Jimmie Durham: Do you say I’m lying?

“Of course not, we have never lied to each other;

when it’s necessary we just use words that lie for us”.

José Saramago


Presented as the second stage of the long-term project entitled Chain Reaction, this exhibition is based on a previous exhibition, Brief History of Portugal, that took place in 1995 at the Módulo Gallery.

For this initial project, the American artist had developed a series of poetic and playful installation pieces made of heterogeneous objects found in the streets of Lisbon as branches, stones, shells, man-made wooden, metal, plastic, glass, ceramic and fabric pieces. To those site-specific found and assembled objects, are added taped or handwritten quotes taken from José Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, published in Lisbon in 1984.

This exhibition aims to trace and show those works, the very first shown in Portugal, which are deeply imbued with the Portuguese literary, social, political and historical contexts. Playing with this characteristic fusion of reality and fiction found in Saramago’s text, which narrates the final year of life of one of the most famous heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa, Durham puts into light the certain confusion between truth and fiction, between nature and artifice, between reality and representation that is at the very core of his personal work and life as it is of artistic imagination, creativity and production at large.

An audio piece from 2006 wraps the exhibition in a particular atmosphere, the one of glass breaking sounds (smashed glasses against the floor and the wall performed by the artist himself). The background sound field effect enhances the frangible dimension of the pieces. Some of them appear like some sort of symbolic and magical talismans, combining the vegetal, mineral, animal and human spheres, altogether with rough and refined components. As a man willing to fully and actively participate in the world as it is, with all its diversity and richness, Durham expresses the same curiosity and enchantment towards all the things that capture his attention, without distinction, value scale nor discrimination.

A new sculpture specifically created for the exhibition was also added to the initial 1995 works, bridging this crucial past moment in Durham’s production to his recent prolific work. Winner of the Venice Biennale’s 2019 Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement, Durham is a tireless critic of the Western-centred narratives, prerogatives and intrusions of all sorts, always questioning in his poetry, political activism and artistic production, the issues of identity constructions, of violence and exploitation structures.

Curated by Delfim Sardo, Chain Reaction is a project resulting from a collaboration between Fidelidade Arte and Culturgest. The proposal aims to involve the artists in the selection of their peers for the following exhibitions of their works organised both at Fidelidade Arte Lisboa and at Culturgest Porto. Delfim Sardo initiated this cycle with Ângela Ferreira (Maputo, 1958) who elected Jimmie Durham as her successor. In turn, Durham selected Elisa Strinna (Padua, 1982) as the next artist. At the end of the year, an extensive documented book will be published compiling the memory of the three artistic events carried out within the project.

The exhibition takes place at Fidelidade Arte space, Largo do Chiado, until 30 August.

Katherine Sirois is a Canadian art historian and freelance writer born in Montreal. Trained in Arts Studies at the UQÀM (Mtl), where she worked as a research and teaching assistant at the History of Art Department, she did her first doctoral studies at the EHESS (Paris) with Daniel Arasse, then at the Aesthetic Department of the Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne University and at the Art History Institute of the Nova University of Lisbon. She is part of the editorial team of the contemporary e-magazine Wrong Wrong and co-curator of the Portuguese Ymago project for the dissemination of authors in the field of images. She recently joined the Umbigo Magazine team of contributors.

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