Muxima: Edson Chagas at .insofar
Edson Chagas’ first solo exhibition in Portugal takes place at the .insofar gallery. A gallery that opened very recently.
The place offers us an obscured vision, caused by a diffused light, coming from a dimly lit room. We foresee several lightboxes that emit images of muddy earth, covered by butterflies, of a white colour, called minerals, a little known species.
We dare to enter space and start a journey. The rectangular light boxes are placed on the ground, in inclined positions, and at different angles to each other. Inviting us to guess a path that seems to be winding.
We put our feet on this ground, but the experience is one of instability. Different from what we are used to experiencing in other exhibitions, where the floor is flat, predictable, and happens without hesitation. At the same time that we muster efforts to understand the images we come across, we are urged to tread with extreme care, as the ground, with its ups and downs, its disturbances prompt us to make an effort to walk carefully so that we don’t fall. Thus, each step is a new beginning, a surprise and a permanent alert. Does the artist want to reproduce the labyrinths and places, always unpredictable, characteristic of nature?
You can hear the tread of footsteps over the reddish earth layer, extended over the gallery. We wonder if this is an exhibition to watch, or rather, to hear and feel?
The exhibition does not impose a path. Each route is given to the visitor as if it were a unique experience. There is no place for linear displacement. Eliminating a unidirectional experience, imposing a hierarchy, and allowing, like an open work, different paths and interpretations. Muxima also induces an experience of the natural, which, just like in a forest, makes irregular paths that encourage discovery,
Edson Chagas’ work is already present in this way. In previous works, the artist reveals his spirit of a good walker, a flaneur, an observer of mundane things and everyday life. The artist is also a photographer. The discipline of photography, in its practice, approaches the curious attitude of the flaneur, as presented in Baudelaire. A «passionate observer», a «lover of life», of the transitory, fleeting, «circumstantial» life. Who compares himself to the «wandering, philosophical […] sometimes poet» artist, a «man of the world, or of the crowds».
The photographic series Muxima: feels like earth, smells like heaven, by Edson Chagas, appeared at a time when he was experiencing mandatory confinement. The artist decided to organize his photographic files, and that was when he came across a set of images made on a trip he made ten years ago to the village of Muxima, close to Luanda.
Susan Sontag, in her essays on photography, spoke of the rehabilitation of old photographs, and the search for new contexts. Edson Chagas seems to have rescued this thought from Sontag, who concludes: «A photograph is just a fragment, and with the passage of time its ties come loose. It drifts in a diffuse and abstract past, open to any kind of reading.»
Muxima, an exhibition curated by Inês Valle, is on view at .insofar until October 29 (only by appointment).