Ressonância: André Cepeda at Venha a nós a Boa Morte (Viseu)
Ressonância by André Cepeda at Venha a nós a Boa Morte (VNBM) is the result of an artistic residence in Viseu, with the collaboration of Miguel Abras, invited by the recently opened gallery in the city’s historical centre. The venue rehabilitated by Pausa Possível was established to promote the creation, production and presentation of contemporary artistic practices, through a program of four annual exhibitions, enhancing the decentralization of artistic creation, with projects conceived, thought and presented in the territory.
Cepeda’s photographs, together with Abras’ words, in a joint work that echoes the several people and places they have been scrutinizing throughout the residence, show more than faces, gestures, textures and ambiences. They propose a poetics, as we feel the silence, the sorrow, the loneliness and the humanity, given the plasticity of the choice of the images presented and their arrangement in the exhibition area, and also the experimental text, according to the testimonies gathered during the process. As per the exhibition text: “The themes addressed are ruin, the abyss, vertigo, the body and existentialism, in resonance with survival. These subjects are confirmed in the shadow of oblivion which, as they dialogue, permanently echo in silent spaces where the significance of history is questioned”. After a brief incursion through Viseu’s historical centre, where we walk through the somewhat empty and silent streets, with old houses, some traditional shops and the emblematic Cathedral, we enter the VNBM and the experience lingers on Cepeda’s six photographs. All with the same format, in a balance that demonstrates their pace and relationship, like a musical score, where we see the waiting, the silences and the duration of each take. But we sense some variations as, along with black and white photographs, we see two in orange tones, perhaps representations of some rusty material, which underline the mark of time. This stresses the image of an old man’s face, whose gaze touches us deeply and takes us to other places, facing a character on his back, of whom we only see his light hair, a point of view that immediately reminds us of some classic cinema images, such as Madeleine Elster’s hairstyle in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1968), or even that of the mother in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo (1975). In the middle of the composition, a man has his face covered by long hair, as if he were The Thinker (1904) by Auguste Rodin, O desterrado (1872) by Soares dos Reis, or even a rock musician, given the leather jacket, jeans and boots, almost next to an image with tags that remind us of the world of punk sounds: “in the ruin of my decisions / you identify with the fall / the abyss / one must be afraid of heights / the precipice is sucking in / the vertigo is pulling in / is there pleasure in this or is it just an escape / if I keep falling how do I / fall / let it be if I fall / there is a bottom”, we read in the exhibition text.
In Ressonância, we also find echoes of North American documentary photography from the first half of the 20th century, especially Walker Evans, given the poetry as he photographed what he could see. One of the most iconic projects was commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, where he was asked to document the life and situation of rural communities during the Great Depression of the 1930s, alongside Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee, among others. However, we highlight Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) where Evans travelled through the southern United States of America with writer James Agee, regarding an article on rural landowners. This later resulted in a publication about the life of these communities, with very lyrical words and images, with documentary and political, subjective and autobiographical content. It became one of the reference works of documentary photography and cinema.
To conclude, a passage from Húmus (1917) by Raúl Brandão, which very much characterises the experience of Ressonância: “Man is shapeless within. It is he and all the dead. He is an unmeasured shadow; he has within him the vastness of the universe. And with this he had to take on the mask. To live he had to transform himself and forget the real figure, opting for the everyday figure. Now we are all ghosts – after all, we are only ghosts and what we have built no longer fits into the four walls of matter.” 
The exhibition is on until September 10, at Venha a nós a Boa Morte gallery.
Brandão, R. (2016). Húmus. Lisboa: Bertrand Editora, Lda. p.72.