The life and death of public things

The respect for private memory surpasses the respect for public memory. Between the residence, the home, the house, and the square, the objects of the past safeguard a distinct survival for each one.

In the private domain, the halls and rooms are the preferential spots of exhibition and preservation of family memory. The pine, mahogany or oak furniture welcome pieces of past generations which attest to a lineage, a history – all the weight of a succedaneum existence. The photograph on the dresser is a worshiped living monument; the picture on the wall is a silent telling of past times; the chinoiserie, a moment, a souvenir, a personal and family achievement. The private time is, indeed, different from the public time.

In the street, the monument is of everyone. But, paradoxically, if it is of everyone, it is also of no one. The responsibilities of remembering, divided by all, almost end up in unaccountability. The amount of past in us and the weight of history hold by a particular object, and the masses to which it refers, are often unbearable, impossible. The abandonment follows – the object delivered to the elements and the indefatigable chronos, hoping that one day we can remember it. The common heritage therefore holds a twofold and ambiguous position in the community: between remembering and forgetting, between the abandonment and return, between life and death.

Going back to memory is an extensive process and a wearisome exercise, which requires the articulation between unconnected and overlapping times. It is therefore a work of archeology, of composition, of supposition and suggestion. In broken fragments, there is this strenuous task of giving body to the broken matter. Disjeta membra. Shattered limbs that lack order, causation and context, within a forgotten narraitive.

A terceira margem e as ruínas circulares is an exhibition of João Seguro, which precisely conducts this archeologic work, a local research of memories and objects of a community, in this case, Vila Nova da Barquinha.

Alongside the archeology of objects, research has been a common practice in contemporary art. The documentation, subject matter of research, it is also a possible medium for the artist, who embodies the role of art producer and historian, or journalist, going after the essence of things. And this show also assumes this duality.

But this branch of journalism, if we want to, takes places within a phenomenological field in the search for truth and the essence of things. The radical immersion in the field of study is crucial. In an old warehouse of Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Garantia Agrícola (INIGA), Seguro registers and documents artifacts that belonged to the public domain, lying there in the melancholy of abandonment and obsolescence. The picture book disjecta, published with the support of the project Empty Cube, is the outcome of this journey which, despite having the opportunity to become a natural element of production, is only a part of the whole.

The object trouvé is a detour operated by the artist in a current object. In his harvesting action, he collects pieces and transforms them into works of art, sometimes with tiny operations, other times with substantial changes with compositional tendencies. The gaze of the artist subverts the common glance and teaches us to see a kaleidoscope of signs and meanings in what is considered trivial. For Galeria do Parque of Vila Nova da Barquinha, João Seguro uses objects and materials found in the warehouse of INIGA and articulates, among them, new ways of understanding the practices of the region, local traditions and the human and historical landscape of that location, without neglecting, however, the plasticity and language of art.

The picture is omnipresent, even on the artist’s installations or sculptures. The portrait of things and people is simultaneously a monument to what already has been and the remembrance of deaths to come. Like Barthes established in Camera Lucida, Death and Photography are sometimes – almost always – inseparable, in the same way that Ruin and Delight – as mentioned by Choay in L’allégorie du patrimoine – are two sides of the same coin. And, here, melancholy appears again, underlined – and topped – by the author of the exhibition’s text João Pinharanda: “The immediate past contained in that archeological vault is returned to us through scattered objects, without the need to integrate a current fiction, which accentuates the melancholy of this subjective investigation task”.

A terceira margem e as ruínas circulares, of João Seguro, can be seen at Galeria do Parque in Vila Nova da Barquinha, until 27 May and the curatorship, as is customary in that room, was outlined by João Pinharanda.

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.

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