Parting with the Bonus of Youth – Maumaus as object

The title sets the tone of this puzzling solo show by Maumaus. The first part of it points out either to “losing altogether the rose-coloured glasses, the illusions, ingenuousness and inventiveness” or to “being released into the wild and confronted with the rude realities of the world”; to “surviving as artists and critical thinkers in the era of triumphant marketing” or to “being mature, assuming responsibilities and doing the things right”. Unless it refers to something as “expecting the end of a cycle and the beginning of another one”.

So, what exactly is a Maumaus exhibition, what is Maumaus as object?

Whatever might be said, one thing is certain, this exhibition challenges the traditional gallery space and the spectators, not to mention the art critic and, perhaps, at the end of the day, the art collector – if any – brave enough to take the proposals on board!

Let’s give a description a try: an intellectual neo-dada art exhibition playing with ideas on art and non-art and non-non art objects; a philosophical meditation on contemporary art practices, usages and discourses that questions the marketing trend of artistic productivity through no-longer-marketable merchandise objects; a spatial extension and a materialized expression record of the Maumaus high-level intellectual engagement, wholly aware of the limits and aporia of its philosophical reflection, on the one hand, and of the difficulties that may arise from the singular and demanding fusion it advocates between theory and artistic practices, on the other; an indirect attempt to address the seemingly implacable process of gentrification and the problems caused by the real estate pressure to which Lisbon is currently subjected; a will to break-away from commercial art and to create aesthetic effects from the collection of non-sensational, non-desirable and non-artistic objects; a way to create meaning from “void” theatricalization, confronting the spectators with pure presentation, or with the meaningless presence…

Functioning on their own, the objects seem to refer to nothing but themselves, to their status of objects of interest presented in the context of art. In Baudrillard’s way, the anthropological perspective falls short of the social and goes beyond it. As singular objects, they do not depict anything, as they are not artistic representations nor artistic objects at all. But they do certainly point out the deficit of representation striking on certain worlds to which they wave by the remaining connection or previous function they had in their original social contexts. Sort of ready-made ready-mades, nihilistic contemporary extensions of Duchamp’s urinal, most of them are displaced objects, removed from their ordinary and impersonal context of everyday activities, work, logistic, trade, consumerism and propaganda.

In what can be perceived as a clean and playful scenography of the traditional art exhibition space and display, the objects are given in their obsolete “reality” and bland presence. Suspending all beliefs and expectations concerning art, they expose themselves in their whole banality, their status of trivial and insignificant objects. Indeed, the spectator is confronted to a used trade fair grey carpet, Ikea style particle boards with Formica laminate and beech wood, a live streaming of American mass media tv channel, an acrylic display system, a broken photocopy machine, a cherry-picker, an installation with vials drip irrigation system, chamber pot and fœtal sounder, an electrical socket placed right in the middle of a large white wall, an almost empty Ikea Billy book shelves, a tribune, a backdrop, a neon bar sign, a commercial marquee, a site fencing with galvanised metal and cement…

Among those objects of interest, some clues and paths are given through explicit artistic, literary, intellectual and political references. Strongly committed figures like Alexander Kluge and Allan Sekula are illuminating this set of banal yet surprising objects. In the Ikea yellow Billy shelves, sit a small group of books, all written by the Albanian communist politician, Enver Hoxcha. Suddenly, the aesthetic and intellectual receptive time changes and instead of the instantaneous, we are invited to get caught up in the vertigo of history, bubbling over with curiosity and questions, furthering knowledge and critical thought processes.

Within the exhibition, which is filled with humour, is set a background reflection on power structures, on economic and social conditions, on capitalism and its different faces like imperialism, social-nationalism, communism, neoliberalism… In a nutshell, the exhibition is a kind of philosophical exercise on art systems at large, including art pedagogy, art display and art market and, as so, it tends to focus on the relation between the percept and the concept with very little room for the affective and emotional dimensions.

Not to be missed. Galeria Avenida da Índia, until 8 September.

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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