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On the edge of the landscape comes the world: The island is unfolded

In modern utopia, the island is where the balance lies between nature and men thriving in social, political, ecological, and economic harmony. These ideals are presented from a universal and merely descriptive point of view in the following structure: the account of the space, its people, and perhaps even the phenomenon that led to the apparent state of perfection, followed by peripety. The arrival of a character (perhaps the villain or saviour) who decodes the premise of this place, causing chaos, war, and the collapse of its society.

In the exhibition On the edge of the landscape comes the world, the disruptor of the island’s utopia is the artist. Inside Pavilhão Branco, in Lisbon, is the island of Madeira: tropical and geographically isolated, where exotic flora and fauna predominate, now in a city context. The artist, as the system’s disruptive element, unconsciously accesses or not the criticism of the place. Through the forced construction of a sample of the space, the island’s imagination is unfolded.

The collective story goes beyond theatre’s artificiality. The plays are symbols of a familiar feeling. In Kemp Land (2020), Hugo Brazão materializes a first simulation of a stage that, although empty, allows the observer to access several reading perspectives, by juxtaposing distinct materials. In the background, as if they were memory prints, the fluid canvases by Carolina Vieira show a boiling sun, the crystalline stars and the leaves fading in the twilight. The set is part of an extended landscape portrait, extended in Ennemis Intimes (2018), documenting the French thriller produced by Joana Viveiros. The piece is associated with a backstage archive and the shooting context that illustrate the island’s exoticism, revealing the attraction of many to its landscapes. Given its theatricality, the island of Madeira is in the limbo between fiction and the reality concomitantly materialised in methodologies of collection and organisation.

The cataloguing models, obeying scientific standards of observation and collection, reveal the opposite side of its staging. The pieces want to measure, order and reference all possible models to create the most real mould possible. The pieces by Miguel Ângelo Martins and Nuno Henrique are a compendium of colour and relief. Together, they present a primary deconstruction of the island of Madeira, at the same time as they reconfigure it in the exhibition space, turning it into a lab. The manipulation of these prototypes is also repeated in the pieces by Bruno Côrte and Mariana Marote, associated with a past discovery, showing its traces almost as if it were an herbarium. Without any adjective, Madeira is subjected to an investigation that deconstructs the documentary scenario down to the smallest element.

Finally, Sara Rodrigues’ piece, Degrees of Abstraction (2019-2021), is the result of a performance that encompasses the two points analysed here: the manufactured landscape and also the artificialisation of nature. The artist relies on industrial structures of plywood, cement and wooden pallets, as well as chemical fertilisers and pesticides, to create an idea of order or garden. The performance implies the destruction of the materials, leaving only the earth and the seeds, which slowly spread over the gallery floor.

The group show On the edge of the landscape comes the world is on view at Pavilhão Branco until August 31.

With a background in Arts and Humanities (Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, 2018) is a public programer and an independent curator in contemporary art. Currently, she is taking a Master in Fine Arts in Curating from Goldsmiths University of London while dedicating her research to non-conventional exhibition spaces and alternative curating methodologies. (portrait by Hugo Cubo, 2020)

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