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Returning to Arquipélago

Returning to the Azores is something equally natural and mandatory, once you are acquainted with the island. I have already written (Umbigo # 65) that there is something in that atmosphere that makes us get attached to it. More: it shakes our core. Of paramount significance, a profound and poetic silence. Perhaps it has exactly to do with this inability to fully grasp its complexity. Perhaps it’s the different air pressure, or the electrical charge that projects itself from the clouds, the different sorts of smoke and mist. The magnetic interplay between the earth, the sky and the sea. The visible and the immaterial. Something that lies between gravity, and the mountains that try to dodge it. Here, in this Atlantic Ocean. As if it were possible to step into the genesis of mysticism, magic, creation. Nature obliterate us, but it also regenerates.

Returning to the Azores means as well (at least for me) to visit yet again Arquipélago, a centre of contemporary arts. A well-designed architectural project that allows one to go for a journey inside, something similar to judiciously crafted pilgrimage. More than just a space with a full-fledged schedule and a harbour for different sorts of activities, we stand before a temple endowed with a higher form of sensitivity.

Amid this context, Geometria Sónica, the project launched last year, is naturally unique. After Exposição-Índice, which included the presentation of the work of thirteen invited artists, as well as the questions that are part of it, now comes the second moment with three exhibition cycles. Curated by Nicolau Tudela and Nuno Faria, the artists Miguel Leal, Pedro Tudela, Mike Cooter and Tomás Cunha Ferreira display, either individually or in collaboration, the outcome of residence on the island, the contact with the image and sound archives of RTP, Radio and Television of Portugal and the proposed challenge.

Akin to what happened in the first exhibition, the atmospheric rejection is evident when one walks through the rooms of the main building and the basement of the old Fábrica do Tabaco. It even seems that the experience requires a kind of active contemplation, when one considers the sharply sensory nature of objects. The works are a juxtaposition of memory (and history), archives, landscape, territory and they propagate themselves like spirals, like waves that cross time and space. As Nuno Faria says, “Nothing in the Geometria Sónica project is linear; everything appears to be developed under a logic of circularity”. We are subjected to that same flow when we circulate through the floors, as we become aware of the inherent porosity of the proposals, the research, the context that surrounds our field of vision, which hit us through glass windows.

Conscious of this fact, some works also seem to be wrapped in one single layer, sometimes opaque or cloudy. Such a layer may be the key to many other reflections: to comprise ideas, to affect or relate different subjects, as it happens with biombo (2018) of Mike Cooter and Tomás Cunha Ferreira – something that gathers different works, loans and so many other objects. Likewise, we have the video entitled Astra (fumo) (2018) of Miguel Leal in cave das arcadas, which records the typical fog of the archipelago, and it appears to be attempting to spread the smoke around the whole space. Also, Pedro Tudela’s sound installations taint the sculptures of the sub-floor and vice versa. The image pierces the darkness and the light emanates in the darkest corners (similar to the installation made of window and glass spheres Há lágrimas nas coisas, 2018), referring to the introduction of Nicolau Tudela “The universe is an emanation of light – Lux ex Tenebris (light in darkness)”.

Simultaneously, all transformations (adaptations or appropriations) to which the archive is subjected echo different perspectives of our past, present and possible implications or future readings. As if working the memory was decisive to adjust the present, to curate. In this exhibition, we can see the mutation of one (or several) related artistic practice(s) and different levels of experience. Personal, but, above all, collective, of a relationship or of a contact with. As Nuno Faria recalls when he evokes Édouard Glissant, “Glissant’s notion of identity is built on a relationship rather than on isolation; a relationship in every aspect of it, which is to say, to listen, to connect, and the parallel awareness of one’s own self and context, the key to the transformation and the reconstruction/reshaping of societies”.

Notwithstanding and, as the artist Miguel Leal writes, “the result of all this will be seen in the end”. For now, the 2nd Cycle of the Geometria Sónica project can be “seen” until January 13 in Arquipélago [São Miguel – Azores, Portugal]. The third and final cycle with Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela, Ricardo Jacinto and Pedro Tropa will happen from January 26th to April 14th.

Carolina Trigueiros is a curator, writer and cultural producer based in Lisbon, Portugal. Carolina has a post-graduate degree in Curatorial Studies from Nova University, Lisbon (2017), and a bachelor degree in Cultural Communications from Católica University (2013), in Lisbon and Barcelona.

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