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Maiden Voyage, at MONITOR Lisbon

Between space and time, the referential system of the work of art is altered and transformed into a set of changing routes, where the starting point is the unknown landscape. However, this is the moment that constitutes the background on which the artistic processes are developed.

The journeys are multiple and the beginning of the route becomes a crossed topography by the hands of Mattia Tosti, curator of the exhibition Maiden Voyage. What do the clues tell us about the early works by Alexandre Singh, Guido van der Werve, Laurent Montaron, Nathaniel Mellors and Ursula Mayer?

First, we immerse ourselves in Readings (2005) by Laurent Montaron. The past and foreboding unfold in fortune-telling readings, where our inner voice analyses the oracle’s messages. Between text and image, an astronomical observatory is subtly opened to the sky. The astrophysicist observes the stellar past and reflects on the cosmological future, on what he sees and what he asks us to see. The artist invites us to reflect on astrology and astronomy. At what point in time did they separate? Or is this separation above all a symbolic construction where the human being himself, by opposition, mixes reason and myth, cosmology and cosmogony?

Keeping the existential thread running, Guido van der Werve presents us Suicide no 8945 till 8948 (2001). The young artist explores the performance of a cyclical suicidal gesture, where the act is consummated, but the body remains alive, as if the violence of the action were paradoxically dissipated in repetition. However, the body that insists on not dying is the filmed performer, an evocation that becomes an image and confronts us with death itself. Paradox and social criticism continue in MAGOOHANSOC (2005) by Nathaniel Mellors, where a parody character embodies a neo-liberal British aesthetic while delivering a seemingly political, but absurd and ironic speech.

In the gallery’s second room, Ursula Mayer presents Interiors (2006), a house where two women go through intimate spaces without ever physically meeting. In a reference to the history of modernist architecture, where male dominance is evident, they both fix their gaze on a kinetic sculpture by the artist Barbara Hepworth.

A final work, The Mark of the Third Stripe (2007) by Alexandre Singh, is projected onto the gallery wall. Various computer-generated abstract symbols and patterns accompany the voices that narrate the reimagined story of the Adidas founder. In a dystopian world, the modernist company rules and physically and spiritually subjugates the population. The narrated story is further developed in the writing of a book that complements the project.

In the Maiden Voyage exhibition, there is the pleasure of reversing the horizon line. In this exercise proposed by the curator, instead of walking forward in search of the works to come, we go backwards to discover what gave rise to these artists’ body of work.

Final note: As a complement to the exhibition, Mattia Tosti has invited five writers/curators to reflect on the works presented in Maiden Voyage: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva on Laurent Montaron’s Readings; João Silvério on Suicide no 8945 till 8948 by Guido van der Werve; José Pardal Pina on MAGOOHANSOC by Nathaniel Mellors; Ana Cachola on Interiors by Ursula Mayer; Luís Silva on The Mark of the Third Stripe by Alexandre Singh. The texts are available in the gallery space and are a fundamental body of work to deepen the artists’ work.

Maiden Voyage, at MONITOR Lisbon, in Lisbon, until 28 May 2021.

Margarida Alves (Lisbon, 1983). Artist, PhD student in Fine Arts (FBAUL). Researcher by the University of Lisbon. Degree in Sculpture (FBAUL, 2012), Master in Art and Glass Science (FCTUNL & FBAUL, 2015), Degree in Civil Engineering (FCTUNL, 2005). She is a resident artist in the collective Atelier Concorde. Collaborates with national and foreign artists. Her work has an interdisciplinary character and focuses on themes associated with origin, otherness, and historical, scientific and philosophical constructions of reality.

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