Life’s irreversibility is parallel to the force of the present. Life is driven, changed and commanded by the present, without recourse, retreat, renewal. At most, there is a transitory or preparatory hiatus, which precedes the next action. This is sometimes established by universal, systematic or societal events. Free will and the infinite possibilities that each life can have are absurd chimeras in a permanent “action-reaction law”. It is the possible life, always negotiated according to the circumstances of the present, without compromising the capacity to overcome.
In a reference to the popular saying “crying over spilt milk”, the exhibition Leite Derramado [Spilt Milk] at Zaratan – Arte Contemporânea is a joint effort on the inevitability of the present, of the unavoidable factuality that inexorably stares us in the face and we can’t forget or evade. In other words, it is a confrontation with the reality of the post-pandemic context, which does not mean – contrary to what it may seem – the overcoming or the full cure of the pandemic, but rather its acceptance in daily life, its inculcation in the daily routines of each individual or society, and the consequent re-signification of a life that is no longer what was and that must be understood, lived, experienced through a new prism.
A certain domesticity is amplified by the exhibition venue. Intimate scenes, small details, time contained, suspended, waiting for the action… The tension between a time that does not go back, a time that slowly ticks away or a time that is intended to be fleeting, impetuous or energetic exists in every moment of Leite Derramado. It is an omnitemporality that demands scrutiny and a deeper understanding of the phenomena of temporal dilation and contraction, to which we have been subjected by the pandemic and successive lockdowns.
This was also an opportunity for new productions or to reorganise archives and create new nexuses within it.
In his lockdown Frederico Brízida gives us back the body as a territory of pornographic exploration and search for a pleasure that seems to fade away and to become a dream. Also, in an association with the idea of landscape, Pedro Gramaxo allies new production to the restrictions of circulation and lockdown near places where nature abounds. Luísa Cunha recreates a work in plaster from 2007, physically underlining what could be the milk spilt in a corner of the room. Pedro Cabrita Paiva proposes to distort objects after a long period of boredom and apathy, where he “spent his time staring at the ceiling”. It is the melting of objects, of light, of what we took for granted until very recently; an object that changes state; a phallus that lost its vigour and now rests under the effect of the gravity of the current situation. Fábio Cunha exposes a moment of intimacy, boredom and challenge, where family life happens alongside a digital compulsion. It is the social imperatives, which join the family ones, that get mixed up with work. Sara & André rescue the leftovers from an exercise in exposing documents to the natural elements during lockdown.
Meanwhile, a cheese awaits decomposition. Or cure.
Each work expresses the mystique of each moment of frustration, melancholy, boredom, repetition common to all those who saw their daily life changed by the virus. But there is also humour, experimentation and pleasure – soothing for a heterogeneous and unheard-of reality, which demands confrontation and understanding.
But also visible is a combative effort to see in the spilt-milk-that-does-not-return-to-the-package a chance to face the tradition of a cultural sector that has become paralysed and, in some cases, without any support. The exhibition does not fail to look at the methods and contexts of production and to mirror the precarious and limited circumstances in which many artists work.
After all, certain systems are beyond maintenance or retraining. Many systems are beyond recovery and will die in the oblivion of others. If there is no point crying over spilt milk, there is also no point forgetting the carelessness or distraction that led us to spill it in the first instance.
Leite Derramado is at Zaratan – Arte Contemporânea until May 15, curated by Pedro Gramaxo.