A floating author in a floating island

Author who flees from author. Space that flees from space

For when…

Words without images. Images without words. Words without words. Images without images.

The Emptiness


The Writing-Image?

When is the gesture in the Hollow?

When the Author will appear?

ψ ψ ψ


This is Álvaro Lapa and here we evoke him, asking: “Does reading solve”? The title, taken from one of his works, does not come up with a decision. In it, images, their senses and meanings move in water and air. Stylish, weak, ductile are also the “images of the transitory floating world” or ukiyo-e. To enter his world is to wander through a kind of book and, inside it, multiple shadows, massive silhouettes and gestures in emptiness are scrutinized.

The form was the beginning. Reminiscences of other masters of the collage of typed letters. For example, in Instrução Pessoal. Besides the insurrection and use of more humble materials, Lapa’s work has an aesthetic and a certain surrealist poetics, but he doesn’t seem to assume that. We step into the portal of dreams and his library also shows it, with names like Luiz Pacheco, André Breton, Antonin Artaud and Man Ray. But where do we look? To the text? To the image? Sometimes the text seems to be a subtitle, other times it is a title and other times it even looks like an image – sometimes it looks like a cut or a refuge. We have to relearn how to look and read. That was the novelty of modernists, that is, a trap. Anyway, an image is always visceral and predatory: it fixes the target, its “prey”, and petrifies it. The look is also visceral. Sometimes that look is too tactile. The author becomes too physical with the canvas and its materials. He almost throws them, rejects them, despises them. The stains are not that clean and “pure” – graphic. The painting, after all, has a great pictorial side, the embodiment. The strike creates a mark. A mark, a sign, a drawing. That breathes here too, but, at this confluence, the gesture is more important. The gesture imposes itself, but not over the painting’s boundaries. It always has a perspective and a point of view, a cut of reality. However, the perspective here is annulled. Whoever sees the earth, sees the sky and sees the sea, they are the same thing.

When we talk about the support, the work of Lapa, the web of relationships is much more associated with literature than with the book. But the physical and sensitive relationship we have with an artist’s book or object book is no less sensitive. The museum, although not completely open and vigilant, can be a niche and place of recollection. Taking it as a starting point and taking it apart can be something revolutionary and full of possibilities. The object book is a symbiosis between image, text and object. The image is text and the text is image – a spiral with no exit. On the other hand, we can transport it and live it at our own pace. It is something with weight and rhythm, you can stop at a certain place, go back, go forward. The pure visual doesn’t exist, what exists is the sensorial. The look is tactile and the whole body is bathed in it. We see with our skin and our fingers, we listen and touch with our eyes. It is a more democratic experience that fills the gap between the author (the artist) and the reader (the public). The series Cadernos motivates this contact, but a museum would probably not allow it. In this surrealist game, homage is paid to the Carnation Revolution and freedom. If we saw these notebooks, the trail designed could never be linear and the logic architected could not be stale. Like books, jumping between chapters would be something possible and natural. It stays in the air: like any other matter, in what way can the book be explored and lived? And how can it be a device, an exhibition?

Cultivating a museum-sanctuary

This flows into the Voice and, consequently, into the author. He does not die, nor does his reader. Even if we never really find him, it is important to look for him. In Charles Baudelaire and the romantics – pure autophagic – the author is the shaman in his absolute splendor. In Cesariny and the surrealists, the author is not so present, and his “illuminations” do not fall totally from the sky, practicing a game of collective writing. Lapa is on another level and one of the most engaging encounters with him is through a “body-manifesto” – As profecias de Abdul Varetti, escritor falhado. There, on the multiple “mats” or “sheets” ripped from a book, the words of the artist and various literary figures are cooked. Examples are: “Sleep and death will once again be equated. Man will learn to die” and “Life being an art, language will be universal (cfr Rimbaud), including everything”. The artist dilutes himself in a medium where he is next to heavy names. After all, who wanders in this space? Where is Lapa hidden? He is categorized as an “anti-painter” and “anti-writer”. But painter and writer have not disappeared, since they are in a perpetual relationship of union-tension. In this game, the author’s mark is not as transparent, permeable and fluid as, for example, Cesariny (painter=writer). Lapa seems too attached to his tributes and invocations, to the cult of his museum-sanctuary. He writes as if he were one, ruminating on himself, as if he “glued” himself to other authors. The works can no longer be totally orphans, nor will they live autonomously. On the other hand, the public also becomes an orphan, since they are “obliged” to follow the numerous clues left by the artist.

Unveiling, but never revealing

Past, present and future are always present in the act of reading. The text gives us more time than painting. We see why we read. We look up, down, sideways, forwards, backwards – to a text, a mind and a unique being. One may decide to see nothing, but what is our “nothing”? Lapa’s form, support and voice shape a poetics. However, it is hardly detached from its vault of authors. Returning to the initial proposition: “Reading solves”, but what? Reading doesn’t solve and seeing doesn’t solve either. Either we fall into the necessity and vertigo of words, either in images, or both. What is the solution? The Chinese have long solved this problem and dilemma by creating a “deed-image” of nature. It is necessary to return to the physical, because in art there are no borders, in mind and thought, and also in matter itself. It is one of the teachings remembered by the work of Lapa. And reality “teaches” what? Melancholy and intoxicating prosthesis in a time without time, history and spirit. The action of the body no longer counts and the human being, who is being born, begins to wither and become unrecognizable. There is no reflection, mirror, silence and emptiness, only dull, opaque, hard and glacial screens. The face-to-face look is feared. Where is the human?

Today, there also seems to be no great narratives and authors, because mere consumers can be that. Anyway, art is prophetic and the voice of the artists is the voice of the community, of the being to come. One has to cultivate that, only then can we reach the self and the other. An author is also an actor, because he talks to himself and other “selves”. Lapa is also sucked in by these multiple voices and personas. As a counterpoint, at a moment in his life inspired by Buddhism, he becomes a hermit. Lately, human existence does not cease to be a dream, a void, a nothingness that escapes us. The author emerges from Nothing, the author submerges into Nothing. That is how. The artist does not seem to want to confront himself totally, he flees from his own image and does not face it, nor does he fix it. He approaches and moves away from himself. Trapped forever by the weight of countless layers that unveil him, but never reveal him. That is Lapa’s signature. He’s a floating author on a floating island.

Reading Solves: Álvaro Lapa and Literature is in Culturgest is at Culturgest, albeit temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was born in Coimbra in 1994. I hold a degree in Art and Design, a Master's in Social and Cultural Anthropology and presently am a PhD student in Artistic Studies - Art and Mediations.It all started on drawing, then I found graphic design and began experiencing art in another way – on writing. Departing from that context, I then entered anthropology. However, I didn't leave art, I simply looked at it with other eyes. There, multiple roles were played – now an anthropologist now an artist – through a dialogue between an author and two narrators. Later, together with the artist Rubio, I played the role of the “curator” on the independent artist's project Cão Português – Espaço Difusor de Arte, in Coimbra. The one thing that permeated all these passages was a rather ensaistic and poetic writing style but the communicating vessel was drawing. Ultimately, the utopia would be to articulate it with everything else that moves me: books, graphic/editorial design, writing/critical reflexion and photography. ◎ ◎ ◎ Living is an island, always an island. There, one tries to follow a fluxus, a stream – the very own spirit of the moment and time. Times does not exist, is a mere form. Form is emptiness and drawing, its Shadow. Mere shadows, liquefied. We know nothing, we are Nothing. That is the target.

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