Twin Islands by Sara Bichão and Violaine Lochu

A hand tapping according to a specific tempo, a call in Morse code, attempting to communicate secretly. Violaine Lochu’s work is defined by action: the video, which bears the exhibition’s title, shows us the artist in a sequence of gestures – with a torch, she goes about showing small sculptures by Sara Bichão, as if they were islands lost in the film’s darkness (objects from the show’s first stop in France, absent in this sequel). When she finds a grotesque mask, she picks it up with her hands and confronts it with her gaze, letting herself be affected by it – perhaps she wants to call Sara, lost on another island, only visible through the objects. For example, the mask and the costume she wears were made by her. Violaine inhabits them from a distance. The act of taking the mask meant giving in to the other’s hallucination, in a metamorphosing process in which we open a red room where Violaine dances frantically – it reminds one of Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge, from which the exhibition shares its first name. The mask’s opaque mirroring could be the performer ascertaining herself as an actress in a film, operated by mechanics she does not control, as if she were a voodoo doll. There are several sculptures with needles sticking out of them, a kind of curse reactivated by someone.

This imagery always has something nautical about it, here as a sign of distance: the works were produced in artistic residences by the two artists in different and distant island locations. We see green fishermen’s ropes in sculptures, shells and stones, as if they were intimate props, almost like boats translated through instinct and impasto. Together, something unpredictable emerges, although not isolated from the referents – Sara Bichão’s sculpture seems to recall Júlio Pomar’s most experimental phase, that of assemblages and significant elements (between the sensibilities that separate them, there is sometimes a certain feminine appeal, with plasticised and elastic colours, and an obsessive profusion of angles and distensions like webs on the objects’ surface, a hand that drags reality along, moulding rigidity). The objects are not only displacements of the referents they borrow – for example, the wrecked boat is almost like a gum – but displacements of displacements, so distant that they become barren places. The more they reveal, the more they confuse us.

One example is the object set on the space’s first floor. When seen from below, it looks like a sun. But, as we climb the stairs, it is an anchor whose warm orange tip is made of a repurposed parasol. At first it seems to glow in a self-referential gesture, but there is a violent movement, beyond the surface, that pulls it in and closes it, returning it to unconsciousness. It displays itself without knowing that it is locked, protected, deadlocked – a sculpture with contradictory, parallel, cohabitating, but undetectable movements.

On the first floor, behind a concrete pillar, we see the exhibition’s last object, which perhaps allows us to reinterpret the rest: it is a crucifix, the work that feeds the comparison with Pomar, in an assemblage made with small differentiating elements: shell, bone, lead, cloth, rope, staple. All apparently used, lived, worn out.

Carpintarias’ first floor is like a balcony that allows us to see the lower level. At a certain angle, we see sequentially the crucifix, the Twin Islands video and, between them, the great staging of the suit that Violaine Lochu used in the video, reconstituted as a human figure attached to ropes – a recurring motif in the objects of this exhibition, as if to avoid vertigo -, adhered to stones so that it does not escape, a Wicker Man of significant drawings and eyes like nazar, which Lochu shows in Signal Dance, working it like a map of her body. There is something macabre, sacrificial in this – after all they sank so that we could be shipwrecked too and lived so that we could be born – like an agent that orchestrates human action, the amulet reactivated by the nails driven into the wood, which has defiled the body of a person: the performer.

We also find smaller, but intense objects. On the same pillar as the crucifix, but on the ground floor, we see a sculpture of a central eye made of marble, arranged on a long piece of wood. It seems to have conscience – the symbol of a quasi-crucifix turns into something more figurative, obvious, a surveillance camera of the theatre of horrors, without us grasping it. At some distance, we find another indecipherable object, consisting of two elongated legs, with shoes, symbols, doodles and seams. Next to it is a quasi shell, resembling a vulva, drawn on an elongated tail-like object. There are multiple enigmas, and the castaways are drawn in our image, sailing through unknown islands, roaming the unknown of Violaine’s song, which contaminates the venue like a curious bird inquiring for answers. She awaits an encounter that only we can conclude.

Twin Islands by Sara Bichão and Violaine Lochu is at Carpintarias de São Lázaro until October 2.

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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