My body, this paper, this fire, by Pedro Barateiro
Pedro Barateiro is an enthusiastic artist in social and political criticism. His work is interventionist and is not afraid to bother the vested interests. If any work is political, Barateiro’s body of work yells that fact. We find just that in the video that shares the title with the exhibition, My body, this paper, this fire, which had the first version in 2018 but was remade already this year. This video is based on the different student demonstrations between 1991 and 1994 against the increase in tuition fees and the proof of access to college education, which had a police and political aggressiveness now already forgotten. They also revealed an enraged student population, which Vicente Jorge Silva nicknamed Geração Rasca [a term coined to designate a generation with no qualities – approximately, Troubling Generation], an unfortunate nickname that in 2011 was adapted to Geração à Rasca [picks the word in Portuguese and changes the meaning of the word Rasca – Struggling Generation]. This video is narrated in the first person, as the artist confirms that he was present, although his voice is distorted. It reminds us of some reports in which, for security reasons, we only see distorted figures and voices, which end up being scary. It’s important to bear in mind that the artist only started to use his body and presence in the works after 2012. We wonder if this is still caused by some shyness.
My body, this paper, this fire shows not only the manifestations but also other moments like the summer music festivals; and the apposition of Barateiro’s narration refers to the imagery memorabilia of Woodstock 1969, which goes beyond the merely historical aspect and is already a sentimental memory. This work can be seen on the artist’s website and we advise people to check it before visiting the exhibition.
The exhibition starts with another video, Pensar em voz voz alta (2006), where we see a bicycle trip to the eastern part of Lisbon. In the end, the narrator explains that she wanted to travel around the city with a piece of paper. And, yes, the journey is made with a long straw of white paper. This journey is also made by us, as spectators confronted with urban places, without the embellishment forced by the tourist perspective. We simply look at the places where the cyclist passes by, in long windy and libertarian journeys. She ends up ditching the unrolled paper, in a performative attitude, typical in Barateiro, whose performative works have stood out and served as a base for other efforts.
This is the case of A Viagem Invertida (2019), a sculptural ensemble that comes from a performance at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, in April 2019, with Raw Forest, Luís Guerra and Lula Pena on the exploitation of lithium and its different uses. The set now on display recalls some of Joseph Beuys’ works, which is particularly interesting due to the political, social and environmental critique side of his work, including the juxtaposition of the materials used and a gleaning character, whose echoes we find in Barateiro. Being a performance takes away some room for interpretation, but gives us an archaeological impetus, as if it were a spoil, including even a chair that appears to us as the place before what appears to be a geometric mapping of the floor.
b2b (2016) are small gouache paintings, based on a premise of seriation and typing, where this suggests pictorial variations, whilst also referring to an idea of sketching and study. They could be chromatic studies for a final work that never exists. Barateiro has assumed, at different times, that his work process is exhaustive. In b2b, he makes it an exhibition work, in an attitude with a vast history in Art History.
In the different works exhibited, the working process becomes deeply important. There is no cleaning, no attempt at ornamenting, there is only raw art, where the paintings are frameless and can even be on the floor. It’s deeply political and demanding art, where doing is part of being. The artist is a worker, who sculpts, glues and paints. He’s an editor, director of photography and narrator of his work. Pedro Barateiro’s art is critical and political. In our times, this artistic attitude seems essential.
Until 31 January 2021, at Casa da Cerca, Almada.