Absolute Duration, the brand new exhibition held by Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa, is an essay focused on a place now in shambles. Upon entering Palácio Pombal in Lisbon, the weight of time is thoroughly mirrored in its interior. Time is the element in charge of dissecting the structure of every single edified layer, hence unveiling a palimpsest of long-gone experiences. The paint is throbbing off, uncovering an array of sequential brushstrokes; the wallpaper is what stands out, corrugated, as if a page was being turned; the plaster and the wood keep cracking, bursting tiny fissures open.
Miguel Branco, Michael Huey and Wolfgang Wirth use this palace’s mauling process as their baseline to nurture this hypothetical and ephemeral overhaul. However, from this renovation, a whole new temporality is born, as proposed by the works exhibited. The visitor will have to behold the space’s fast-paced decay, against the contemporaneity flaunted by the photographs, installations and ceramics. Such renovation is an attempt to drag time itself, whilst knowing, nonetheless and beforehand, that the outcome will be a source of frustration. As put by Lourenço Egreja, its curator: “(…) the works establish provisional standards for themselves, inhabiting the room and assuming it as their own home, whilst being conscious that a state of ‘Absolute Duration’ is unattainable”.
And, entangled in this frustration, the only option left is to emphasise time itself, under the ruins of the palace.
Wirth introduces us firstly to a moment made of space-distorting mirrors. The reflections hailing from the first room appear in front of us as if they were a liquefaction of space and time. Swallowed by this vortex of memory, born from a place made of fragments, stories and immemorial characters, the mirrors, instead of giving us the narcissistic astonishment of our own image back, reflect what really is around us: the distortion, the deformity, both taking place as dictated by time.
Miguel Branco exhibits a series of x-rayed insets. A mystic light uncovers their entrails, the skeleton of which they are made. The chitin ramification in their wings, the drawings, the vaguely geometric compositions and the symmetry. The moths throw us to a night illuminated by a lonely lamp; a worried wing flapping heading towards a longed-for brightness.
Huey introduces two installations: a building whose walls are daily records of the era between ’58 and ’63 and also a room covered in a wallpaper made of pictures of a child. The first piece allows its viewer to access this edified place, where the registered memories of everyday life are now resting. The most prosaic notes ae glued right beside the ones which have left the biggest mark. The diary is the element that registers the absurdity of life, the sudden changes that happen every day, the unpredictability that pierces predictability: fun after death, leisure after work. This routine is now exposed in a crystal-clear way: weightless in relation to the major and unnoticeable intents of the universe. The most recent endeavour is the exteriorization and objectification of a living space’s soul, in this case, the inhabitant who happens to be a child, a young boy who is photographically captured in several different moods. Surrounded, from the baseboard to the plastered roof’s cornice, by this presence, this feeling of having entered a private realm, targeted by tens of cyclopean glances – the disquiet is palpable.
The thing that every artist ends up revealing is that this house, this palace – any house and any palace – is a place of affections. Man’s paramount position in the world is the basis for lots of memories. The memory of any given house is the memory of all those who inhabited it – a meta-universe that has yet to be disclosed, endowed with uncertain geometries; the writing of the cosmogony of every single one.
“Je dis ma mère. Et c’est à vous que je pense, 4th Maison!
Maison des beaux étés obscurs de mon enfance.
“La Terre et les rêveries du repos”, O. V. of Milosz .