Amadora-3, by Diogo Brito
In Diary of a Bad Year, J. M. Coetzee wrote something like “we are not born outside a State”. Or something like that.
When we are born, we are given a number, an address, a name, a nationality, an ID. Without having any chance from birth, a State is forced upon us, a system, a latent fiction that lies dormant until adulthood, and, from then on, we are expected to perform its acts, thoughts and omissions. From the electoral vote to the IRS, from the censuses to illness, it is the ever-present State – Deus Ex-Machina ad nauseam, ad finem, ad mortem –, supported by a bureaucratic, Kafkaesque apparatus – the so-called system.
And Kafkaesque is a term used here with proper accuracy: the young adult grows up to become the protagonist of The Trial. Until then, he is cradled by the system, nurtured, loved, to then be violated with counters, forms, administrative offices, credits, documents, paperwork, lots of paperwork, and then some more paperwork.
Adult life becomes a theatre, a performance – without a script, without text or context, without any preparation beforehand. After all, school is an abstraction and college is a theoretical problem.
Amadora-3 by Diogo Brito is a hilarious and delirious account of the artist’s clash against the State machine, the appalling system. Unclassifiable, unqualified, the artist is a problem for the system. His production is not objective or regular, let alone regulated or ruled. For society, the result is useless. And the work of art is something that exists in the field of uncertainty and doubt.
Only approximations are possible, albeit never exact, perennially subject to incomputable deviations.
Sitting on the chair of the tax office departments, what is the artist? How can he define himself and his practice? He is an artist, of course, but of what kind? For each type of artist, there is a code. A circus artist? A performance artist? Or “Other artists”: CAE 2015? The contemporary artist, multidisciplinary by nature, is anything he wants to be: painter, sculptor, actor, writer, embroiderer, even a clown or, if you prefer, and though unlikely, a bullfighter.
In these anecdotal misunderstandings, in these cartoonish moments where the farce stands before the machine, Amadora-3 happens – the address of the Tax Office (that monolithic entity) where the artist opened activity and therefore began his fiction.
But Brito jeopardizes the narrative, takes it from the vaults and drawers of the bureaucratic system, and writes a different, subversive one, according to his will, where he mocks the established norms, those expectations, and the machine itself, which, faced with the artist’s work, does not know what to do, expect or process.
Brito presents himself at the tax office like someone who arrives at a swimming pool: wearing bathing trunks, with a swim cap, swimming goggles and a towel. Meanwhile, the official introduces him to so-called adult life, the life of a taxpayer, and then makes him dive into the turquoise waters, aimlessly sailing with the tide. It’s an ordeal of physical and mental effort. But it is also a pantomime.
The exhibition is an essay on artistic activity, the social, political, and economic reality of the artist, whose representation is so fragile that it is incapable of imposing itself on the leviathan and claim a moratorium for a de-formatting process, for what cannot be defined or exist outside a taxonomic, systematised and programmed logic. When change is impossible, all that remains is to make fun of the established rules, with the hope of creating a sufficiently plausible and pleasant nexus to exist lucidly and, by the way, outside fiction.
The spectators find in Amadora-3 whatever they want to see: a cry of revolt, a youthful romanticization of the spirit of change, a stage for the performance of life, of the day-to-day grind, a joke, a plastic and experimental exercise, a playground, an initiation ritual, a celebration, or everything at the same time. Like the artist, the spectators also have their lives ahead, decisions to make. Or not. After all, who has power over whom? What choices does the artist have, in a system so complex and primary, so liberal and totalitarian, so open and castrating, so human and inflexible?
Amadora-3 by Diogo Brito, curated by Filipa Nunes, runs until June 10 at Rua das Gaivotas 6. And the IRS until June 30.