What We Don’t Have, We Can Create at PADA Studios, Barreiro
“What the country doesn’t have, CUF creates,” said industrialist Alfredo da Silva during the production of Companhia União Fabril (CUF), in Baía do Tejo Park, located in Barreiro. One hundred and thirteen years after its foundation, PADA Studios wants to resume and continue this energy that transformed Barreiro in the 20th century, inviting artists to create in its old factory facilities.
The raw, rough and unfinished spaces, where no surface has been smoothed or painted, are a laboratory of experimentation. Their scale and amplitude allow various approaches and appropriations, impossible to achieve in many conventional exhibition venues. These features make PADA Studios a place where national and international artists can unexpectedly learn, experiment and live.
The exhibition What we Don’t Have, we Can Create brings together ten artists. Diogo da Cruz, Emma Hornsby, Erris Huigens, Jéssica Burrinha, João Ferro Martins, Luísa Jacinto, Paulo Arraiano, Sean Donovan, Timothy Yannick Hunter and In Limen propose different approaches in the old TINCO paint factory, taking into account its past, present and possible future.
Diogo da Cruz (1992, Lisbon) and Jéssica Burrinha (1993, Barreiro) have relatives who were CUF workers. Their relationship with this place has a different meaning. Diogo presents us with a dystopian future for this area in the form of a sculptural intervention. Futuro mais-que-perfeito takes the construction of the original model of the industrial park and places it in a future based on the opinions about the development of the region and the historical heritage of Barreiro.
In another perspective, Jéssica Burrinha aspires to a more ecological path, countering the local pollution caused by the factory during its operation. The artist places several squares of compacted earth on the ground, whose origin is the same as that of many of the former workers: the Alentejo. On the surface are recorded her footprints, which guide us to an escape and a compulsory emergency exit.
There is this imaginary marked by a repetitive rhythm, noise and exhaustion, elements associated with factory life and the daily work. This imaginary is very well portrayed in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. João Ferro Martins (1979, Portugal) and Sean Donovan (1987, Chicago, Illinois) bring together the sounds once heard in these spaces and perfectly recreate the notion of the factory.
The cymbals of Jorna Címbalos by João Ferro Martins echo “as long as there is a sun”, because the functioning of the engine, which triggers a plastic tip that hits each of the four cymbals, relies on solar energy. The sound repeated and provoked by the set during a full day is associated with the effort necessary to receive a salary or the payment for a day’s work.
Sean Donovan brings together factory sounds captured through a cardioid microphone and reflected on a curved wall made of fiberglass panels found on site. These sounds are then returned to space through an amplifier that exaggerates and distorts them, disorienting those who hear them. Leftovers evokes the rhythm of the sounds, marking the repetitive gestures of the tasks each worker had to perform, subject to that disturbing noise every day.
Emma Hornsby (1986, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom), on the other hand, reflects on the transformation of the landscape caused by mankind, based on how human activity has shaped and transformed Barreiro. In her words, the city is “suspended between obsolescence and “rebirth”. The attempt to contain water in a perfect circle is a metaphor for the game between man’s ambition and the resistance of the earth. The surface of the black hole reflects and replicates the space of the old factory, doubling its scale and intimidating with its emptiness, which deludes us like a bottomless pit.
A direct intervention on the architecture of the venue is made by Erris Huigens (1978, Netherlands). The mural Geen Titel (wall drawing) was painted from a distance by the hands of Tim Ralston, founder artist of PADA Studios. The painting brings together the industrial heritage of CUF as support. The deconstructed polygons suggest dualities such as construction and deconstruction, light and shadow, balance and imbalance.
Unlike Erris Huigens, Luísa Jacinto (1984, Lisbon) presents us with paintings on veils, arranged in a shoot house. The delicacy and lightness of the installation Campo de Batalha contrasts with the space and the violence of the activity practiced on the site. Its positioning, transparency, as well as the movement caused by the passage of spectators, suggest an uncertain and disorienting course. All the pieces create a single “crossable” painting.
A new physical and even spiritual paradigm is proposed by Paulo Arraiano (1977, Portugal). Pro-Sthesis is a reflection on the limits between the natural and the artificial, besides the approximation of these two realities sustained by a technological evolution and by the development of concepts such as Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Intelligence. A volcano active through a digital prosthesis, in this case a tablet, is inserted in a natural environment created in the space of the old factory. This suggests the existence of new hybrid species or biologically based machines.
In addition to Paulo Arraiano’s reflection, the video by Timothy Yannick Hunter (1990, Toronto, Canada) talks about other especially important issues today. Combining Portuguese colonialism, in particular the occupation of the territory of Mozambique, and the recent episodes associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, Acts of Persistence addresses issues such as racism and discrimination. Although centered on a colonialist past, they still exist today.
Finally, complementing the exhibited works, the cultural organization In Limen conceived for the inauguration an original edition of the performance series This is not a Magritte performance, in two acts. In the first, the spectators, blindfolded, were invited to listen to echoing voices. The performers Mariana Camacho and Sara Rodrigues walked through the venue in different rhythms, emitting sounds that were repeated, differentiated and/or alternated, back and forth. Suddenly, it was possible to identify the names of the numerous companies of the CUF conglomerate, between breaths and silence.
In the second act, already after the immersive experience, the spectators established a dialogue, asking questions to each other that were given to them in a closed envelope at the beginning of the performance. Questions related to pride, slavery and the suffering provided by work, or even an illusion of associated freedom.
What we Don’t Have, we Can Create is an exhibition where art is associated with history, from a future perspective. The works presented perpetuate the memory of the old factory and the arduous daily lives of its workers. They refer to the same current issues, such as climate change, technological evolution, discrimination, or social inequalities. The exhibition ends on October 31 at PADA Studios, in the industrial park Baía do Tejo in Barreiro. A publication about it will be released.