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Constellations III – a choreography of minimal gestures

What are the consequences of blurring the chronological and thematic line, a point often essential (and even non-negotiable) in the public formalisation of an art collection? One tries to collect the stickers, sometimes great names or great works are reached. And, in luckier moments, great works created by great names. And, of course, this collectionism is important. The great stickers represent great contributions. But history is not only made by seeming great contributions. In fact, there are great contributions that have remained long in the limelight of history. Hidden by circumstances, fate or interests (often secondary to art), they were only recognised later. A typical problem of the collections focused on the great stickers is that, as in an album, the will is to have them all and show them all at once, using norms, guidelines and finally pre-conceived devices (by the damned history), where perhaps the lack of space for new proposals and articulations becomes a condition. How important is the proposal of a device that, when worked horizontally, dissolves movements, chronologies, and scales of importance and value?

(But there are criteria and expectations to be met, aren’t there? – it seems so.)

Constellations (III – a choreography of minimal gestures) is an exhibition (a moment) that belongs to a project that, under different signs, has been developed since 2011 by Ana Rito and Hugo Barata. The idea is to propose relations between specific works of art and that these operate as constellations – a (fictitious) drawing sketched through the connection of real reference points (stars!). The essential questions of this metaphor are that: first, each addition or subtraction of one or more stars causes a different drawing (and constellation); second, the different drawings caused by the connection of the stars, although fictitious, produce relationships and ideas. In Constellations, Ana and Hugo adopt this intuitive and natural gesture to man – to foresee connections between things – and make it operative, where, from an index already built, they reformulate and deepen already existing relationships through new dialogues.

As the title indicates, this is the third moment of the project (research), which has the permanent exhibition of the Museu Coleção Berardo as (and adopting terms used by the curators) working table, game board. Now on the second floor of the museum, where there is a selection of works of art produced between 1900-1950, this third moment has several interventions throughout the floor. As in the two previous moments (both in the post-1960 art collection), the aim is to create favourable conditions for the encounter. These encounters have different formal natures, not being limited to one rule or norm, but rather to five or six (or more). Throughout the exhibition, different gestures create relationships, focused on different empathies and connections.

This work is based on three fundamental movements: digging out the collection itself and bringing out works that, for lack of interest or “availability”, have been kept in boxes for too long; stirring up works that are already part of the permanent exhibition, to activate or revive them; and, finally, introducing works outside the collection (albeit temporarily).

(Constellations III): a choreography of minimal gestures – it was enough to open and see the contents of Boîte (serie c), a copy of the famous portable museum of Duchamp, to relive a work that has been kept anaemic for many years, obliterated by its own status, reduced to a representation of itself.

The gestures, though minimal, show great depth and range along the way. Mainly because they cause a feeling of familiarity, as if the changes made – the dialogues and proposed relationships – were somehow “obvious” – as the manifestation of something that was always there but needed to be activated. The dialogues established are close, tangible and vivid.

At the entrance of the floor, in the cubism wing, we can see, between a small painting by Picasso and a sculpture by Modigliani, arranged vertically on the wall, in a free arrangement and on tailor-made shelves, a set of eleven masks, ten African and one by the Portuguese artist Francisco Tropa. The African masks, recurrently expressed in a utilitarian way, as a distant reference and understood as a means to an end, acquire here the same status of work of art as Picasso’s painting or Modigliani’s sculpture. Not only is the relationship of dependence broken, but the transtemporality of the concept and object “mask” is also shown through the work of Tropa.

Several gestures and built relationships are visible on the second floor. We can see direct influence relations, such as that of a new room dedicated to Brâncuși, divided between this one and Claire Santa Coloma, formalizing a relation of influence already known; on one hand, we have sculptures of Santa Coloma, studio photographs of Brâncuși and his pieces, showing the universalism and timelessness of one and the plastic importance of the other; we also have a new constructivism, which not only keeps the drawings of the permanent exhibition but, to suggest to the observer what was potentially the new movement as a whole, now includes a wood and iron sculpture by Ângela Ferreira and also an excerpt of the film man with a movie camera by Dziga Vertov. Dadaism has its image renewed. A movement commonly associated with drawing and painting works, this segment now receives moving images and also a sound piece, genres quite associated with later artistic practices. And if the curators, on the one hand, try to strengthen or deepen the experience and the representation, often diminished, of these movements already represented in the collection, on the other hand, they focus on points that converge between them and also with contemporaneity. Thus, and with the same feeling of spontaneity, we can see, in direct relation, a video by João Penalva next to a painting by Francis Bacon, and also a painting by Lucio Fontana accompanied by photographs by Helena Almeida, among many others.

In total, there are 24 constellations in this third moment of intervention. Each constellation represents a starting point for a new dialogue, starting from new relationships or relationships rehearsed previously, or even historically known; some with formal nature, others informal. It is the search for a renewed articulation of what is the permanent exhibition, with the aim of finding, without artifices or tricks, stimuli within the lines already drawn, in the will to improve the representation of movements and, above all, to show the temporal transversality of art and its communicative ability.

Rui Gueifão (Almada, 1993), lives and works in Lisbon. He is graduated in Visual Arts by ESAD.CR and is also a master’s degree student of Philosophy-Aesthetics at FCSH – Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He has collaborated with different contemporary art related spaces and institutions as Museu Fundação Coleção Berardo, Caroline Pàges Gallery and Galeria Baginski. Since 2018 he has been producing different types of text work, having already contributed for publications and exhibition texts. He has been developing and exhibiting his artistic work since 2015.

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