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Overlay by Diana Policarpo, at the Lehmann + Silva

“Pangolins had been the most trafficked wild mammal in the world for at least two centuries, more than rhinos, elephants and tigers combined. In 2220 there were no more rhinos, elephants, and only a few scattered tigers in Asia. Pangolins had also been mostly wiped out as a wild species. The majority of the remaining specimens were (in)bred in farms to be trafficked.” Quote taken from the sci-fi short story written by Diana Policarpo (1986, Lisbon) in collaboration with Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, entitled The Living Currency, based on the 1970 essay by Pierre Klossowski. A reading proposal by the artist, together with a visit to her exhibition Overlay at the Lehmann + Silva (Porto), open until August 1st, 2020.

The Living Currency happens in a post-apocalyptic future, where most of the world’s population has disappeared due to climate change, wars and diseases, such as cancer and COVID-19. Likewise, most species have been extinct. Pangolins are the most endangered. In addition to being at the starting point of the zoonotic process, through which SARS-CoV-2 travelled from animals to humans, these animals continued to be killed. Their skin is used in traditional Chinese medicine, their meat is consumed as a delicacy and used as currency because coin-making materials have run out. Oona, the main character, managed to salvage some of these animals. She lives on a farm in Arizona, turned into a sanctuary for this endangered species. Her goal is to create a substitute for the pangolin skin, which can be manufactured in large quantities to the point of market saturation, decreasing its value and the need to hunt and raise these animals. With good energy reserves, due to the hours of sunshine in the surrounding area – which still faces disruption – and little contact with other human beings, Oona continues to do several experiments, keeping track of atmospheric and astral events. At the same time, she tries to measure the different types of radiation, absorbing it with her own body, or the electromagnetic transmissions, believing herself to be a sun-worshipper.

Overlay by Diana Policarpo puts us in a sci-fi tale, which, according to the title, unfurls in different layers. According to the exhibition text, written by Ana Anacleto, “in the gallery, we are invited to enter a different universe: a world where visual matter and sound matter intersect, where a set of language systems is combined, where different geographic and chronological dimensions interconnect and where the perceptual conditions established by the artist condition and stimulate any meaning production process”. On the exhibition’s first floor, we feel the sun’s heat, as in Oona’s world, in an environment covered in yellow, in contrast with a set of serigraphs and metal sculptures, resembling drawings that stand out three-dimensionally from the gallery’s walls or floor. When we go down to floor -1, we are surprised by a sound installation called The Ultimate Capital is the Sun, conceived by Diana Policarpo, made with a collection of sounds of solar matter compiled by scientists and found in NASA archives. These sounds can be heard on semi-circular stools, enveloped by the same yellow light that receives us in the previous room and which underlines the futuristic and post-apocalyptic tone of the text.

The artist’s first solo exhibition at the Galeria Lehmann+Silva, akin to what was proposed in the multimedia installation Death Grip (2019) at MAAT, involves the visitor through the coherence and association between research, text, visual and sound content. It makes us submerge and question the different codes of communication and language, climate change, the preservation of the Earth, economic models, and energy production.

Annie Martins (Porto, 1990) co-founder of the curatorial collective Hera, is a master's student in Art Studies - Museological and Curatorial Studies at FBAUP. She was also a researcher at the CHIC Project, supporting the integration of artist films in the Portuguese National Cinema Plan and in the Online Catalog of Films and Videos of Portuguese Artists. Graduated in Cinema by ESTC-IPL (2007-2010) and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP (2013-2017) collaborates as Art Director in fictions and television programs, and recently started writing for Umbigo Magazine.

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