates, deconstructs—and is aware of it.

Despite the title, in Through Windows there are no actual windows to the outside, except for the video Lighted by a Searing Light, by AnaMary Bilbao. Projected onto the wall, against the other pieces, it allows us to see the gentle effect of the wind and of sunbeams on the trees’ foliage and branches. Contemplating nature from beneath, from a subjective point of view, we are nevertheless far from the experience sung by Goethe in Wandrers Nachtlied (Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh), from 1776, or by Bertolt Brecht in Liturgie vom Hauch. The contemplation of nature, in harmony with its quietude, or the presence of human actions: both are absent. Only the constant sound of a bird is heard. The only visible thing is a world contaminated with light, which blinds us, looking at us from above. And which we cannot touch, nor escape from. Enthralling us in an impossible reenchantment, we cannot reach it. We are on the other side, with no possible exit; waiting, perhaps.

 


 

Galeria Uma Lulik

José Marmeleira. Master in Communication, Culture and Information Technologies (ISCTE), he has a scholarship from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), a doctoral student in the Doctoral Program in Philosophy of Science, Technology, Art and Society at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, in where he prepares a dissertation around the thinking that Hannah Arendt devoted to art and culture. He also develops the activity of journalist and independent cultural critic in several publications (Ípsilon, supplement of the newspaper Público, Contemporânea and Ler).

 

Translation PT-EN: Diana Gaspar.


Notes.

[1] Didi-Huberman, Remontagens do Tempo Sofrido, pag. 194.

[2] Em 2006, Jeu de Paume held a comprehensive retrospective of his work.

 

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Exhibition views Through Windows, at Galeria UMA LULIK_. Courtesy the artists and Galeria UMA LULIK_.

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