Freedom dances barefoot
Freedom dances barefoot. Or at least with flat shoes not to disrupt the movement, the swing and the desire to jump. Perhaps that is the reason why, as soon as we enter the area of the Paradisaea exhibition, which celebrates Lux Frágil’s 20th anniversary, we are invited to leave our shoes at the door and touch barefooted the sand that covers this warehouse’s floor, transformed into a “forest clearing”.
Paradisaea is about the 20 years of Lux, but it is much more than just a date-focused event. More than a number, it celebrates a way of being in life – empowered by night-time – that privileges the quest for freedom through music, dance and beauty. Over these two decades, Lux’s mission has been to create physical and emotional spaces where that stage is possible to achieve. They are the installations, the videos, the invitations, the flyers, the objects, the garments, the photos, the themed parties and, of course, the music. Fernando Brízio, curator and responsible for the exhibition’s design, thought the Paradisaea concept in an analogy with nature, emphasizing that this quest for freedom and beauty is not superficial but primordial.
Paradisaea is the name of a group of birds-of-paradise that flaunt their plumage in seduction dances during mating season. They create dancefloors carefully ornamented on the treetops or in forest clearings, putting beauty at the centre of the “perpetuation and evolution of the species”, in other words, as something essential to (our) survival. “Lux Frágil is like these forest clearings. The “night clearing” where the scenic device, the emotional catalyst as the result of an integrated design strategy, allows us, instigated by music, to ascend to a primordial plateau of beauty, freedom and happiness – which is the raw matter of Lux”, Fernando Brízio writes in the exhibitions’ presentation text.
As soon as we step in, the vastness of the white space – from the sand on the floor to the walls – works like a sort of silence bubble. Actually, it’s the opposite sensation of entering a nightclub, but the idea is not to replicate the “mother ship”, but perhaps the inner space that we have access to whenever we get in. As put by Fernando Brízio, “we are not attempting to recreate the Lux experiences, such a transformative puff can only take place in it, inside that ship, which, propelled by music, introduces us to a strange space and makes us whisper ground control to major Tom”.
As our eyes adjust to brightness, the area conquers dimensions and textures, and we come to the conclusion that the Eskimos are right: there is more than a shade of white. We start to perceive, through what is almost a physical shock, that by our side we have meticulously placed strings, tuned individually as if they were a musical instrument. On top of them, we find a series of graphic and photographic material, a chronological map of Lux – from the refurbishment of Cais da Pedra building, the first graphic identity created by Ricardo Mealha and Ana Cunha, postcards, invitations, flyers, photos of the space over the years and the most memorable parties. Fernando Brízio says that there are more than 20.000 photos from the Lux nights, through which we can even follow love stories and disarrays, marriages and divorces, the most frequent attendees.
As we walk through these memory lanes, there are two things that come to mind: the discreet way through which Manuel Reis appears on this “album”, not as a central figure, but as one more piece of the puzzle, and that’s just a striking tribute to the puppet master, who always preferred the backstage to the spotlights of the leading role. Then we encounter names that are no longer among us – Manuel Reis himself, Ricardo Mealha, Pedro Cláudio, among others. But this longingness has a smile on the face, because they are actually still here. Nothing in Paradisaea is an exercise in nostalgia. We are just rechecking what has been thought on the subject, one that is still throbbing.
The second room is the exhibition’s video archive. Divided by eighteen suspended screens (and a few walls), we find Lux’s videos of registration, documentation and promotion, but also those screened over the years on the dancefloor, painting the interior area, creating contexts and inspirations, breaking barriers. Fernando Brízio emphasizes the importance of this visual aspect in Lux’s history, telling how Rui Calçada Bastos, a plastic artist, knocked on the door of the best clubs in Berlin in the 90s, with the portfolio of what he had done for Lux under his arm, and all of them told him that they lacked the proper conditions to consummate his effort. Lux opened doors in 1998 and was already a pioneer.
The third and last Paradisaea room evokes, in some way, Lux’s dancefloor, through a projection of Dita Von Teese in 2003, and also the presence of some of the objects that were part of the theme parties and regular nights: from the chairs to the neon of O dia pela noite, the head of the Cheshire Cat of Malice in Wonderland and the costumes created for Lux’s staff by the hands of Filipe Faísca and Dino Alves.
And where can we find music in Paradisaea? Well, it’s everywhere. In the silence of the first room, it’s omnipresent in the images of the artists who played at Lux, and the moving bodies pictured in the parties; there is a plaque on the corridor ceiling that produces sounds quite similar to an electronic beat; in the “radio” placed on the wall that whispers something in our direction. But, just as in a forest clearing, the sound is not invasive. It has the proper volume to be the soundtrack to the mating session of a bird-of-paradise, and to our reflection on what it means to deceive death a few more times through the celebration of life, night after night, day after day.
“Everything gets blurred to instil something incredibly translucent within us. (…) There are rare moments of clarity, arrows drenched in a sudden certainty, which hits us between the blustery audience. While dancing, we look inside and outside, we surrender ourselves to a primitive exorcism, where we cast out the weight, the fear, the death. We tune into something, we tune ourselves.”
Catarina Portas quoted by Fernando Brízio in the presentation text of Paradisaea.
September 12 to November 11 2018
Rua da Manutenção, 122
Mon to Thu: 2 pm – 7 pm
Fri: 2 pm – 9 pm
Sat: 12 pm – 9 pm
Sun: 12 pm – 7 pm