Art that repairs (in direct speech)

We are on a pilgrimage in the name of art. Or art is on pilgrimage in our name – this if we rely on the assumption that art is an active property that exists for us and to us. That lives in us. The title is odd. Yes, but only in this dimension that we have talked about – art that heals, that repairs through the eye of the beholder. This is a whole another religion. Art as redemption – perhaps the noblest of the perspectives on art. And, peculiarly, we have already gone through exhibitions in formerly religious spaces. I’m nauseated. A weight in the stomach, do you understand? Art only repairs what is immaterial. Not that nausea. Yes, but it can prompt a change in the practical spirit, which puts in motion a quest to repair the corruption, the error, the deviation. Perhaps there is a review of the Apollonian concept of art. Or art as a revelation of a tyrannical ego, which obliges us to be free from it. There is something of Schopenhauer, but without the pessimistic trait of him.

Can you see the reflection of the cannon-shaped dome? This debris… Is this an archaeological hypothesis of the architected? Where do these bricks belong? What structures have endured, what lives have passed by them without realizing what they shelter, the space they have, the comfort they conformed? Is this the memory of the edified? The disposition is not random. There is a rational side to it. There are a drawing and a desire to create a new space – abstract, with certainty; more mental than physical, with certainty – a space made of spoils of the yesterday, the spoils of others. (Duplo Negativo, 2017, Fernanda Fragateiro)

Where does this music come from? From the darkness of your childhood. It’s cold and I cannot see anything. But I’m so comforted. The voice… Is an old voice. But the fluidity is still there. The rumble of the water that flows. I could stay here forever. How far can you go back in your memory? Do you have images? Mental images, those that we cannot describe. They often are sonorous images. Or olfactory. Sometimes there is only one colour. Do you remember leaving your mom’s vagina? C-section. (C’est le murmur de l’eau qui chante, Louise Bourgeois)

Only two people – at most – can go in. See you on the other side. (Absolute darkness. There is no reference point, but it looks like a huge corridor. Should I go on or ask the volunteer what is happening? A light has been turned on. It’s more predictable this way, I know already that I should go on and that there are more sensors. I’m not completely alone. I hesitate at the speed of my steps. The light, no more intense than a candle, is out now. I carry on: another beam of light. I look back: empty; absolute loneliness. If you throw up here, nobody notices it. Ahead, another light goes on. And another. And then another. But there is even more light, the brightness is progressive, I’m able to see more: the ceiling is high, vaulted too; I recognize the sensors, the lime that drops from the walls, the roughness of the pavement stones. For the first time I’m aware of the decadent environment of which the monastery is part, of the abandonment that it has been subjected to. I will have more light in the next and so the fear will be reduced. I must have walked five, ten kilometres – I know that it took an eternity. Other beams of light now illuminate my path. Five, six, seven. And then I close my eyes of pain and go back. Meanwhile, there is blackness, again. I open the eyelids, blind with a spectral rectangle engraved on the retina. I move myself and I’m again assaulted by an unbearable whiteness, now with eyes wide open, exposed to revelation, to the epiphany, to the moment in which everything becomes clear and that the soul, wide open by the forthrightness of light, frees itself from the body and mind, and shouts at us for our insignificance when it comes to the beauty of things. The black turns to dark, in the same moment that it is turned to white, in the same moment that everything continued to be grey.) (Estudo para Cura, 2017, Julião Sarmento)

Have you already experienced hypnosis? Perhaps it would be good for you and it’d heal your anxiety. No. I’m too broken to be repaired or healed. Look at this map of symbols. We have here all the basic images of our culture. And what culture is that? Well, it is outdated. We have created other mythologies, other worlds, other ways of being. The man and his symbols go beyond what is here. The man has globalized his existence, he has universalized himself. Yes, but these new symbols, do they talk about transcendence? The man looked in symbols for confirmations of a certain transcendence (religious, intellectual, cultural, community, etc.). Do we still have symbols, in this digital era? The symbols are abstract representations of an idea. The ideas still exist, even if they are alienated from the space that historically we have called real, physical. The ideas continue to permeate the optical flows and the copper wires. Capitalism has introduced many symbols: logos that started to adopt a higher status and became simplified records of nations, cultures and masses. Is it still possible to access the unconscious through these symbols? Yes, I believe so. But it’s a more superficial form of unconsciousness and I don’t know if it deserves the time that is spent trying to access it. And the dreams? No. In general, man has stopped to dream. I’m nauseated. Have you seen that pornographic meme? No, only the one with kittens. (Man and His Symbols, 2016, Matt Mullican)

Curated by Delfim Sardo and Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, Curar e Reparar, Biennale of Contemporary Art in Coimbra, anozero’17, until 30 December, in several locations in the city of Coimbra. Check the program here.


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. Curator of Dialogues (2018-), an editorial project that draws a bridge between artists and museums or scientific and cultural institutions with no connection to contemporary art.

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