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O Fio Invisível: Arte Contemporânea Portugal – Macau | China

Mystery, complexity and paradox, three words that came to my mind during the enthralling conversation I had with Carolina Quintela about the exhibition she curated at UCCLA to celebrate 40 years of official diplomatic relations between Portugal and China and the 20 years of existence of the Macau Special Administrative Region.

The title, Fio Invisível, refers to the Red Thread of Fate, an old Chinese popular myth according to which gods tie invisible red cords between people that are destined to meet one another regardless of place, time or circumstances. In the context of the historical and diplomatic relations between two geographically and culturally distant countries, the reference would suggest the idea of a pre-existing invisible connection between them, so that the historical encounter could not have not taken place. This folk belief, also present in several South Asian countries, echoes in a certain way the western theological notion of predestination. Also referred as determinism, its philosophical critique insists on the opposite notions of chance, randomness and free will.

Thus, behind this seductive image of invisible bonds and destined partners, lies the will to extend the dialogue via contemporary artistic expressions, bringing together a group of Portuguese artists who are in one way or another connected to China and artists from Macau.

The collection of art works presented at UCCLA challenge the many existing paradoxes related to historical turbulences and to our new globalized environment, where the free market, with its cheap and standardized merchandises, targets distance and cultural differences as they are perceived as barriers for international trade and multinational corporate profits. Several reflection-vehicle images and installations displayed in the exhibition raise questions associated with collective and individual memories, with the simultaneous and contradictory movements of negation, oblivion and praise of past manifestations, together with the acceptance of impermanence and perpetual transformation. Others highlight the tension between opacity and markets opening, or the complex phenomena of syncretism, hybridization and copy in their relation with creativity and innovation. Evocations of the gap between classes, of the cultural misunderstandings and disorientation, the will to disarm stubborn prejudices on both sides…

Fine, subtle, ingenious, the selected art works, together with the site-specific pieces that were made by Pedro Valdez Cardoso, open a space of multi-layered reflexion that may not be so obvious at first sight. Beyond the institutional context of celebration of diplomatic, economic, cultural and artistic encounters, interchanges and interactions between Portugal and China, it is worth spending a little extra time for those “codified” pieces to open and to reveal gradually their complexity and strong relevance.

With the contributions of Ana + Betânia, Ana Pérez-Quiroga, António Júlio Duarte, Bai Ming, Chan Wai Fai, Fernão Cruz, José Drummond, José Maçãs de Carvalho, Liu Jianhua, Mio Pang Fei, Nuno Cera, Pedro Valdez Cardoso, Rui Rasquinho and Wong Ka Long.

At UCCLA – Lisboa, until January 20.

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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