Servitudes – Circuits (Interpassivities), by Jesper Just

MAAT’s oval room is, as in many European museums, a room more geared towards experimentation. In other words, to works of art that cannot fit into the most common rooms or require that transfiguration, where barriers are needed. This is the case of this spatially odd oval room, now fully recreated by Jesper Just (born in 1974) with his eight-channel video installation Servitudes. Just takes hold of the room, spreading multiple video projections across it, transmuting the space with the help of scaffolding, thus creating a new path, including a new floor in the middle of the room.

The eight films of Servitudes show, through the same actress, the possible and achievable relationship between mankind and technology. With a futuristic and melancholy aesthetic, reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the videos displays a girl eating an ear of corn with hand prostheses. This video is quite disconcerting: prosthetics refer to a futuristic imagery, but the ear of corn is an archaic food, which has been cultivated for about 7000 years, and hand-eating is also rudimentary. Apart from an intrinsic critique of our evolution, and the issues that the visitor is confronted with, there is also an aesthetic and artistic concern in the way this video is filmed and presented. Projected on two screens, which give continuity to the image, there is a physical confrontation, although they ensure that continuation. Actually, there is a dialogue between the different videos of the exhibition. If, in one, we see the girl eating with prosthetics in her hands, in the other we have the hands of a girl playing piano with atrophy in her fingers (Frédéric Chopin’s Opus 17), a melody that echoes around the room and occasionally suppresses the sound coming from the other videos.

Circuits (Interpassivities) is another of the multimedia works on display, in a sort of bunker room built inside the oval room itself, questioning our passivity. A work in which the constructive device is visible and merges with the work that originates it. An instrument that evokes the disassembled interior of a piano, which plays itself, and takes us back to the image of the child who plays in Servitudes. A video, based on a structure that is purposely dismantled, emits image and sound, where dancers move through electrical stimuli.

To take advantage of Servitudes, a new route was created, built with scaffolding, sometimes protected by canvas. These scaffolding and the canvas itself shape a new exhibition path. Images are projected on the canvas, expanding beyond the scaffolding to create visual obstacles that force us to redirect our gaze. In short, the route is also a narrative thread. The fact that the structure is made of scaffolding, rather than a nobler or more stable material, underlines the notion of unfinished and a certain melancholy vertigo, visible also in some images of desolate urban landscapes: we are trapped in the cities we built, as we are attached to the scaffolding. The only way out is to move forward into the future, as going backwards means a more difficult journey.

Servitudes – Circuits (Interpassivities) relies entirely on spatial, visual and sound manipulation. Jesper Just raises questions that can only have internal and individual answers, but he also expresses his opinion more or less obviously, and forces us to face today’s paramount question: where does this overly technological present is taking us? How lonely are we in places where there have never been so many people?

The desire to return to the beginning of the scaffolding, in search of answers, is tempting.

Until 2 September, at MAAT.

With a career in film production spanning more than 10 years, Bárbara Valentina has worked as production executive, producing and developing several documentary and fiction films for several production companies including David & Golias, Terratreme and Leopardo Films. She is now working as Head of Development and Production Manager at David & Golias as well as a postproduction coordinator at Walla Collective. She is also teacher at ETIC in the Film and Television Course of HND - Higher National Diploma. She started writing articles for different magazines in 2002. She wrote for Media XXI magazine and in 2003 she began her collaboration with Umbigo magazine. Besides Umbigo she wrote for Time Out Lisboa and is still writing as art critic for ArteCapital. In 2010 she completed a postgraduation in Art History.

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