I was born on a short day of winter

“How much weight can the memory stand?” This is the starting point of the room’s brochure authored by Miguel von Hafe Pérez, available at the exhibition Nasci num dia curto de inverno (I was born on a short day of winter), conceived by the artist Nuno Sousa Vieira.

The question is relevant. Not only from a curatorial point of view, given that the exhibition is an honest showdown with two memories – one is local and the other is personal – but even when taking into account general, ontological terms. If the memory becomes an excessive weight, then is turns into something rather unbearable to man; if it disappears, as proposed by Voltaire’s Memory’s Adventure, then man ignores what being is and the muses are the ones accountable for making him aware that “without memory there is no spirit”.

However, a hyperthymesia, i.e., the inability to forget whilst being capable of remembering every single thing, is also unendurable. Funes, of Jorge Luis Borges, struggled with this condition and his fictional life was not very from different from torture itself – among an endless array of episodes, he could not filter and select the most relevant one.

In the show currently on exhibition at Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações, Nuno Sousa Vieira invokes and navigates, according to his own words, two memories, one autobiographical and intergenerational and the other whose inner trait has a collective, urban mannerism: his father worked in that place, which was once a plastic factory. The work is a juxtaposition of both, but it does not step into an extreme process concatenated between the absolute memory and the nostalgic tepidity on what is remembered and how is remembered.

The works do not present themselves randomly in space, given that the latter is built upon the former. Metallic structures, chairs and splashes of plastic black ink are spatial mnemonics which have defined, in a certain manner, the life of a person. The daily life of the factory worker, of a proletariat in extinction, is staged right there, using a brief set of elements, in a circular, repetitive, mundane route: gown, high voltage, work, rest, gown, high voltage, work, rest…

Modernity and its own temporality are also discussed from a historical point view, and also through the lenses of the history of art and the artistic movements that shape and conceptualise this exhibition. As von Hafe Péres affirms: “between minimalism and its theatricality, in other words, the need to perceive its surroundings and the way the former can change the latter, process art, entangled in a deciphering that is inherent to its own form, and the contextual answers which define the vast majority of contemporary production according to certain challenges or orders, the works of Nuno Sousa Vieira are clearly focused on deferred temporalities. It is the moment to feel, to understand and the moment to question”. And, through this performance, these ideas are materialised.

The exhibition has in its literary translation a vital element, which is pasted into the room’s brochure, a document endowed with a strict (and precious) listing of this artist’s endeavours – which also operates as a decoding element of a work and a memory. The text allows us to have access to a reality made of lives, experiences, ways of living – times – fragmented by a modern, or post-modern, atomization, elements which unveil a critical unit right here, to which the observer has to predispose himself to access it and, from it, the need for a performativity. A crucial and preliminary guide, quite indicative and far from being exhaustive.

Nasci num dia curto de Inverno, by Nuno Sousa Vieira, with Miguel von Hafe Pérez as its curator, is currently on exhibition at Fundação Portuguesa das Telecomunicações until July 8, in a partnership between this institution and Galeria Bessa Pereira.

José Rui Pardal Pina (n. 1988) has a master's degree in architecture from I.S.T. in 2012. In 2016 he joined the Postgraduate Course in Art Curation at FCSH-UNL and began to collaborate in the Umbigo magazine. He is interested in art, cinema, politics, literature, architecture...

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