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André Príncipe summons the “elephant in the room”

If you are going to visit the MAAT, catch the rather curious exhibition Elefante [Elephant] by André Príncipe, on display until the end of the year at Cinzeiro 8 room at Central Tejo, the first individual exhibition under the curatorship of João Pinharanda and Ana Anacleto. You will have the opportunity to check several photographic endeavours, with some previously unseen works and one video installation designed for it.

A product from a work that took place five years ago, this author’s universe swings between a real and an imaginary environment, with greater relevance to the fictional side, like the construction of an opening to an inspiring world. According to the artist, “the first moment is a desire for fiction. My great pulsion is fictional, to express something and to organize the world”. In other words, he explores several sorts of themes and subjects that have followed his path in a relation of strengths-tensions and dichotomies apparently paradoxical: life/death, space/time, permanence/ephemerality, weight/lightness and rise/fall.

His job is based on the idea of conducting a research on photographic outlets, as a mechanism of perception and apprehension, where a proper narrative is seldom approached. He uses cinema-like languages, which is a constant in his efforts.

Príncipe came from literature, with cinema appearing after that. He has a particular interest in visual disciplines, connecting photography and other artistic fields, where painting has a prominent spot. The author recalls that, “when I returned to Prado, I realized that my photos had a lot to do with painting, something against I fought in the beginning”.

“Photography is entering and leaving time” (A. Príncipe)

Technically speaking, photography requires a particular daily discipline to let that side flow freely, but, after some time, he stopped worrying about solving all within every single image; he became interested in the idea found outside the lens: the space nurtured in the viewer’s mind by the author, through an association of images, organizing things side by side. This is why his artistic work focuses on a sequence of images, not only the image itself. Photography is one of the preferred means, which functions as a photographic archive with a specific meaning. His photographs range from those taken inside and outside, with objects, people bodies, animals, undefined places/locations connected to the atmosphere and light techniques which he registers in his long journeys through different countries and regions.

He is particularly fond of animals, which have another form of intelligence, close to the natural world in the universe. There is a close relationship between photography and the journey. “Traveling always meant to lose and to find myself in the world” and “finding the world and finding myself was one and the same thing”. To see everything and to feel things like the first time. And travelling does this exercise, it brings and takes this passage; it changes us all the time. From this standpoint, travel as the main motif is an activity strictly analogous to photography. As the author explains: “Photography is about life and death. Everything means life and death, but in the field of photography this is quite extreme now.” “I can photograph you, right here, right now – and it’s over, it’s gone”. It fixates the ephemeral and the unstable, but on the other hand it fixates the length of time. He works on this frailty of us when we are just being human.

Elefante, the title of the show, raises this matter of death through the burden of the absent. “The first time I visited the space, I thought it was a room”; that is why death came with the expression “elephant in the room”. It is a fact that bothers us, which is always present and with which, in Western society, we will never know how to cope, nor are we prepared for this clash, no matter how hard we try, in an attempt to reject it. “I wanted to make this exhibition about something that occupies the whole area, but that no one wants to talk about. The viewer has to reach the meaning that I gave to the photos”. The elephant symbolizes knowledge, the foundation of the world, the beginning and the end. It is the living image of gross weight, stability and immutability.

André Príncipe (born in Porto, 1976) lives and works in Lisbon. He studied Psychology at the University of Porto and graduated from the Escola de Cinema de Lisboa in 2001. He divides himself between the activity of photographer, photography editor and filmmaker. He has been exhibiting since 2004, directed short and feature films; he is the founder and co-editor of the book publisher Pierre von Kleist.

Manuela Synek has collaborated with Umbigo magazine for over ten years. As the years go by, it identifies itself more and more with this consistent, ever-changing, innovative, bold and consistent design in its editorial line. She is a Historian and Art Critic graduated by the Superior Institute of Artistic Careers of Paris in Critique of Art and Aesthetics. She is also graduated in Aesthetics from the University of Paris I - Panthéon – Sorbonne and has the "Postgraduate Course in History of Art, Contemporary Art Strand", by Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Manuela is the author of books on authors in the area of Plastic Arts and has participated in Colloquiums as Lecturer related to Artistic Heritage; Painting; Sculpture and Design in Universities; Higher Schools and Autarchies. Lately she specialized in the subject of Public Art and Urban Space, with the analysis of the artistic works where she has made Communications. She writes for Umbigo magazine about the work of artists in the area of the visual arts who appear in the field of exhibitions and also the dissemination of emerging Portuguese values with new supports since installation, photography and video, where the body appears in its various aspects, raising pertinent issues.

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