Sometimes Shade, Sometimes Light by Marie José Burki
Marie José Burki presents her works for the first time in Portugal, with this project being an adaptation conducted in 2017 in France, at Centre Regional de la Photographie em Douchy les Mines, and in Switzerland for the Kunsthaus Pasquart de Bienna, the place where the author was born. The set of works is comprised of different supports, from film to video, using photography and collage. She also prepared an unseen movie for the Polivalente room with a text of her authorship, co-produced by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, where she discourses on global events and civilizational issues, such as the mass extinction of species. Maria José Burki, born in 1961, lives in Belgium, attended an art course and started to dedicate herself to History and Literature studies, which have been an influence on her work. In the 80s she found herself fond of video and her work was shown at Documenta IX, in 1992. After the 9/11 attacks, Burki started to heavily rely on newspaper articles for her expositive works. There’s a daily anxiousness prompted by a major flow of news and images.
“When I read the newspapers, I have the feeling that the news are there to scare us”
One of her premises is to dive into a period in which one realizes that there is an excessive information stimulus, which strikes us through images and sounds, as it happens in the video Horizontes de um Mundo. This fact produces a struggle to discern between what is important and what is disposal; to the point where we sometimes end up being deceived by news distortion. In this context, we are confronted with a society that is getting increasingly alienated by this overwhelming whirlwind, where we run the risk of being apathetic to what’s happening. The goal is to portray the way society currently reacts to violence and to the exercise carried out by visual and sound media, making us question the notion of what is real and what is fictional. “Hopefully my work will not be a lesson, I rather have the spectator having fun while seeing it.”
The works orbit around anonymous figures, inspired in literary texts who undertake a cessation of time and daily life, as it happens with the photographic series Aos, exhibited in the lobby, with profile photos of three girls, images of captured teenagers who spin around themselves in an archetype of youth, having in common their hair pulled back. “I just want to catch the light, the shape, the body and photograph the moment”. One of her traits is that she works her photography while moving, in a cinematic way; also in tune with that anonymity, there is a movie/video Perto Daqui, in which people are emphasized as protagonists, aptly named antiheroes by the artist, a concept that is often found in her path. The camera hovers over sitting and laid bodies, where a crowd is filmed during a concert break. There is nothing to see besides boredom itself, spaces without coordinates, actors with a hierarchy or a life deprived of exhilaration. The movie includes three videos presented in synchronized projects, where the piano is a perennial presence, it’s the element that better fits the exhibition’s general title, as one of the central pieces.
There is a constant game between light and shadow in which the shadow of the night is reminiscent of a Magritte-like surreal environment, in a sleepy city, embodied by the almost symphonic dialogue conducted between intense spots of light emitted by the urban lamps and the luminous headlights of cars.
Even though it can be characterized by a certain quietness, the way it draws the human behaviour makes it more appealing, surprising and unsettling. In the scene that takes places outside, there is feminine figure sitting next to a garden table where fruit has been scattered all over it, as if it was a still life painting, an apparently calm environment contrasts with the news of a newspaper scrap which shows an explosion scene. The character chosen is the same, surrounded by gestures of a cinematic time, with rigid expressions, showing a phlegmatic expression, depleted of energy, anaesthetized, with an absent glance, failing to be present. Her work is strongly based on this meeting of contrasts, where simple structures are emphasized, relying on the capture of expressive moments which have a special effect due to its formal beauty within a poetical aesthetic realm.
Burki created the show in a way that allows the visitor to see it without having to abide by a specific sequence, and they can interrupt it in any given moment, since there is not a linear narrative with a sequential order.
The exhibition Sometimes Shade, Sometimes Light by Marie José Burki has the curatorship of Leonor Nazaré and it can be seen until November 20 at Espaço Projeto of Calouste Gulbenkian Museum Modern Collection.