Interview with José Taborda
On an August afternoon, José Taborda welcomed me in his studio. We talked about work, motivations and the exhibition Elástico to be inaugurated on 12 September at Zaratan; while we were talking, the works he is about to exhibit laid in front of us, waiting to be completed.
Francisco Correira – You finished your degree in painting at FBAUL, but, interestingly, your work stepped, from an early age, into other artistic genres, such as photography, video or installation. Do you think there is any “trace” of your training in the way you think and design your pieces?
José Taborda – Experimenting with other media, such as video and sound, was quite natural. Whatever the artistic genre, or the medium used, there’s always something to say. For me, the important thing is to say it the way I’m most enthusiastic about it, not through a specific material. That’s why I simply felt the need to increase the means I use to translate my ideas.
FC – You mentioned the relevance of the “idea” when conceiving your work. In addition to the materialization of objects, the underlying ideas also seem visual, as a provocative element that challenges the viewer. You appeal to a comprehensive and current imaginary.
JT – Exactly, many pieces are pondered as an attempt to challenge and provoke people. Mainly because I don’t identify myself with many of the current paths that art has been following, in a lack of originality due to the endless repetition of trails, while distancing itself immensely from the public. I consider it important that everyone – more or less accustomed to dealing with art, with or without training – is able to take something from my pieces.
Provocation allows us to stimulate a genuine reaction in those who see it, that’s why I use elements of everyday life, since the relationship with them is direct and often so familiar that we don’t even question it.
FC – Several of the works you’ve recently presented rely on digital elements and objects you’ve found, or objects you’ve altered. Are you interested in exploring the friction that comes from this encounter between materials with different levels of sophistication, or don’t you make that distinction?
JT – The most important thing is to figure out the best way to express an idea, taking into account the endless number of technologies at our disposal today – we are privileged in this regard, and so I try to be aware of all kinds of new materials and techniques.
Therefore, I don’t think there is a separation between my more or less digital works. All of them are part of my way of conceiving ideas. There are elements that I develop specifically and others arouse so much curiosity that I have to have them; or 10 of those; maybe 50! It’s an odd need to materialize things that mesmerize me, regardless of the form. And my work is also about that: to underline how diverse and fascinating the things that usually surround us are.
FC – September is the opening month of your new exhibition at Zarantan, entitled Elástico. How can you define it?
JT – The exhibition will be a continuation, in relation to the thematic realm that I’ve been addressing. It will be a set of unpublished works that I wanted to make for a long time. It was quite nice to be able to spend time in the studio working on this project.
FC – These pieces, due to their identifiable character and scale, establish a tension between the pseudo-utilitarian object and the sculptural object. Is that something that interests you?
JT – Scale is quite important to me, because it’s a tool for identifying forms. I’m interested in exploring subtle changes, capable of transposing these same mundane objects to other places. If you increase a certain object twenty times, this difference in scale will become the main point of the piece and all other ideas will get overshadowed. I’m interested in the balance between the aesthetic side and the sensory side. I try not to unbalance one another. It’s undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects during the elaboration of the works.
FC – Are Zaratan’s specificities decisive in the design of the pieces exhibited?
JT – I must have hundreds, or thousands, of pieces that I want to make. Therefore, space, taking into account its particular characteristics, has some relevance, as well as the relationship between the whole. As I said before, the pieces were purposely made for this exhibition. However, during the process, they undergo changes and these relations between them and with space emerge, requiring some adjustments.
FC – During your graduation, you were also at Bauhaus, in Weimar, Germany. There, you opened doors to have more exhibitions abroad. As a young artist living in Portugal, how do you see the opportunities that arise outside the country?
JT – I think it’s great to be in permanent contact with people from other countries. When I exhibit in Berlin or Erfurt, for example, my work reaches people with other mentalities. It was quite curious to see that, sometimes, the context itself or the situation in the country influences the way people interpret the work.
For now, I hope to keep my studio in Portugal, while at the same time being associated with projects abroad. Portugal has a relatively small population, so the audience is also inevitably reduced. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly attentive and interested. I think it’s healthy for young artists to have the opportunity to explore new places and opportunities, since it’s very important to maintain them for processes of constant self-reinvention.