Filmica by Pat O Neill and Joana Pitta
Monitor, an exhibitive and self-assumed experimental space, a satellite in Lisbon of the renowned and homonymous Italian gallery (based in Rome), stands out yet again in the national context for the boldness of its programme. Filmica, on display until April 6, reinforces this position by bringing together, in a single exhibition, and in a very improbable dialogue, the perennial American artist and filmmaker Pat O’Neill (Los Angeles, 1933) and Joana Pitta (Lisboa, 1993), an emerging Portuguese artist.
This unlikely meeting resulted arose, first and foremost, from the gallery’s director, Paola Capata, who wanted to put the Portuguese public in touch with the work of the artist she represents, a pioneer of the most experimental aspects associated with video, whose visibility in Portugal she regards as deficient, particularly in comparison with the international circuits. We must recall that, between 2016 and 2017, Centro de Arte Quetzal dedicated to Pat O’Neill an individual exhibition (with eight movies being screened) and that Alexandre Estrela exhibited his own, in two different occasions, at Oporto, an alternative space she manages. Actually, in an interview, Estrela said that one of the screenings was motivated by the lack of interest shown by Cinemateca Portuguesa in programming a retrospective of the author.
The invitation then addressed to Joana Pitta emerged from the challenge of establishing a dialogue between artists who, being generationally distant, share a perspective and a similar take on the daily life, particularly through the common understanding of some memory-related issues. The decision to bring them together in the same exhibition also matched a strategy that the gallery has occasionally brought forward as a launching pad for promising young artists (still outside the circuit), who have the opportunity not only to show their endeavours but also, like in this particular case, to see their works in conversation with those of a historical artist. Joana Pitta is still in the beginning and her path remains uncertain, but we believe it will be quite promising; and her resume already includes an exhibition with Pat O’Neill. How cool is that?
From the many-sided artist (his long and prolific production includes video, photography, sculpture and collages), who revolutionized the movie industry of special effects (he founded the Lookout Mountain Studios, which collaborated, for instance, in the Star Wars saga), it is possible to watch two videos in Filmica: Bump City (1964) and Down Wind (1973). The first, a non-staged documentary recording, is marked by artificial lights, particularly neon, which refer to the advertising and the hectic and consumerist environment of the great metropolis, with the work reaching its zenith with images of a huge open dump. In turn, Down Wind clearly shows the use of image manipulation through different optical effects (such as animations, overlays, accelerations, graphics, among others), one of O’Neill’s trademarks and pioneering efforts. The reference to nature appears sporadically, particularly with wildlife scenes and a cat contest with surreal undertones. Yet again, there are several allusions to the urban versus natural landscape and to the destructive tendency of the former over the latter. With irony-filled remarks, the works of the artist always rely on social awareness criticism, and his movies can be seen as a sort of fast and mysterious visual poems, or paintings in movement, in which the barriers of different media are brought down.
Graduated in sculpture and, more recently (last year), a master in multimedia, Joana Pitta presents, in Filmica, four recent, unpublished and uncategorizable – extensively contributing to their originality and virtuosity. Her works are literally the outcome of different media: they always start with photograph-materialized videos, then presented in structures which, like paintings from a formal standpoint (they imply veiled paintings with different tonalities), always presuppose a strong sculptural component. The authorial process begins with the video recording of images that the artist only catches when watching the final result. Joana Pitta does not stage the recording of daily life, she allows the camera to surprise her and also does not use plenty of effects and assembly techniques. The screened film appears to be in a raw state and is materialized as photographs printed on acetate paper. The artist conceived the movie and captures photographically each frame, second by second, respecting the sequence of images in the exhibition stand. It is not possible to frontally access most of the images, the viewer needs to stage different performative movements to visualize, some of them laterally, while others remain inevitably inaccessible. “Most of the times, we do not see what is in front of us”, Joana declares, who is interested in the simultaneous revelation and concealment, privileging the inaccessible, what remains hidden, what is not seen, what is perceived, coincidences, what is unconsciously rejected or even imagined. What the artist intends to emphasize, believing that all thoughts are represented through images, is ultimately the spaces of loss of consciousness, distraction and absolute abstraction, in which images emerge one after the other, in layers, wildly – moments that Joana Pitta declare as truly liberating, establishing the genuine personal identity of each one.
Drawing parallelism and fruitful dialogues between the two authors is one of the greatest challenges of this show. Both artists are interested to conduct a review of the daily life, is captured in a raw, unrecorded, almost documentary record. This daily life is recognizable through the memory that we unavoidably keep building, one that manipulates the vision we have of the past and the present, reaching the future. In Joana’s work, memory is more contemplative and fleeting, and the time she draws is more circular. Pat O’Neill gives preference to speed, the inevitability of corruption and a fierce social critique. Also, they clearly share the tendency to break labels between different media, playing with many and reinventing them.