Respiração Boca a Boca: Cristina Ataíde at Museu Internacional de Escultura Contemporânea de Santo Tirso

Respiração Boca a Boca by Cristina Ataíde[1], at the Museu Internacional de Escultura Contemporânea de Santo Tirso[2], proposes a journey through the artist’s plastic universe. We can see some of her first sculptural series in iron and stone, and also more recent works, without a defined chronology. In each piece, through common or natural objects, we get to know the places where the artist has been, we absorb her materiality and immateriality, trying to preserve and take care of Nature. When someone runs out of air, we try to give ours through mouth-to-mouth breathing. With the planet in distress, and symptoms quite visible, we must urgently try to save it.

Cristina Ataíde’s art is between drawing, sculpture, installation, photography, video and site-specific intervention. She displays her sensitivity to the world, as if it were an exchange or a breath. We see small details, coloured spots, gaps, flatnesses and patterns, which we had not noticed around us. In the exhibition room, they acquire another meaning, becoming a poetics of memory, a kind of dialogue composed of small fragments on feeling. The Italian philosopher Mario Perniola, in On Feeling (1991), talks about the relationship of our time with feeling, in comparison with previous eras. He argues that, since the late 1960s, socialization is no longer done through ideology, but through feeling, where everything is presented as already felt. In the author’s words: «Feeling is selective: we establish the doors that we must open or close. (…), learning to feel is equivalent to learning to live. (…) But there is a second aspect of making one feel that is as important as the first and complementary: on the one hand, the affective side is an intellectual operation; on the other, the intellectual dimension is an affective reception. To think is to receive what comes from outside, to welcome and host the strange and enigmatic.» [3]

When we enter MIEC floor 0, we spot Observador do céu #1 e #2 (2016), and sculptures arranged on the floor in Azul Cascais limestone, or the series Fonte (1999) in graphite, acrylic and Darwi displayed on the wall. We feel their different forms, textures and materials, but also their oddness and concreteness, harmony and disruption, elongation and suspension, which conjure up memories on feeling. Without overlooking Ser vida ser (2016), a poem at the foot of the exhibition area, which makes us move through words that exalt one of the most fundamental questions of existence: to be life, to be body, to be heart, to be desire, to be blood, to be transformation, to be art, to be flight, to be breath

When we go down to floor -1, we see Dust of… (2022), Ser… (2022) and Mortes desnecessárias (2022). We are drawn to the warm colours of three large panels unrolled like papyrus, adorned by red pigment mounds. As we approach them, we read sentences inspired by the aforementioned titles, as if they were secrets or outbursts that are unveiled to us through a strong plasticity. In the next room, the spots of colour from the works Com o Vento #1, #2, #3 (2022), Time & Weather #7, #8, #9 (2020) and Time & Weather #6, #5(2019), displayed on the wall, show the potential of red in Ataíde’s art. For her, «it is a colour with everything… it is the colour of life, love… an ambivalent colour and I have always liked opposites…»[4] These paintings establish an eerie oddity, in contrast to the iron sculpture Sem Título 87 (1987), suspended on the wall by steel cables, which shows the material’s sturdiness and fragility. And, once again, Caixa #VI, Caixa #VII and Caixa #VIII (1988-2022), exhibited on the floor, guide our eyes through the artist’s journeys. Each piece has respectively Amazonian Achiote, Saharan desert sand and Santo Tirso granite. In the second room, we highlight Memórias (X capítulos) (1997-2022). In each sculpture, we see objects collected by the artist that speak about her art and travels. Letters, stones, red pigments, ex-votos in wax, a mirror and photographs.

One of the most dramatic moments of Respiração Boca a Boca lies in the corridor of the former inn of the Santo Tirso Monastery. We see several circular sculptures, made of Estremoz marble, of which we highlight Citânia #1, #2, #3 and #4 (2022) in homage to the Citânia de Sanfins, with objects found in forests, clay wrought by the sea and fossils, mixed with extremely poetic videos that underline nature and the artist’s many incursions.

Director Agnès Varda, in The Gleaners and I (2000), interested by the people who collect food scraps in an open-air market in Paris, decides to travel around France in search of contemporary gleaners. Throughout the documentary, we see that gleaning used to mean collecting what was left over after a harvest. Although this activity is now extinct, people glean not only food, but also abandoned consumer objects. Survival, the fight against waste, leisure or the obsession with the act itself are some of her motivations. But Varda also gleans, keeping images of her many incursions, with her small digital camera. And Cristina Ataíde also gleans various objects to later integrate them in her pieces. Or she traces cobblestones, allowing the sea to sculpt objects, or she weaves threads of red fabric into tree trunks. Varda, during the film, confesses: «There is another woman gleaning in this film, and she is me. I’m happy to let go of the ears of wheat and pick up my camera. (…) gleaning is figuratively defined, as a mental activity. We collect facts, acts and actions to store information. When I forget something, what I have brought back from my travels tells me where I have been (…).»[5]

Respiração Boca a Boca is Cristina Ataíde’s feeling, her sharing and care towards the other, through several materials, forms and artistic practices, poetically aligned. In her words: «To breathe mouth to mouth makes us think about the idea of caring for the other. The other no longer has air, but we give them ours. It’s an attempt to make the other think they can do something for the planet, for the other, for us….» [6]

Respiração Boca a Boca, by Cristina Ataíde, is at the Museu Internacional de Escultura Contemporânea de Santo Tirso until September 18.






[3] Perniola, M. (1993). Do Sentir. Lisbon: Editorial Presença.p.103.

[4] Filhos da Nação. (08 de Fevereiro de 2020). From RTP:

[5] Varda, A. (Realizador). (2000). Les glaneurs et la glaneuse [Filme].


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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