Ophiussa Ex Machina, by Ricardo Barbeito

Ricardo Barbeito presents Ophiussa Ex Machina at the Thirdbase, until the end of July. The work is the immediate result of the time he spent in the fifth season of artistic residencies, together with Adriana Proganó. More than an exhibition, after all, there could be several, it is a project with intricate ramifications, a consequence of several months of research and conception. The artist told us a little about his markedly narrative logic.

Ricardo Barbeito – The title Ophyusa ex-machina is inspired by an expression of the Greek tragedy Deus Ex Machina, which refers to an unreasonable situation, which has no meaning in reality, but is nonetheless found in the plot. Being a shambolic solution, it can close the story.

[On the top floor], the cigarette machine allows visitors to pick up routes/itineraries from a book that talks about the Lisbon sidewalks. The first of the three references of this project is the book Empedrados artísticos de Lisboa, a mapping of the drawings, patterns, structure and how the Lisbon sidewalks are made. I used these itineraries and created an object. So, besides intervening with pieces in a space, I suggest new routes and new ways to know the city. Three itineraries were then created. Each one has an image of a stone I collected and two starting points (one for departure and one for arrival, without any order). In between, the other points draw a route. These “tour kits”, as I call them, are shaped like a cigarette pack and can be bought in the machine. Also, they carry a pricking kit. In other words, when we get to the places [marked on the map], we open holes in the sheet of paper, which can then be juxtaposed on some other map – a metaphorical expansion of the territory, through the act of touring other places.

Another reference is an article from the 1920s, published in the newspaper Diário de Lisboa – which later led me to the book –, entitled Pornografia by Joaquim Manso. It speaks of a disembodied city, “that sensualizes itself with such a fever that it seems as if the sidewalk stones are igniting fire”.

The third reference is the Greek myth about the foundation of the city of Lisbon and its seven hills, related to Ulysses. The myth says that this was a land inhabited by snakes (hence the name Ophiussa, for the Greeks), ruled by a half-woman, half-serpent queen, who let no one settle. Ulysses, during his journey, passed through here. The queen fell in love with him and he convinced her to create the most beautiful city in the world, Ulyssia. But Ulysses departed in secrecy, causing the queen great grief. Consumed by despair and anguish, she created the trail that gave rise to the hills of the city.

When I did the three walks through Lisbon, besides capturing images, collecting stones, and making some frottages and moulds of the city’s details (etc.), one of the things I noticed is that the sidewalk is always in a poor condition. There are always stones about to come loose. From then on, I associated the disintegration of the sidewalk with the energy left by the mythical snake queen. Obviously, it’s a metaphor, but that’s what led to collecting stones and making moulds, which are the capture of parts of objects, such as the fountain, the trough and the drinking fountain. It is also a question connected to the memory of these places. In turn, through the stone moulds, I created clusters, which constitute these “skins”. They are fictitious constructions, in which I used several patterns from the book and the drawings I made, all part of this exhibition.

For this reason, the installation [at the Thirdbase] is divided into three nuclei: the sidewalk skin (which can be the city’s skin); the realistic drawing of the stones; and the sculptures made of paper tape, which capture the forms of architectural details. Then, using the realistic drawings of the stone as well, I created these drawings which I call “enlarged drawings”, where I put the stone on paper. And, with the tape, I then transfer the drawing and the dirt – as if they were the stones’ fingerprints – to a different sheet.

Until 31.07.2020, at the Thirdbase, in 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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