Next to the Next Century and Contrato Promessa: António Olaio at Kubikgallery and Vasco Futscher at Kubikulo
We start at the supposed end of the exhibition pathway of Next to the Next Century, by António Olaio, at Kubikgallery. More precisely a partly open door, in the homonymous video by the author, with music by Vítor Rua. This door, which is never fully closed or opened, and which only lets us see part of a room of a house in ruins, may be a metaphor or illustration for what Olaio sings at a certain point «How would it be the next century?/Behind the door the same something else/Behind the door the same wonderful». The artist makes us question the next century, bearing in mind what we are living, that what will come will always be the same, the same wonder. Basically, it allows us to reflect on time, not so much chronological time, but that of each one of us. Our expectations, dreams or anxieties about the world and humanity. And, just as we stopped at this door, the French philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman begins Before The Image: Before Time The Sovereignty of Anachronism (2017) as follows: «Before the image, we are always before time. […] as in front of the jamb of an open door. Nothing hides us, we would only need to enter, its light dazzles us, enforces respect on us. Its very opening – I am not speaking of the gatekeeper – makes us stop: to look at it is to desire, to hope, to stand in front of time. But what kind of time? What plasticity and what fractures, what rhythms and what marks of time may be in this opening of the image?».The author, in the search for answers, formulates many others, in an essay on the questioning of historicity in art history, encouraging a «critical archaeology of the models of time, of the values of the use of time in the historical discipline that wanted to make images its objects of study». Didi-Huberman begins his argument by looking at the lower part of Fra Angelico’s fresco Our Lady of Sorrows (1440-1450), showing that, before an image, our time is permanently reconfigured, as we will take into account its past, our present and a future that will surpass us. When analysing the image before history, we have the need for anachronism, because this overdetermined temporality of the images, perceptible through a clash in the dialectic between image and history, we set up multiple times, a dynamic of memory, a contradiction made by chronologies and anachronisms. Therefore, the ajar door of Olaio’s video is this image, which is also time. That relationship between the figure and history, the questioning of what lies beyond, is what the next century will be. And, if we let the video continue, we will see that the travelling, which had stopped at this door, ascends to a ruined ceiling, stopping there. However, the loop makes the plane go down again from the ceiling, revealing a corridor and again the door. At the same time, we hear the music, with the lyrics superimposed on the moving images. We also find some references to pop culture, something typical in Olaio, such as the sound of the album Ghosteen (2019), by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, or even the song Lazarus (2016), from David Bowie’s last album Blackstar, a foreshadowing of the iconic artist’s death.
Next to the Next Century is a perpetual movement, a questioning of memory, a kind of eternal return. When we return from the room where the video is presented, there are paintings exhibited along the way, followed by drawings, as if it were a travelling where Olaio figuratively represents, unfolding, deconstructing or detailing, sacred or everyday objects, reminiscent of abstract landscapes or sci-fi figures. Perhaps this is part of the decoration of his studio-home, including works or objects that he has collected over the years, such as Get to Know: António Olaio. In the exhibition text, Miguel von Hafe Pérez points out: «Olaio assumes the role of a collector of memory(s) […] The weight of memory is embodied in the continuity of shadow drawings, which seem to absorb the brightness and glory of the representation’s original. A breath not of life, but an elemental emptying. A phantasmatic ballast of a treacherous nothingness». Olaio’s art, which from the 80s developed on the basis of performance, later unfolding into painting, video and music, is in a flux of ideas, in a game in which he explores the potential speculation of the various media. In this exhibition, at the beginning of a century, he questions memory and time, the aesthetic and plastic qualities of the artistic platforms he presents us with, and the antinomy of a way that is nostalgic and melancholic, but which also has its eyes set on the future.
Vasco Futscher, shortlisted for the EDP Foundation New Artists Award in 2015, with a degree in plastic arts and ceramics from Ar.Co, exhibits his work regularly since 2008, developing ceramics from an artistic perspective. In Contrato Promessa, at Kubikulo, a space in the gallery window, the artist presents an installation with large-scale ceramic pieces, with keys, an everyday object, alongside two photographs of cars. This set, as indicated in the exhibition text, «tells a story of offering and complicity about a mechanic who gives his car key to the artist». This way, Futscher simultaneously interrogates the symbolism, plasticity and materiality of a functional object, deconstructing and modelling it in larger than usual dimensions in polished recycled stoneware, and the potentialities of ceramics as a medium for artistic, decorative and utilitarian production.
 Didi-Huberman, G. (2017). Diante do Tempo: História da Arte e Anacronismo das Imagens. Lisboa: Orfeu Negro. p.10.
 Ibid. p.13.