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A man should always have an occupation of some kind – Fernando Brito at Sismógrafo

The most recent exhibition by Fernando Brito (Pampilhosa da Serra, 1957), A man should always have an occupation of some kind, at Sismógrafo, to open on August 1, 2020, curated by Óscar Faria, invites us to a confrontation with Western Art History, to question the idea of authorship and to reflect on the dichotomy between reality and fiction, using humour and irony in the appropriation of languages, such as those of Marcel Duchamp, Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray or Jeff Koons.

The title that gives the exhibition its name was taken from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895, London), a tragicomedy that feeds Fernando Brito’s exhibition. The various artistic practices on display were created over two decades and constitute three groups, distinguished by reinterpreting significant works of art from modernism and postmodernism, a series of paintings associated with German abstract expressionism, and a set of illustrations for the book “The Budonguian Civilization”.

Óscar Faria, in the text about the exhibition project, clarifies: “Although it can be interpreted as a farce, the exhibition proposes a reflection about art as a linguistic game. When referring to other contexts, real or fictional, the objects at Sismógrafo are signs, whose signifiers and signified are revealed from a grammar, where the words copy, edition, irony, appropriation, pastiche, vanguard, neo-vanguard, modernism, mimesis, ready-made, etc. often appear”. In the unique gallery space, with white walls and a red carpet-lined floor, stand out Roda de Bicicleta (2007), a bicycle wheel upside down on a wooden bench, Rainbow SE (2015), a vacuum cleaner in an acrylic glass box with a nine lamp system, Secador de garrafas (2015) in red and grey plastic, Viúva (2020), a vertical structure in aluminium profile, Cabeça de touro (2007), a saddle and handlebar, and As Tentações de Santo Antão (2020), three flat irons with metal skewers. We also highlight Papa (2020), a table in three-layered foil, displaying Pinturas alemãs (2020) and 69 ilustrações para o livro “A civilização Budonguiana” (2016-19), which appeared about six thousand years ago.

Fernando Brito has a degree in Plastic Arts – Painting by ESBAL (1983) and was a guest member of the group Homeoestética (Portugal, Proença, Ivo, Vieira, Xana) from 1985. His integration in the artistic movement, which emerged in Lisbon in the early 1980s, is fundamental to understand his art, by using humour as a criticism, by adopting the marginal attitude of Dadaist influence and his anthropophagic practice – that is, the free use of the language of different artists. In the documentary 6=0 Homeoestética by Bruno de Almeida, with a script by Jorge Ramos do Ó, we understand that “the focus, in Budonga, a totally absurd metaphor, allows us to better ascertain the group’s logic of self-sharing. The concept appeared in an anecdote, which talked about sacrifice and death by anal rape. In the homeoesthetic dictionary, Budonga started to mean the process of automatic exchange and the mechanics of the inventiveness of movement. Budonga would be that dreamt place, where each one freely used the imagination of others. (…) Budonga was also the name of a mythical city, supposedly before the Mesopotamian civilization”. As such, the series of illustrations mentioned, created between 2016-19, gives continuity to the homeoesthetic legacy in Fernando Brito’s work, also visible in “A man should always have an occupation of some kind”. The artist, at the inauguration, explained that “Budonga appeared in a novel I made with Pedro Proença, 18 pages long, in the 1980s”.

Finally, the text of the exhibition also contains the first act of a play, which puts Fernando Brito in dialogue with the pieces on display, with humour and irony.

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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