Liebestod – Amor e Morte: Vasco Araújo at Sismógrafo

Liebestod – Amor e Morte by Vasco Araújo, curated by Bruno Marques, is at Sismógrafo until May 15, 2021. The exhibition proposes a reflection on romantic love, passion and its impossibility, using video and installation. This is the consequence of an investigation by the artist, with interviews with psychoanalysts from Azerbaijan and Germany, who analyse the operas Tristan and Isolde and Leyli and Majnun to answer questions about the meaning of love, the relationships of the protagonists, disillusionment and loss. The spectators ask themselves: is death the solution to eternal love?

Curator Bruno Marques clarifies in the exhibition text: “Vasco Araújo dismantles the artifice where the rhetoric of drama lies. As an exercise in deconstruction, if the artist reveals to the spectator the codes, fallacies and contradictions of the narrative and the staging of the operatic spectacle, the spectator hands over to him the innocence of their imaginary, so that their awareness of the traps of romantic love may be strained”. When we walk beyond the black curtains at the entrance of Liebestod, we enter a blackened installative environment, lit only by occasional blue lights, which point to various paintings, with excerpts of texts and images that we will later see in the video presented at the back of the auditorium-shaped room.

Liebestod, first presented in 2019 in Azerbaijan, builds on the four-act structure of Leyli and Majnun, making a spatial, narrative and syntactic deconstruction. A juxtaposition of moving images, texts and photographs; of fiction, in the bucolic landscapes, with expressive colouring, sounded by the operas; of documentary, in the interviews made to psychoanalysts; and of two orally eternalised legends, both about tragic love – one from Western culture and the other from Eastern culture, from Christianity and Islam, showing the universality and timeliness of the theme.

The exhibition uses cinematographic montage as a syntactic, narrative and spatial operation. The link between the visual arts and cinema has a long history, with different forms, practices and theoretical investigations. Delfim Sardo, in O Exercício Experimental da Liberdade (2017), states that this relationship arises: “Firstly, as a mutual process of reference (…). Secondly, as an operative process: the visual arts absorbed the editing and editing mechanisms of cinema (…). Finally, cinema entered the universe of visual arts as a spatial device”. This idea of montage refers back to Eisenstein, whose assumption is the combination of two parts to create a new concept, an idea of total work, just as Vasco Araújo explores Tristan and Isolde/Leyli un Majnun, fiction/documentary, spatiality/images in movement. In the same sense, we recall Wagner and his Gesamtkunstwerk, supported by theatre and opera, in the joining of knowledge and artistic practices to arrive at a totalising art. In Liebestod, the various juxtapositions create an installation environment beyond the reality of the curtains that limit the exhibition, as if it were a set.

Finally, still under Eisenstein’s dialectical montage, it is important to mention Aby Warburg’s proposal, Atlas Mnemosyne. It is a conception of the history of art, with several analogies. A space dedicated to thought and analysis, through the identification of Pathosformel. A concept that, as Delfim Sardo says, “we can try to translate into formulas of pathos, i.e., a formulation of art history as a recurrence of shared emotions, of emotional communities from survivals and resurgences of movements”. Curiously, Pathosformel is the name of the exhibition project that Vasco Araújo inaugurated in the Gallery of the School of Arts of the UCP at the end of last year, an interdisciplinary work. Just as in Liebestod, it is a deconstruction of the way we relate to the world and the other. An aggregation of various artistic practices, signs and narratives about desire, love and illusion, allowing new questions through the references presented.

Liebestod – Amor e Morte, at Sismógrafo until 7 pm on May 15, 2021.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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