Rezo os dentes da tua boca, by Fábio de Carvalho
“Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see.” Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida.
I remember the first gesture: with my right arm, I push aside a black curtain. And I enter a room illuminated by red lights, inhabited by instants crystallised on paper: photographs with different dimensions placed on the walls, one on the floor, and one suspended by wires connected to the ceiling. The sensation was that I was surrounded by ghostly whispers, kinds of evidence that seemed to pull me forward, to a utopian time, or to report myself back. I was in an intimate place, composed of the choices of a gaze that composed; that observed and chose an object or a moment to be kept.
The red lights are a reference to the photographic darkroom. A space where the magic of chemistry happens (alchemy?). Capturing light and transcribing it to paper is a spell of modernity. There is a fascination for this method that digital photography does not possess. In this sense, the exhibition Rezo os dentes da tua boca by Fábio de Carvalho is effective. Effective because it transports bodies and pushes them to experience the atmosphere of photographic processing and discovery, of the image in its embryonic stage, of the “taking shape” of the photograph in particular, but also of the creative process that the artist constructs and deconstructs.
The photographs on display do not express a singular narrative. They are manifestations of what Roland Barthes defines as the “spectrum” of photography. A word that maintains, through its root, a relationship with “spectacle”. They are images-indices of the encounter between lens-gaze and a moment that has passed; adding that something terrible that lies in every photograph: the return of the dead. As José Pardal Pina writes in the exhibition text, Rezo os dentes da tua boca is not so much about what is portrayed, but rather an investigation into the nature of photography, its materiality and limits.
Besides the installation composed of photographs and red lights, in the exhibition room there is an intentionally uncovered window, as other windows are covered. From inside we see fractions of the building and trees. We see a delimitation of the outer life, the everyday life and the present moment. The presence of this framing contrasts the suspended image of the photos and also refers to another technical process of photography: the viewfinder as an optical device.
Fábio de Carvalho seeks, with his conception of an exhibition set-up, to set the visitor’s body in motion. A phenomenological exercise in photography, which begins when the curtains are opened. The exhibition is at Sala do Lado, in Lisbon, until May 31, 2021, subject to prior booking.