The archer has turned into a mime – in Ana Vidigal’s installation Bela e Má

Leopoldo de Almeida’s sculpture entitled Archeiro (1972) emphasizes the dramatic, replicative and replicable gesture, as well as the absence of an arrow and a “target”, a direction and an end. Whimsically, the great archer (also or simply?) became a mime with tangible and significant absences. This action conducted by the Archeiro was pivotal to experience the installation.

An arrow cut from a magazine is found near the sculpture, on a small pile (of plaster?), it points to the mime-archer, (emphasizing the absence of the arrow), with directions for us to move around. The singular movement obtained in interacting with this open set of space-objects-language-actions is revealing. It reveals enough about the installation, about us and the world, and reveals part of Ana Vidigal’s universe.

Bela e Má [Beautiful and Evil] is composed of several mis/guiding games, where the end and the direction reside in an unresolvable perplexity: there is no sense – “spatial” and/or significant – that happens to be unique, exterior, absolute and final. Our attention, during a reflexive observation and diffuse attention, focuses on the quest for orientations that exist in “correspondences”. Sensory, memorized, affective correspondences, etc.

These humorous games have different and heterogeneous forms. Going down the access stairs, we find the middle section of the “train” installed by the artist. A train with old industrial shelves. The chariots are a reference to distant times, with storage and organization purposes from the functional standpoint, and the sequence refers to a production line. The dusty grey atmosphere engulfs the spoils of this abandoned archive yard and arouses a sensation in our affections, perceptions and thoughts. This atmosphere is, in itself, an action carried out on the museum’s permanent exhibition hall. A whimsically critical atmosphere begins to color our experience by tilting it in one direction…

We have stepped inside halfway through.… if we look for the start of the installation, our embedded habits (the “back to front”, “left to right” coordinates) guide us to one end of the train. There, we initiate our role as an attentive spectator, but that starting point is not necessarily the beginning of the installation. We need to be wary of preestablished orientations already automated in our habits. The “economy” can be blinding.

Then, we “naturally” follow the whole row. Now, our interactional movement with each industrial shelf is confronted with a vertical organization, in an effort to conceal and reveal. No possible relationship with the whole rack eliminates the – physical and significant – organization of the “shelves”: inexorably, one is underneath the other. To “properly see things,” that is, to see fully, one would have to see the elements in one or the other… but, if we do that, we lose the relationship between that and ourselves. On the shelves, each “object”, collected and acted upon, proposes a game.

The train has several levels, but also lines that cross the different industrial racks. But the succession of lines is not actually linear. For instance, the succession of the language line – the loose sentences, stamped on the “about” plane, are not a linear narrative; perhaps they comprise a discourse or a tone –, the order of the “transformed memories” from childhood, found on the plane below, has no development. Another line, the line of the ways of doing and “action”, constitutes a world of repetition and unrepeatability… a sufficiently different perplexity is created each time.

The arrows re-emerge at the other end of the train, which is not the end of the installation. This time, the main function is to point out the (primarily chromatic) correspondences between the two ends of the room: the sculptures of Leopoldo de Almeida and their parodic mimicking by Ana Vidigal. As we travel through this space in an eight-shaped (or infinite?) movement, we return to the train, to the other side of it, in the opposite direction. The game goes on…

We lost the limit of the train, but we find the (initial?) Archeiro and, slightly distant, the set of sculptures by Leopoldo de Almeida. In front of them, we became aware that their perception and meaning were mis/guided, without ever culminating in a cynical fall.

Duchamp’s ready-made art critically fired, against the majestic statement “it’s Art!”, the question “is it or not?”, the paradox “is and is not”, and opened an “it can be” art, with new materialities, directions and purposes, etc. I’m of the opinion that Ana Vidigal’s work (through gestures that mis/guide “objects”, filled with virtuosities) explores a way of being in art and life, through an “and/or”. Therefore, her feasibly ironic humour, as was Duchamp’s, does not include the indiscreet gesture of “stripping”. On the contrary, it recognizes that the indissoluble reverse of hiding is to show and vice versa.

Unti 30 September, at Museu Leopoldo de Almeida, in Caldas da Rainha.


By Fernando Poeiras

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