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The aestheticization of the archive, Materials Lab by Fernanda Fragateiro at the Appleton

Whether it is a workstation or a materials lab, Fernanda Fragateiro, in Appleton’s square, stages relationships between different working tools, usually found in art studios: books, sketches; a small drawing of a pattern provokes repetitions and attempts; we encounter variations of previous works and references to other artists – On Kawara, for example, becomes a simple material with specific physical and conceptual qualities, at the artist’s disposal. While we analyse this archive, we find wreckage and remains of materials typical of F. Fragateiro’s work, organized inside boxes, as if it were an early archaeological record.

The studio as a work, the research as a purpose, the exhibition as a process of investigation. A project-based on tricky terrain. It seems to want to be an installation, invading the field of sculptural tradition (and not only that), while also affirming “I am nothing, a possible work, not yet consummated”, feeding and defending itself through its ambivalence. Materials Lab lives between existing or not as a work; and it is a symptom of the aestheticization of thought, of the current fascination by the unfinished image of a work in progress.

Boris Groys states that the important things for a culture are placed in the archive, while the others remain in the profane space. In a way, this is the original point of the interplay proposed by Fernanda Fragateiro in Materials Lab, in agreement and contradiction, like what she had already done in one of the MAAT rooms in 2017. The archive as a vault, which holds sacred things, but also a vehicle for an aesthetic experience. After all, the installation – let’s call it that – at Appleton is no longer a place of accumulation (of ideas), a device that has a theatrical “function”, close to that of minimalism.

I also heard B. Groys stating in a conference that the main issue of conceptual art was always to have been misinterpreted. Artists and critics affirmed the superiority of language over image. But language only ceases to be an image for those who have the required codes: Kosuth’s work cannot be about language for someone who does not understand English. I say this because Materials Lab has historical documents, magazines and books that also seem to me to have no meaning. I do not read them (nor do I feel that they must be read), I see them only as volumes. Rectangles of different colours, which interact with other rectangles (those in boxes, for example), creating grids and formal compositions – sculpture, painting and architecture, as always. According to the perspective of B. Groys, I do not understand this work of F. Fragateiro through the perspective of the singularity of the various archived objects. To me, it seems a visual essay from the physical experience of an archive. The human attraction for tidying up the world in boxes, for labelling and for the conservationist impulse visible inside houses, studios and when looking at nature. Something that, since the second half of the 20th century, has been seducing artists.

An aestheticization of thought, which turns ideas into images.

Until 31 July, at Appleton, Lisbon.

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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