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Corpo Fechado by Carlos Motta – revisiting the historical narrative

When walking around Belém, you should visit Galeria Avenida da Índia, where you can see, until the middle of February, the recent works of the multidisciplinary artist Carlos Motta (born in 1978), a Colombian living in New York.

Curated by Pedro Faro and Sara Antónia Matos, the exhibition Corpo Fechado was prepared by the author over two years, based on an extensive research that includes documents, sources, archives and institutions, where we can see the plethora of tools and means used by the artist: photography, films/video and sculptural objects to reshape some of the subjects related to the Discoveries era, the Portuguese Empire, as well as the Inquisition.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is The Devil’s Work, a film poem that tells the story of José Francisco Pereira, a slave of Judah, trialled by the Lisbon Inquisition for sorcery and sodomy, interpreted by the Angolan actor Paulo Pascoal.

Different pieces revolve around the film, such as two ready-made Syncretism assemblages, in a framed of two film props: a stringed scourge and a paper drawing showing three crosses; as well as the iconic alignment of two photograms, one of them displayed inside the room Um Portal Estreito através do qual Deus pode entrar and the other, entitled A Obra do Diabo, can be found outside the gallery, working as a mural.

Francisco Pereira appears to be supported by the monk before a cross, emulating Pietá’s canonical religious depiction. Both illustrate close interactions between the characters of the films Monge and José Francisco Pereira. The first image was chosen since it is a revealing synthesis of the whole show, the convergence between the slave and the monk, in a seductive relationship based on a profoundly erotic intimate act. This encounter is only implied, perhaps that is why the iconic image is so impactful.

Increasing the visibility of those communities that don’t have a voice.

The pieces exhibited are conceptually assembled, under a historical discourse where the thematic content prevails. Nevertheless, these pieces are crucial to emphasize his line of thinking based on the history of philosophy. The artist has devoted himself to its study over the last few years, looking at pre-Hispanic homoerotic and colonial stories. The work Nefandus derived from this effort in 2013, based on a Trilogy, exhibited at Filomena Soares.

The films intend to document the imposition by force and explore the position of European epistemological categories on indigenous populations, native cultures during the Portuguese and Spanish conquest of the Americas. Amid this context, one of the most expressive and revealing thematic nuclei is LIsboa e os Descobrimentos, which includes a photographic diptych and triptych.

This series is accompanied by two historical objects: a chessboard and Esfera Armilar. The latter is found at the entrance of the exhibition, slightly tilted, as if it were about to fall and, given its striking volume, imposes itself where it stands, playing the role of a floor sculpture. It is a towering iron piece based on a spherical ring structure, an astronomy tool used in navigation, centred on the Earth or the Sun, which is a small-sized mock-up of the cosmos, used as a depiction of the Universe. This sculptural object is a copy of 46 from the Museum of Lisbon, which had once been a decorative element of the façade of Cinema-Teatro Monumental, in Saldanha. In Portugal, the armillary sphere has become a Manueline symbol of political and economic power associated with navigations.

Then, Exú appears, another sculptured constituted by a metal statuette-souvenir wrapped in a nautical rope, referencing the Portuguese ships that made the trip to Brazil during the age of Discoveries.

This gallery space has dedicated itself to contemporary national and international artists concerned with the colonial subject in order to disclose new perspectives on the present-day interpretation, unfurling alternative discourses when revisiting the historical narrative. Matching the gallery’s programme, the works of Corpo Fechado by Carlos Motta challenge precisely these concepts, having a singular and questioning stance about the reading and interpretation of certain philosophical features, specific periods in the field of ​​history.

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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