Velvetnirvana at the Pavilhão Branco
Blasting through the speakers, Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, an iconic English punk and alternative rock band that lived between 1976-78. After the Sex Pistols, Sparks, New Order, Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith, among many others, appeared. An endless playlist following us in the different rooms of the two floors of the Pavilhão Branco. This was the starting point for the exhibition, which also exists to be listened to.
Velvetnirvana is the name. This exhibition, based on the collection of António Neto Alves and curated by Miguel von Hafe Pérez, has flyers, posters, photographs, editions, books, drawings and some memorabilia from the period between the first appearances of the Velvet Underground, around 1965, and the date of the death of Nirvana’s leader Kurt Cobain, in 1994. The period is no accident. The introduction to the exhibition reveals the desire to portray a “radicality” that is transversal to the cultural scene of this period, which is still felt today. It is the result of a disruptive and nonconformist creative attitude, which sought to flex the limits of music (and visual arts), but also of the different ways of communicating them.
A “(…) complex iconographic universe, which defines the importance of the word and the image as constructors of meaning, of disruptors in the way of communicating (…)”. Miguel von Hafe Pérez thus presents Velvetnirvana – an opportunity to clarify the importance of the relationship (at that time still embryonic) between the visual arts and music, its ramifications. But also how this relationship allowed to fortify and/or to potentiate ideas and concepts of many musical projects. This resulted in a cultural and social dynamic that ends up defining us still today.
The exhibition, divided by the four rooms and the two floors of the Pavilhão Branco, has four central nuclei: Velvet Underground, Nova Iorque experimental, Incandescência punk and, in the fourth and last, the suggestive Pós?. In addition to (ingenious) concert posters, photographs of performances and backstage, we can see original photographs by Rita Carmo of the Nirvana concert in Cascais in 1994, photographs by Pedro Fradique of the 1993 Sonic Youth show in Campo Pequeno; and even poems and editions by Patti Smith or drawings by William S. Burroughs. There is also Warhol’s banana or Velvet Underground & Nico’s first record, not forgetting Paulo Nozolino’s unprecedented presentation of a polyptych of five enlarged Polaroids. With this exhibition, Miguel von Hafe Pérez wanted, through all these different records, initially idealized and conceived without exhibition pretensions, to create “an indexical cartography”, allowing us to reflect on this period and the new relations between the universe of fine arts and that of music.
For me, velvetnirvana made it possible to remember (and (re)discover). A moment essentially conceived by the playlist, which does not make it a cult exhibition or something directed towards a specific generation. It allows the younger generations, who do not have in their memory (or in their spirit) the 70s, 80s and 90s, to feel the images with movement (and life). I believe this is what Miguel von Hafe Pérez, as someone who perhaps fondly recalls the experience and/or influence of this period, wanted to provide – a remembrance with a musical escort, stimulating the imagination and creating a relationship of intimacy and recognition with the viewer, even the youngest one. This reinforces the relevance of the word-image relationship as “constructors of meaning”, as mentioned in the text.
To see until September 29, at the Municipal Galleries | Pavilhão Branco, Lisbon.