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Synchronicity | Uma exposição de partilha and Aires | Uma performance em três actos at Plataforma Revólver

Synchronicity: Uma exposição de partilha, inaugurated at Plataforma Revólver, is diverse and open: it wants to show us simulations of the natural world, self-referential expressions, ecologies through a manipulated, human gaze and its repercussions – symbolic, political, aesthetic. In 8 rooms, the exhibition shows us the work of 5 artists: Pedro Cabral Santo, Joana R. Sá, Susana de Medeiros, João Timóteo (at the time of the exhibition visit, João Timóteo’s work had been broken and, not being able to analyse it, I will skip it from this text) and Luís Alegre.

Pedro Cabral Santo’s name is the most visible in the show: he even created the exhibition. We begin with Twelve Mistakes, an augmented sculpture, where several red, blue (symbols of opposition), white (the union of the whole) darts escape the circular targets transformed into canvases: they all hit the sides, around, on the wall. This idea of failure, escape, tension – for now conscious starting points for an exhibition of contemporary art – will be associated with The Green Arrow, an audio-visual work by the artist. It is found near the end of the exhibition, where there are circular shapes searching for a focus, timed by countdowns in milliseconds, and a slow-motion video of a darts player, focusing to shoot. In this countdown, there is the suspension of time, in the tense moments converted into minutes of the player looking for a position to throw the dart. While the circle is focused and blurred, we see an eye that could be ours, a reflection of the spectator in the momentary incomprehension: focusing, unfocusing, searching, stopping. Cabral Santo’s works need time to make sense. Though they are conscious of their situation – the gallery’s literal space as a broader social, political context – they are sometimes overly intellectual, achieving little beyond the instant pleasure of their resolution. The symbolism of the darts in Twelve Mistakes is an example, as is Gateway to the stars. In a black fresco, powerful but inoffensive, there are screens of digitised ink. It is a composition divided into parts that represent a circular abstraction, innocuous as a logo. These canvases are imposed over other layers of tiresome ink, subsisting through reading without sustenance in anaemia. Anyway, the intentions help to perceive the more interesting Via Sacra, just ahead: hangers lined up, one of them contorted and praying at the edge of the cliff. On either side we have Time of Dragons, the dark ages represented by small dragons like mantises. They are arranged on tribune-like shelves, static. They watch the enormity of the venue while a hurried clock dooms us to the rules they ignore – tragic, moralistic mythology, too formally poor, but well placed in the stripped, almost dirty space of the room, capable of frighting this hanger, which stubbornly prays with hope.

In a further dialogue between human and natural world are the works of Susana de Medeiros: all the objects exhibited seem to bear witness to an exterior look at trees, earth, stones. In the impossibility of becoming nature, they look at it not only closely, getting to see its pores, but discovering it through an always unfeasible simulation. The works are versatile, organic, imaginative. We find a house suspended in the background, composed of thin branches. It is a perfect and transparent limbo, between weight and lightness. On the opposite wall is a magnifying glass on an easel, pointing to a patch of moss. It is a symbolic summary of the vision around us in this room, a poetic treatise. It is reminiscent of the method of the 17th century Dutchman, who wanted to condense the truthfulness of his vision into painting, never altering nature. If something is to change, let it be the instrument of that vision – the microscope, the camera obscura. We also highlight the composition on the floor. It is a self-contained abstraction, with pigments and premeditated sections. A stratigraphy converted into painting. Above it is an oval drawing, like a microscopic look at some natural texture, between the almost artificiality of its vision and the organicity of the production. On the opposite wall is an avalanche of drawn stones, static. But they want to move. They are silent, but they want to scream (there always seems to be a union of opposites in Susana de Medeiros’ work). There is a defining quote: “No volveran a tener la comodidade de nuestro silencio”.

Rafael dos Santos’ section is shorter: sculptures on the floor, occupying part of the gallery in Helmet Testing (Segundo ato). The almost spongy, abstract representations show what could be a sea fauna, unknown, alien, converted into blatant colours. On the margin between artificial and real, the sculptures show something quite current, almost pop in their sheer saturation. They are reminiscent of the surreal yet tactile appeal of some contemporary Japanese production. For instance, Kazuhito Kawai’s ceramics.

Also objects of a distant and artificial relationship with nature are the works of Joana R. Sá. We see branches of plants converted into a digital and baroque map in their absence of silence in Fill the Void. Or sections, like tiles without an owner, in Lapsus Calami. They are interferences of square sections, crossed almost incomprehensibly, creating a logic of their own. But they seem to belong to a kind of commonplace, something we feel we have seen a few times before. The heavy, recurrent black and white does not help to seduce us or to convince us otherwise.

There are also works by Luís Alegre, three paintings with universes and iconographies to synthesize imaginaries in a pop, humoristic approach. The works are so unpretentious that they consciously display the bar code of the cardboard on which they were painted (ahahah). We have the urban context of The Macro Ball, the psychedelic western of The Cowboy Hat as a Problem and the chaos of I Can Hypnotize Rabbits, where a giant red rabbit rules over a burning forest. Perhaps our view of nature in this exhibition is fatalistic, an exterior we can never grasp, and which we have incomprehensibly destroyed. Or perhaps it has an almost secret awareness that art is part of that nature. As Maria Filomena Molder told us, commenting on Walter Benjamin: “A part of us belongs to nature. And it is not just any part of us, it is the part that the works of art illuminate. Art belongs to nature”[1]. What is nature?

The exhibition text confuses us: the themes of the exhibition include “the use of technology in all its forms”, “phenomena associated with Urban Belts, the lack of Attention and Objectivity, the Mutilation and Banalisation of the Eye, the exploration of Assertiveness and what is left of Humanity in the end”. Ultimately, it seems to me that this is something simple, without much justification: this is the place of sharing mentioned in the title. The possible or impossible synchronies between the objects – synchrony that I consider decisive, elementary in the works that Pedro Cabral Santo brings together here (the focus in search of the target, the prayer that awaits resolution under darkness). There is a pretext to display the work of some artists, more or less united in a common premise – ecology, time, experimentation.

On the day of the exhibition visit (April 9), there was also a sound performance, part of the cycle Sound and Future – Four Tools to Unblock the Present. It was the opening of the cycle with Aires: in a room wrapped in golden cellophane, we listened for 40 minutes to a continuous sound collage, between moments of absolute distortion and ambient passages – an atmosphere difficult and capable of repelling. After all, what interests him is freedom. At a certain point in the composition, we hear dogs barking: life goes on, breaking loose, piercing the dense layer of sound.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

Synchronicity: Uma Exposição de Partilha lasts until 22 May. The cycle Sound and Future – Four Tools to Unblock the Present will continue punctually until September 22, both at Plataforma Revólver.

 

[1] Maria Filomena Molder, Rebuçados Venezianos, pg. 255.

Miguel Pinto (Lisbon, 2000) is graduated in Art History by NOVA/FCSH and made his internship at the National Museum of Azulejo. He has participated in the research project VEST - Vestir a corte: traje, género e identidade(s) at the Humanities Centre of the same institution. He has created and is running the project Parte da Arte, which tries to investigate the artistic scene in Portugal through video essays.

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