Repetition and Discovery: Sabotagem

Text by Sebnem Soher

Two weeks ago, as a part of the group exhibition ECO (DA IDEIA À OBRA DE ARTE)[1] in Galeria Liminare, Diogo Bolota, one of the participating artists repeated a former performance of him. Three years ago, he was invited to do the work Sabotagem in Maus Habitos, Porto. Starting from his background in art & architecture, we had a little conversation on his work, his own questions about his practice, what it means to repeat a performance after three years and if it’s actually possible to repeat a performance, in an exact same way.

Some works of art are easier to categorize and easier to define, using some familiar, acknowledged terms or phrases. Though in a case like Sabotagem a lot of categories are valid, yet none of them describes the work fully. It’s an installation and a performance for sure. The performance incorporates two modes of a modular sculpture, its in-between forms and the two performers’ act. It requires the surrounding space, but it’s neither site-specific nor interactive. The transition from one sculpture, which only exists for couple of hours, into the second one, which is exhibited all through the exhibition happens with the presence of an audience, although it’s not interactive. The performers are interacting with the installation and space, but again it’s not actually pointing out the relation of the human-body neither to the installation nor to the space. Eliminating those possible aspects of the work, it can be defined as a two-phased sculpture, originated in one space, but not depending on it. It’s a performance, where the audience relate to the movement, the effort of the performers and the relationship between them; but they don’t participate in or contribute to the flow of the transformation. What matters is the materiality of the installation and the performers are only the agents to enable this idea of transformation. After a long discussion and questions followed by more questions, the work seems to me like a notation of some game moves, a three dimensional drawing made in space.  And it’s quite relevant to Diogo Bolota’s entire collection of works.

The accumulation of his works are creating a narrative all together. Architecture studies, like most of the fields of design is a combination of aesthetic and technical requirements. It’s a formation of problem solving, in a much personal way, than engineering but in many cases much less independent than considered. It has a lot to do with control, organisation and representation. Combined with an education in arts and specifically in drawing, it’s easy to develop a curiosity around the matters of representation. Not necessarily representing ideas in drawings, but turning other media into drawings, turning drawings into spaces and experiences are corresponding to this blended background. Bolota’s experiments with material, with form and with meanings are moments from an ongoing and very personal artistic research, which also attempt to embody their own interpretations and their possible theoretical meanings. These endeavours manifest the constant oscillation between control and liberation, transformation and stagnation, ephemerality and robustness. Nevertheless, the apparent dichotomy translates itself into an intentional binomiality. Sometimes it’s seen on the naming of the group exhibition Canto Chanfrado[2] in Avenida 211, in 2014 or the work Apaga a dor[3]. Sometimes it’s in the process like in Sabotagem. At times it’s accustomed to simplifying the more complex relations, turning them into twofold interpretations as in architecture, but the outcome might be a loop, a trap. But the life is much more complicated than binaries and so is art. As a second look reveals, the collection of work mentioned above is also much more than the closed circuit of binaries for sure:

An artist is sabotaging himself, by enabling. One sculpture emerges through the destruction of another. Components of something can stay the same but create something completely different. But this new organisation is not to last, either.

The moment, where one is stabilized, all the other possibilities are disabled. Every time there’s a decision, a work arises and at the same time, there is the loss of many others. To get out of this trap, he had to understand. And to understand, he had to repeat the performance. Now describing his work and referring to all of his compilation of works, he is saying that the only way out was to restart and repeat and start again. Even with slight changes, which are very hard to recognize by the audience, the manifold implications of the performance tended to prosper, the second time. For that reason, it is possible to look at Sabotagem as invisible traces in the space, like an instruction for “how to sabotage yourself”. But no matter how defined and controlled the materiality and the design of the components are, there’s always a missing part. And after the second time, it’s still hard to define what that part is, but I think it’s the untranslatable part of his story into art and at the end it is what keeps the pendulum from resting and keeps the artist sabotaging and capacitating each time better.


[1] Although the performance happened already, the exhibition can be visited until September, 8th.

[2] Two words constituting “Canto Chanfrado” can both be translated in English with two different meanings. “Canto” can be a corner or a song, “Chanfrado” on the other hand can mean chamfered but also as a lunatic, crazy.

[3] “Apaga a dor”, which means “erase the pain” can be also understood as “Apagador”, meaning “eraser”.

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