Quel Amour!? An imperative question today. This exhibition presents multiple answers and, in many cases, more than an attempt to find answers, it raises and broadens several questions. For Clarice Lispector, love is eclectic. “The rare thing itself felt the warm chest of what can be named Love. (…) There is an old misconception about the word love (…) love is not to be eaten, love is to consider a boot beautiful, love is like the rare colour of a man who is not black, love is to laugh at love to a ring that shines.”[i]
Quel Amour!? is a co-production of the city of Marseille (Capital of Culture 2013), the MP Culture association and the Berardo Collection Museum and we believe that, without this international groundwork, we would not have access to some of the works that we can see until February 17, 2019. Éric Corne, the curator, writes in the catalogue that “through its title, containing an interrobang, it intends to outline possibilities. Therefore, the visitor’s eyes will swing between the exclamation and the question marks, plunged into in the urgency of the question or going from a sense of bewilderment to wonder”.
The options are of an enriching plurality between internationally renowned artists and younger ones, or those whose work is distinguished in the small artistic circuits. There are works in different supports and relying on various techniques. This exhibition is as plural and inclusive as love should be. What is Love? What kinds of love exist out there? Thomas Sipp puts two twin children on a bed to answer this question in an uncomplicated and straightforward manner in Ex-aequo (1995). But this is just one of several works that we have the chance to see at Berardo Museum on the subject of affection.
The path pondered by Jean-Francois Chougnet in the catalogue’s text, which is a feeling-driven course, begins with letters of love and friendship. What better way to declare feelings than an old handwritten missive? The exhibition divides itself into two paths and the visitor has to pick a side, something a bit similar to the questions children used to be asked in the past: who do you like the most? Your mother or your father? And sometimes we liked one more and sometimes it was exactly the opposite. Here, yet again, we can decide, feel regret, turn back, walk around, a bit as it happens with love: we can get lost in the small touch tests of Angelo de Sousa or the wall covered by drawings of Gonçalo Pena, or even contemplate Chantal Akerman’s breasts in the mirror, a typical female gesture.
Body and lust have always been linked to love. In plastic arts, the depiction of love is closely linked to the body representation: our own, the one of someone else and lust. It is often present in the absence, as in SchnellWeg! (2007/2008) by Miriam Cahn, whose isolated and naked figures (this nudity is much more than physical nudity) reveal the absence of our love for each other as a society: collective love, empathy. We can also take a look at Wolfgang Tillmans’ voyeurism, the paraphilia portrayed by Rémi Lange or deduce the love relationship of artistic couples such as Helena Almeida (recently deceased) and Artur Rosa, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Lourdes Castro and Manuel Zimbro, among others. Women are the prominent figures in these (we should even ask ourselves if Marina Abramovic’s work has become less rich after leaving Ulay). Or couples like João Pedro Vale & Nuno Alexandre Ferreira, who create ironic self-fictions on relationships.
Quel Amour!? challenges the visitor. Not by what it shows, but by the questions it raises, by the affectionate or confrontational relations that it weaves between the works on display, amplifying individual and collective senses and feeling. Quel Amour!? becomes a loving gesture for the generosity with which it shares a world of artistic affection and daring choices. Quel Amour!? calls for a boundless, libertarian love.
[i] Lispector, Clarice, Laços de Família. relógio d’água editores, lisboa, 1990, p.81