Interview with Diogo Bolota: Between The Defect and the Neglect
The solo exhibition Defeito Desfeito by the artist Diogo Bolota at the Quartel da Arte Contemporânea de Abrantes – Coleção Figueiredo was inaugurated just over three months ago, curated by Luísa Especial. And, having followed the evolution of his work in recent times (and the developments of some of the works presented in this exhibition), I was still suddenly surprised when confronted and placed in a position of ecstasy.
Defeito Desfeito is a meticulously presented exhibition, full of clues, analogies, that provoke us “with humour”. It’s as if the artist’s imagination comes to life. As if this world of characters, of mouths, of old age or the falsehood they represent contained a universe of emotional identification, a possible breach on the exterior that allows us to discover the interior.
And, if the exhibition resounds even from a distance, in the memory of these days, are these mouths, this kiss, this announced eroticism, these tongues, this touch, also a harbinger of this confinement?
Carolina Trigueiros – Defeito Desfeito is probably your biggest solo exhibition, with eleven never-seen-before works of sculpture, drawing, painting, installation. Were the new pieces developed with this exhibition in mind? How do you see this relationship with the different practices and what is the stimulus that causes different forms of materialization?
Diogo Bolota – This whole project started in 2018. It was a consequence of the enormous challenge of reinterpreting Brancusi’s Le baiser, or an idea of “kissing”. But this research progressed to look at the part of the face that does the kissing as something that is “precedes” the mouth. In other words, the skeleton, the denture.
Until the Defeito Desfeito exhibition, and taking into account that most of the projects to which I had been invited until then had taken place in narrow spaces or with very specific characteristics, I was shaping the projects to those environments. It was as if, for each intervention, the pieces were placed in a sleeping bag with the same size as the enveloping space. In other words, my works have been more like little “tales” than major “novels”.
By being able to occupy the Quartel de Abrantes, I finally had the possibility of building a “sentence” with the necessary contents to allow my work to breathe.
The difference is between producing a body of work with several “adjectives”, “names”, “verbs”; or having to say the same sentence with fewer nuances.
Defeito Desfeito is an exhibition, but it is essentially a body of work produced and selected from the studio. That’s where this stimulus that you talk about came from, and the possibility that each of the practices can leverage different ideas on the same subject.
The relationship I have with each one has always been very different. It can be conceptual, formal or simply a challenge to my abilities, based on a will to want to do. But the relationship I establish between all of them is the central point of my interest. It’s like a map that, to be decoded, requires the mastery of several languages. I do not consider myself to be a polyglot! I prefer to leave that to the viewer.
CT – In this exhibition, I think that several dimensions coexist, which makes the exhibition acquire a heterogeneous pace. On the one hand, there is a great deal of circumspection and reflection – due to the time of production, maturation and analysis of each of the works. On the other hand, some innocence remains intact. As if a “spontaneity” that we associate mainly with childhood is preserved. Can you talk about this duality?
DB – The development of this work lasted as long as necessary. Each exhibition is always like the first. Although the innocence of childhood remains intact, as you suggest, and this reinforces the “virginity” that confronts our gaze, each gesture was conscious.
The work is the silence of the child, who waits his turn to be heard, as when he puts his finger in the air in the classroom to make a question.
Defeito Desfeito is the undoing of the prejudices we have when we daily look at this artistic practice and can think about it together with the associated randomness. At the apex of the montage, the piece Quero, Posso e Mando-me (central in the way it aggregates the whole old Quartel, the exhibition space) was solved. The network that establishes an almost invisible plane in the space was arranged vertically, pillar by pillar when initially another position was expected. I’m interested in this threshold of risk that the pieces summon up, which allows pre-established ideas to be superimposed by the “autonomous” voices of the works.
CT – The key elements of Defeito Desfeito are located in the “mouth region: tongues, teeth and dentures”. As indicated in the curatorial text, “they are subject to aggregations and various states, such as restless, mutative characters, who move between works with different performances, doing things”. Elements that usually associated with fear, insecurities and a certain passage from one state to another (from childhood to adolescence; old age). Do you think that this exhibition is also a moment of transition? As if it were a new stage in your body of work?
DB – The work, when looking at itself in the mirror, says: “I AM THIS”, such in the piece Retrato which is part of the exhibition. However, it was during the process that I realized that its outcome was forced on me. The body of work that I present here is not a moment of transition, because some of these issues emerged long ago.
In our life, we have secrets. The unlocking of a secret can be our greatest release. To be an artist is to have a key to open a door as much as necessary: closed, ajar, open. To exhibit can be like revealing part of a secret, to subject it to a life that rebuilds it.
Time goes by, we grow old, the exhibition continues to gather dust. And what I hope will be reformulated is only “our” look with the passing of time.
CT – How did your look, given this exhibition, evolved during the pandemic period? When we finally can visit this exhibition and the works, how will things be?
DB – The stop caused by the pandemic has made me look at this exhibition as an omen that had mentioned to issues that are now being mentioned during this period. I’m referring to the passage of time and the fact that we can do nothing to reverse it (in the exhibition, this is depicted by the accumulation of patina on the supports); our fragile condition as human beings in the face of time or ageing, the vulnerability represented by the “denture”.
As far as my view of the exhibition is concerned, I believe that the relevance of the issues raised remains. In some cases, it is even more pronounced concerning what we are experiencing.
However, when we adapt to quarantine, and because we have not yet returned to Abrantes, it is difficult to predict. Just as it is not yet time to assimilate the new reality, I have not been able to fully digest an exhibition that is still going on and whose doors will reopen on May 18.
Diogo Bolota was born in Lisbon, where he also works. He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture (Degree) in 2012 and completed the MA Drawing at the University of Arts of London in 2013.
He has been exhibiting his work since 2014. Among the group exhibitions, we highlight Escuta à procura de som (2019) at the Consulate General of Portugal in São Paulo, Nome do meio (2018) at the Moradia, Cidade Jardim (2017) at the Galeria Diferença, Babel (2015) at Miguel Justino Contemporary Art and the Canto Chanfrado (2014) at the Espaço Avenida 211.
Individually, he exhibited Sinalefa (2016) at the Mu.sa, Esgaravatar (2016) at the Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida, Objectar (2016) at the Museu Geológico e Sabotagem (2015) at the Ilha no Maus Hábitos, Oporto.
He has participated in several residencies, he is part of private collections and has his work published in Caixa Negra (Saco Azul) and by the Editora da Fundação de Serralves. In 2017, he was appointed to the Novo Banco Revelação, Fundação de Serralves. In 2019, he was a resident artist at the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado.