Interview with Bruno José Silva: Limit of Disappearance

Miguel Pinto interviews Bruno José Silva about Limit of Disappearance, his most recent exhibition at Galeria Municipal de Torres Vedras. Then it will go to Casa Varela – Centro de Experimentação Artística, Pombal. The topic was robotics and contemplation.

Miguel Pinto – Limit of Disappearance is the title of your most recent exhibition, opened at Galeria Municipal de Torres Vedras. Can you tell me about the concept of the show and the works you present?

Bruno José Silva – Limit of Disappearance crosses visual arts, robotics and computational processes. The will is to problematize the current excessive creation and consumption of images. This reflection fits in a wider thought about the crisis and massification of images with technology. This contaminates, conditions and (de)forms the individual.

The technology exhibited was designed to put the human element at the centre, whose action is reflected in the work. And also, to create mechanisms or tools that make it impossible or difficult to see the images in the pieces. The fruition processes need time. For example, I’ve seen this face before is an installation composed of a Raspberry camera (which captures real-time images of the room) and a small screen (with an image of a micro-organism). Its movement is processed in real time by computer software that influences the image on the screen, making it impossible to see it. To see the full image, we must learn not to react immediately to the urge, we must learn to stop. We must (re)educate the eye to be attentive in a deep and contemplative way. It is also an exhibition about taking action. It requires the visitor to be aware of the impact of their decision or intervention. For example, to be defined is an installation comprising an image printed on fabric. This is fitted onto a pulley mechanism and activated by the visitor’s presence, whose intention is to deteriorate that image. Entering the room is only possible after signing a statement accepting that this visit causes an irreversible change on the image. Subsequent visitors will see the image transformed by the previous ones. The idea is to metamorphose the image to the limit of its vanishing. Each viewer is responsible not only for their choice, but for what the following people will see. A more difficult relationship is proposed in another installation (untitled): a photograph under an opaque mechanism, which only becomes transparent at specific days and times. For the visitor to see the image, they must return to the gallery on the indicated days and times. It requires a commitment to the will to see it fully.

MP – I’ve seen this face before seems to stir up opposing ideas. On the one hand, the technological conceptualisation of the machine and the image that changes with the visitor’s movement. Through it, we enter a contemplative state, unable to respond to stimuli and impulses as in a digital device. Is the aim to restore a lost perception, the search and discovery, which have diminished with the overly accessible images in the digital world?

BJS – This piece generates a strong relationship between the viewers/visitors and the image. The visitor must sit still for a while before the device. That difficult relationship matters to me. That stop, the possibility to think about devices that create times disconnected from the world, but connected with small ideas and details. Each visitor should be able to relate to this pause. This piece is about the excessive accessibility of images in the world, not only in the digital sphere.

MP – Your works seem to have blurred features. Objects or images that we cannot fully access. In this exhibition, you show a composition that self-destructs with the visitor’s intervention. And an image whose unveiling requires a difficult and time-consuming process. But in the previous Dream Sequence, at Marvila Art District, you presented We Are Going Down, an assemblage of blotches and transparencies whose identification is almost impossible. What do you like about these relationships, where the viewer is almost sabotaged?

BJS – Consuming images is very easy these days, so I want proposals that challenge that. I look for difficult devices, so that these images are only enjoyed with effort and will. The viewer must want to see the image. To stop to observe and apprehend. I will mention again the theme of time – I want to propose devices that force a contemplative relationship.

MP – You also use different media. Tell me about your creative process of these different artistic wills.

BJS – My artistic process is mainly cumulative. Since it has an investigative nature, I exhaustively collect bibliography on the themes I tackle, images of works by other artists related to mine. It is very organic research. The most important thing is to understand and deepen the knowledge about the projects’ main themes, finding points of view. This research is the longest stage. It lasts the whole project. And I force myself to stop it to continue.

As each project derives from the previous ones, the new references and readings accumulate and dialogue with each other. My process is highly collaborative. This collaboration happens from the very first minute. But especially when the ideas materialise. The whole team is co-creators of the project and all the problems presented are worked on together. Mariana Sá Marques’ pragmatic perspective, producer of the project, and the researcher Carlos Cardoso, who is not only responsible for creating robotics mechanisms and software, but also essential in thinking about the proposals for the installations. Part of my process is based on dialogue and discussing ideas.

MP – Limit of Disappearance was also until the end of May at Project Room of Banco das Artes, Leiria. What challenges do you find in presenting the same works in different places?

BJS – The exhibition rotation allows us to refine and extend our thinking. Firstly, the site-specific relationship of the adaptation work to the different venues (Banco das Artes, in Leiria; Paços – Galeria Municipal de Torres Vedras and Casa Varela – Centro de Experimentação Artística, in Pombal) allows us to bring the installation image into confrontation with the architecture. This spatial relationship allows proposing different scenic dynamics to the visitors. Maybe this interest of mine comes from an extension of the performing arts works, where I do stage design.

And an extended exhibition in time allows me to create new pieces or adaptations of the existing ones in each place, through a process of research and experimentation. One of the most visible faces of the exhibition’s transformation is the process of accumulation. In each place, the trace generated from the piece to be defined is carried to the next, becoming another object. The image on the fabric ceases to exist in the whole and emerges as a painting created with textures, blemishes and lines that the black paint places on the mechanism. In this process, a new piece is designed, which I have no control over. It is a machine designed to make it happen. The purpose only materialises with the visitors. The exhibition increases with each new place.

This project’s tour also allows me to be aware of the work that the different municipalities, through their local councils and associations, are developing in the visual arts in Portugal. I have had very interesting experiences, from feeling huge dedication on the part of the teams in each venue, to discussions with the audience about the exhibition’s agenda.

MP – This exhibition came at a time when the first open access text-based image generator, the Dall-E mini, became popular online. As part of Limit of Disappearance, and the play with these extra-human images, how do you see this artistic man-machine relationship, and what does this imply for the future?

BJS – These two questions have been important in my last works. Honestly, I haven’t come to any great conclusions so far, nor can I answer them yet. Maybe it’s the problem of dealing with the present moment or with fracturing questions of the present moment. This is one of the reasons why I am so obsessed with developing artistic proposals in this field.

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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