Serendipity or the art of reading the signs, at Galeria Francisco Fino

Serendipity or the art of reading the signs, at Galeria Francisco Fino, curated by Maria Inês Rodriguez, warn us outside to the imminent danger, while quoting Zak Kyes: Strong Currents. When we enter, we encounter Adrien Missika’s photograph, where a book – without a reader, only with two hands – merges with the lower half of the landscape (the apparently calm sea). As the title indicates, it is an evocation of the 20th-century French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, responsible for major breakthroughs in the underwater field, whose name was chosen to rename the Isla Cerralvo (Mexico), motivating protests.

In the centre of the room, the large fishing nets of the artist Carolina Caycedo establish the exhibition’s atmosphere. They are an aggregating element in the relationship they concatenate with the other works around them. The conical and colourful forms fall on us, threatening to imprison us. Their presence suppresses the temporal dimension – through the suspension of movement – and underlines the spatial, almost fantastical realm.

Luísa Cunha’s three photographs (from the series Coisas) prove the accuracy of the curatorial proposal. Recently presented as part of a larger set, they now acquire new meanings, reinforcing their poetics. Although the artist affirms that her work is independent of social-political issues, her works prove to be capable of transfiguring themselves, depending on the exhibition and the dialogues established – without ever jeopardizing their plastic potentialities.

The curator’s sensitivity is proven in the exhibition’s set and theme – including the text itself, which is based on a Persian tale (Travels and Adventures of the Three Princes of Serendip). We are invited to set out on a directionless journey, without beginning or end. The key is the uncertain movement, in a re-reading of important issues such as those associated with the oceans.

The appeal to sensations is amplified by Felipe Ribon’s sculptures. From within, they spread a fragrance, which, despite its immateriality, acquires an equally three-dimensional character.

Cecilia Bengolea’s drawings evoke mythical visions, close to children’s drawings. They portray the sea and its monsters, which from the beginning have given a face to the unknown. It’s inevitable to think that fear of dreadful creatures and maritime disasters has been replaced by the catastrophic human action and its calamitous consequences for the ecosystem.

The eight artists’ pieces are placed in this unstable scenario, oscillating between the surface and the depths of an ocean that reveals its mysteries; a kind of Atlantis with a set of (discursive) fragments. The ruin – at least in the form of a threat – appears as a possibility of a change of course, of creating alternative paths to those that have demonstrated their fallibility over and over again.

The film Outwardly from Earth’s Center by Rosa Barba is shown in the last room, emphasizing the premises already mentioned. Like a documentary, a (fictitious) Nordic territory with a tendency to disappear is presented. Throughout the narrative, academics, scientists, politicians and, above all, the population join efforts and take collective increasingly surreal actions.

In the end, I visited the exhibition in reverse; new interpretations appeared and the route was different; I recalled the so-called serendipity, suggested by Maria Inês Rodriguez.

Until December 20, at Galeria Francisco Fino.

Francisco Correia (b. 1996) lives and works in Lisbon. He studied Painting at Faculdade de Belas-Artes at Universidade de Lisboa and finished the post-graduation on Art Curatorship at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He has been writing for and about exhibitions, while simultaneously developing his artistic project.

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