Sara & André and Arlindo Silva at Appleton’s box

As they do every so often, Sara & André, allow me, this time, to be accompanied by another artist. Sturtevant, or Elaine Sturtevant, passed away in 2014. But, for about five decades, she developed an ad continuum project that (fortunately) kept unfurling more questions and uncertainties about the concept of art and the role of the artist, and fewer (often showy and boring) theoretical answers and impositions.

Not being able to be interpreted as an isolated case, much less one that is rootless, Sturtevant pushes the questioning of values darkened by the history of art, for instance that of originality, to the edge. Many artists have devised critical approaches to the founding ideas of art (either modern, contemporary and western). Still, neither Duchamp with the ready-made; nor Sol Lewitt with the Wall Drawings; nor Jeff Koons, later on, with the sculptures without human intervention, managed to approach the radicality of Sturtevant’s anti-authorial (?) proposal.

The American artist rephrased the works of other artists with whom she crossed paths with and made her interested. Critics, institutions and the public always welcomed her works in a troubled way. Within the “artistic community”, she encountered the biggest and most intense discussions. For example, Sturtevant’s re-enactment of Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1961) project, six years later and near the original site, with the title The Store of Claes Oldenburg, annoyed the artist and the renowned art dealer Leo Castelli. On the other hand, Andy Warhol, an admirer of Sturtevant’s appropriating logic, invited her to his studio to use the serigraphic paintings of his Flower Paintings. Warhol, perhaps because he was one of those artists who came closest to questions about the reproducibility of images and, consequently, works of art, said that he would like to see, one day, as many Flower Paintings made by others as possible, to the point where it would no longer be possible to distinguish them.

Besides this provocative and ironic side, Elaine Sturtevant’s work acquires another depth each time it is shown. We shall picture ourselves in an institution that announces the exhibition of an artist. And, then, what we first see is a museum collection where we immediately identify (apparent) works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Félix González-Torres, etc… mixed and organized according to the artist’s own intuition. Basically, Sturtevant suspended the boundaries of the artist’s role and merged it with the role of curator, freely manipulating works that, in their original form, were fragmented and distant, considering their multiple authors.

Above all, Sturtevant transformed the role of the artist, as the central agent in the artistic system (although increasingly weakened), into the theme of her project, diluting herself as an author, and rejecting concepts such as originality or creativity – although, today, it is clear that none of them is verifiable.

At the Appleton’s box, in Alvalade, while looking at Arlindo Silva’s painting portraying Sara and André staring at another painting by Arlindo da Silva, which also depicts Sara e André, I recalled the American artist and the feasible parallelism with the confusion sown by the Portuguese duo whenever they have an exhibition.

This time, we see a matryoshka of exhibitions, as put by Ana Anacleto, curator who invited Sara & André, who then extended that invitation to Arlindo Silva. The duo, who uses the invitation as a motive for all their projects, is accompanied by friends and colleagues. Through a contract, they accept to be part of their Foundation, transforming Sara & André into a shapeless agent, who is simultaneously an artist, institution or curator – the last one happened in the project Curated Curators (I, II and III), 2017. All those who orbit this universe end up being part of his fictional artistic circuit. The duo is, at the limit, immaterial and the medium itself. André and Sara are also Arlindo Silva’s paintings, as promoters of artistic creation, and therefore inseparable from it.

Therefore, we have the exhibition Ainda by the duo and the exhibition Presente by Arlindo Silva; in the box, we see a painting and a publication. Arlindo Silva’s painting, the only (?) artistic object in the room, is dragged by the whirlwind of questions imposed by Sara & André’s work.

This encounter proves that an exhibition does not depend only on its objects (much less on its quantity) to disturb the visitors. Despite the intrinsic qualities of Arlindo Silva’s work, it’s no longer just a painting in this context, and we leave full of doubts and uncertainties regarding the roles, the role-playing, of each agent in the contemporary art world. First of all: after all, who or what is Sara & André?

Ainda by Sara & André and Presente by Arlindo Silva, at Appleton, until 30.01.2020

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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