For Laura: trapped in reality’s artificial reproduction

While I was writing about For Laura by Jaime Welsh, I realised the daunting task of grading a visit to the exhibition at Galeria Madragoa. These three photographs are the consequence of a painstaking method of visual conception, but they also stem from a rather coherent analytical context. This clarity is also found on the exhibition flyleaf, in an interview by Sean Burns, where Welsh’s process, his relationship with the characters, the symbolism of the images and his artistic references are detailed.

The highly crafted photographs result from a combination of methodologies on a constructed reality, within the reach of a camera. Based on distortion, the addition of masks and reflections, the artist focuses on the relationship of the human element with the inner space. This limiting place, behind glass, is inhabited by a body that is both searching and waiting. This evokes the feeling of psychic alienation. This sensation takes advantage of the architectural features, exacerbated by the vanishing points in the corners of the room, creating a general impression of vertigo and optical illusion. This latent discomfort and lingering doubt are vividly mirrored in the facial expression and posture of the photographed figure. The body is straight, contracted, the forehead is damp and the brow is raised with the gaze. The protagonist is likely to focus on the cloistered emptiness, the nausea of an enclosed, sterile and silent space.

I compare this scene, a portrait of alienation, to a visual interpretation of Mark Fisher’s theses on the future, anxiety and speculation. In Realism Capitalism, Fisher attributes to capitalism the alienation of self-identity, the uselessness of passive waiting and the failure of the continuation of history. By viewing his photographs as essays on themselves, and presenting them with multiple digital interventions, we revisit the equally ghostly android body. In a single body the binary-mutant is absorbed. Welsh proposes the apocalyptic vision of the being ‘who does not really know what’ and who lives in the incessant imprisonment of post-contemporary society. An already exhausted proposal about what is yet to come.

I shall continue Fisher’s tone, which also refers to the inevitability of the contemporary trend that has in it the reproduction of images on screens. In its opposite (and real), For Laura’s photographs open up in the exhibition space, through their colour, texture, detail, contours and subtleties. The use of the small gallery area as a tensioned capsule that reinforces the magnetic attraction of auditorium rooms is lost in the scale of a mobile phone screen. Capitalism is unfair when observing cultural objects, for these should not be part of its cycle, and there should be a choice not to display them online. [1] For example, the photograph of the photograph that will follow these words withers its precious, palpable character. This relentless repetition of Welsh’s constructed places should remain behind the framing glass.

With this text, I simply urge one to visit For Laura.

Jaime Welsh’s exhibition For Laura can be visited until January 8, 2022, at Galeria Madragoa.


[1] “No cultural object can retain its force if there are no longer any fresh eyes to contemplate it.” – Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

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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