We are synchronized, now and forever: Lovers na Zaratan – Arte Contemporânea
Lovers. Zaratan’s new exhibition is about love, whose starting point is a letter written by the artist Félix González-Torres to his lover Ross Laycock in 1988. Lovers is the title of the show with Bárbara Bulhão and Fábio Colaço, Fernando J. Ribeiro, Francisco Menezes, Isabel Cordovil, João Campolargo Teixeira and Marcos Duvágo to think about love and intimacy.
A total solar eclipse can be one of the most sublime sights a human being can witness. It was sublime and frightening for those who experienced it in the pre-scientific yesteryear. Bárbara Bulhão and Fábio Colaço, artists and curators of Lovers, begin the exhibition with the work Eclipse (2022), composed of two small-format photographs that seem to be made of the same material. The first is an image of an ultrasound scan, the second is a photograph of a total solar eclipse from NASA. With the name of the exhibition echoing in our heads, we see the ultrasound and immediately look for a sign of an embryo. As we fall into the artists’ trap, and whether there is an embryo or not, we feel we are facing a mystery, like that of the eclipse, like that of love.
Isabel Cordovil intensifies the mystery of bonding with The Matter of Togetherness (2022), a large-format photograph that captures in detail two pieces of iron welded together. The initial form of the iron is cold, with straight, sharp lines capable of injuring. But, when the iron encounters heat, it liquefies and softens, and the union with another identical material becomes possible. At the genesis of this work are the blood tests of Isabel Cordovil and her companion. Cordovil set out to translate the percentage of iron in their blood into real iron (each iron bar corresponds to the iron in their blood). And, just as these two iron bars merged, so the symbolic blood fuses with their heat.
On the other hand, Mutual Mutism (2017) by Francisco Menezes talks about the most primordial union we can feel: the umbilical bond. The work has two objects. The first is a belt where a navel mould in wax is the buckle; the second is a framed paper page where we read the sentence “Belly Button of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture Pressed Six Times Against Paper”, describing exactly what happens on the paper: the relief of a navel (from sculptures) was pressed six times against the paper. In this work, Francisco Menezes highlights the symbolism of the navel, which represents the biological link between a mother and her child, expressing the relationship of dependence between the two lives.
The umbilical link appears to permeate the works Drow Soda (2022) and Blue Sugar (2022) by Marcos Duvágo. In the former, a photograph of an adult person in the foetal position floats in a watery environment, in a reference to the image of a baby in the mother’s womb. “I was the father of a daughter who had no name, nor did she see the real. She didn’t use her body, nor lose the consciousness that didn’t even come to be hers. She never rested in a bed but inside another woman (…)”, so begins the poem from the work Blue Sugar (2022), which, by addressing a loss, underlines the nostalgic and intimate side of Duvágo’s works. Both share a primordial feeling, a distant connection, but one that will remain with us forever.
Interestingly, the last room is the darkest. Its two works seem to want to underline the duality between sex and love. The light in this area comes from the neon by João Campolargo Teixeira, who uses the word to pose the question “Romance?”. Fernando J. Ribeiro’s work is a highly explicit small format drawing, which shows in close up the breasts and genitals of two bodies in sexual union. Done in graphite, the room’s twilight underlines the density of the drawing and its blacks, lessening its visibility. Placing Private #32 (2019) in Zaratan’s least visible room may have been a decision fuelled by constraint. There may have been a question mark between considering the work erotic or pornographic.
Félix González-Torres’ letter, the fuel for this exhibition, is a beautiful reflection on fate, time and love, three concepts inherent in the works on display. In 1991, González-Torres exhibited the work Untitled (Perfect Lovers), two identical clocks synchronised to the same time and reflecting on the inevitable ebb and flow of time. There is distress at the possibility of the battery of one of them failing (which would end the synchrony) or simply of both of them coming to a halt. In 1988, the love letter González-Torres wrote:
“Don’t be afraid of the clocks, they are our time, time has been so generous to us. We imprinted time with the sweet taste of victory. We conquered fate by meeting at a certain TIME in a certain space. We are a product of the time; therefore we give back credit were it is due: time.
We are synchronized, now and forever.
I love you.”
In the closing part of writing this article, I exchanged messages with Bárbara Bulhão. She confessed that, in the ultrasound of the work Eclipse (2022), there is something we suspected. Bárbara Bulhão and Fábio Colaço will be parents of twins. Eclipse(2022) announces the life, love and intimacy of the artists and curators of Lovers, who now, more than ever, will be synchronised forever.
Lovers will be at Zaratan – Arte Contemporânea until 14 April 2022.