PANDEMIC – I Don’t Know Karate, but I Know Ka-Razor! – Filipe Marques at the Municipal Gallery of Porto

PANDEMIC – I Don’t Know Karate, but I Know Ka-Razor! by Filipe Marques, curated by Isabeli Santiago & Juan Luis Toboso, is the consequence of a proposal made to the artist by the Municipal Gallery of Porto[2] in 2019, about viral themes in his artistic practice. The exhibition, through a self-reflexive, speculative and intimate approach, allows us to question the fragility before a virus. The anguish, pain and loneliness in the face of an illness. And the constant conflict between physical and mental health, also questioning the pandemic we are still living.

After overcoming a serious illness, or experiencing a traumatic event, how do we place ourselves before existence? After several lockdowns due to SARS-COV-2, how are we adapting to a new reality where COVID-19 is still present? Has there been time and place to think about the experience lived in the last two years?

In the curatorial text, Isabeli Santiago & Juan Luis Toboso say: “the exhibition space shows itself available to build multiple layers. Each of the elements and their interpretations contribute to a sense of a whole, to an understanding open to the abyss of the unknown, and where reason and uncertainty are always in transformation”. When we enter GMP’s mezzanine, we plunge into a gloomy and misty environment, with green and yellowish tones. The soundtrack is composed of guitar riffs, drum patterns and shrieking noises, interspersed by the voice of James Brown, saying I Don’t Know Karate, but I Know Ka-Razor. This verse is the title of the exhibition and is taken from the song The Payback from the 1973 self-titled album. Walking around the room, we find I believe great and prolonged sex cured cancer. By death! Alive! (2020). This is a cardboard structure placed over a circular motorized construction, made of aluminium and wood. It shows us a room and a bathroom filled with words, characters and drawings. It’s a punk, chaotic and desolate scenario, which will be the décor for the video Whatevah you do, don’t look at me too long in the eyes. Now it’s your turn to cry (2020). In the black and white moving images, we witness different scenes, such as that of a girl expressing multiple emotions, like anger, sadness and anguish, scratching her body with markers, lying in the bathtub or bed. All this is heightened by the camera’s vertical perspective and captions like “I hope that this virus tears me to pieces!”, “Prepare my cave and then kindly forget where it was”, “After the war begins the war goes on”. Then our eyes go to I am enough. Unacknowledged injustices are wounds left unhealed (2020), a structure also motorized, with inscriptions and sentences in graffiti and marker, similar to the character’s strike body in the video, the captions and the other installations. Finally, we are taken to the centre of the room, by the neon and cardboard plants of Sunset flights of slashing razors. Wags your finger in your own face (2020). In the middle of the installation, the lights form Latin words, but also notions from psychoanalysis or philosophy, related to “concepts such as Weltschmerz by the German writer Jean Paul Richter, in his most pessimistic novel Selina of 1827, literally translated as ‘the great pain or world-weary (…)'”, as the curatorial text mentions. Filipe Marques (1976) develops his work with influences from theories of modern philosophers, who reflect on humanism. It is a constant search and investigation about the world and life, resorting to the word above all. He creates several layers that unfold in moving images, lights, sounds and scenographic structures, such as Anomie. Narcissism and Dispersion (2020) at CAA-IVV, Águeda; And that’s What I Want to Do, Tell you Wonderful Things (2020) at Espaço Mira, Porto; or Disclosedness Space (2019) at Galeria Nuno Centeno.

In the text La mirada/ reflexiones sobre los sentidos y la pandemia (2021), Mariana Mora, researcher and professor at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social in Mexico City, reflects: “Our dead in the pandemic do not belong to a past that has become a non-place, driven by the will to continue in apparent normality or by the insistence that the worst of the pandemic was a simple parenthesis in our daily lives and that we must now make up for the time lost. On the contrary, perceiving those we love, writing about them to continue learning from them, recording the images through which they become present, accompanying them through the rites that each of us invents because we are unable to experience the necessary mourning, is what allows us to act from the potentiality of the wound, distancing ourselves from the farewell as a non-place.” Yes, the pandemic’s deaths and sorrows are not a past transformed into a non-place for us to move forward to a new normal, believing that everything was just a parenthesis in everyday life. We must understand and express what we went through, reinvent the mourning for the people who left us, create new rituals to manifest the collective and individual trauma we experienced. This allows the wounds not to become a non-place. Filipe Marques in PANDEMIC – I Don’t Know Karate, but I Know Ka-Razor! personally expresses all the whirlwind of contradictory feelings before an illness, our powerlessness before the virus and the complexity in dealing with physical and mental pain. Between words, the exhibition allows us to think about our inner self in the face of a global pandemic.

The exhibition will be at the Municipal Gallery of Porto until November 21, 2021.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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