From the Greek, heteróklitos

In 1935, Walter Benjamin said that when “art was in religious service, the church was a kind of gallery”, while “today, the gallery is something between a church and a bank vault.[1]

Based on this, the exhibition essay of Heteróclitos: 1128 Objetos, on CIAJG’s tenth anniversary, attempted to deconstruct the museum institution by displaying the entire archive of José Guimarães, in dialogue with contemporary art, through the debate between “language, object, subject and politics”. “Heteroclite” represents the “eccentric, irregular, unusual”, exemplifying the construction of “what is dissonant with each other[2], but which displays the process of reconstruction and/or “recombination”[3] of the narrative, creating a creative and reflective act.

This notion is highlighted by the “transit” and “time” of African, Pre-Columbian and Chinese Art objects that are like an “Atlas, bringing together and relating objects, images, ideas and cultures”.[4] The study of this web of relationships and creation of meanings allows us to build a structure that engages in dialogue between the collection and contemporary works, redefining the “self” and the “other”. It also allows experimenting with different ways of living, as a way of rewriting the museological language, questioning the selection and exclusion processes. The experimental set-up tries to amplify the meaning of “heteroclite”, underlining the interaction between curatorial method and works, depicting “another” way of doing, an “inversion” of the curatorial act.

In the exhibition programme, another essay was devised to embody the debate between language, subject and politics, entitled Protótipo Heteróclito, by André Tavares and Ivo Martins. This prototype starts from “architecture’s «projecting» and «doing» potential, creating dialogues on art history, contemporary art, anthropology, philosophy, etc.”, developing a “platform for negotiation between discursive modes” to “stimulate the observation, fruition and vitality of artistic objects”.[5] Protótipo Heteróclito aesthetically thinks about the relationships between objects, people, ideas and structures, emphasising the heterocyclic influences of objects and the struggle of identities where elements feed off each other. There is tension here between the historical and social dynamics of objects, whose production and valuation has undergone significant changes, particularly in the way they are interpreted, something manifested problematically as being outside their time or history. This process can have several effects. For example, in the creation of a closed system of signifiers and signified that creates a pattern of representativity and shapeshifts the practices of creation, circulation and collection. When we consider the artistic, social, cultural and historical diversity of objects, there seems little to speak of their commonalities beyond the collectivist and curatorial perspective, which is not only the need to create a structure without a defined end, but also a process that allows each association to be remade individually or objects to be ‘recombined’ in different ways.

Through this concept emerge the exhibitions Things in Motion and Atirando Pedras which, together with Heteróclitos: 1128 Objetos, occupy the entire first floor. Things in Motion builds a dialogue through an archive of images about the construction of a mise en abyme[6], with references to ethnography, contemporary art, colonialism, cinema, etc. This reveals and problematises the act of exhibiting, but also recalls the life of objects.

Things in Motion has films by Darks Miranda, Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela, Pedro Huet, Sara Santos and some videos from the José Guimarães archive. The archive images are from historical exhibitions that shaped a colonial “unconscious” through the ritualisation of the objects represented, in opposition to “artistic” values and which, through contemporary works, comment on the “dramatic action in the different rooms”.[7]

Among the several works, Croma, 2020, by Pedro Huet, through the projection of a green, rounded vase with a lid, illustrates a set of stories, narratives and memories chronicled for the exhibition. This capacity for agglutination is camouflaged in its representation, being replaced by that which agglomerates. For Huet, this relationship between discourses of power and their images, through narrative plots, is attempting to combine dimensions of critical analysis to the human being, who remembers stories without having lived them, placing the self in the role of the other.

Sombra Luminosa, 2018, by Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela, uses an experimental and mediumistic language, manipulated through images and sounds from exhibitions, catalogues and conversations that took place at CIAJG. The duo generates recombinations, contexts and origins, bridging the biological, the vernacular and the cultural, through a language that interrogates the life of objects, their “dysfunctionality and capture, recalling historical exhibitions that shaped the permanence of a colonial ‘unconscious’“[8] through the context of the object, rather than its aesthetic value. But, accepting this transition as transformation, implies acknowledging the inevitability of this change, regardless of an evolutionary condition, for there is no hierarchy or logical authority.

Finally, Atirando Pedras, with Sara Ramo, illustrates the contradictory feelings in the artist’s installations, by alluding to that which hurts, which is uncertain, which invalidates and distorts language. The exhibition invites the viewers to create connections between the objects, joining the dots of a poetic/political vocabulary. In this way they can comment indirectly on the world and its language. Her work is invaded by the position against a particular hegemonic knowledge and its oppressions. However, it does not have a moral, but rather a tortuous, “failed” and indecisive aspect of volumes and materials. This creates an incomprehensible language or immediate association that, besides the repetitive discourse of differences, multiplicity and post-modern mixtures, exposes a common substratum through the curatorial drill, recreating the reductive reasoning in artistic practice that confuses “difference” with “unusual”.

CIAJG’s exhibitive essays reveal the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge reflecting the dialogical and procedural nature of the ethnographic encounter, in a dynamic between memories, dreams, visions and stories, with social reality aspects that remain invisible. Artistic production here, based on ethnography, is reminiscent of mutual and reflexive knowledge. This allows a sensorial, experiential and corporeal communication, inclusively involving the public, opening doors to social renewal and political vindication, “giving voice and soul to the generally passive and silenced subjects, who do not tell their stories and who live only for the reproduction that is made of them”.[9]

Heteróclitos: 1128 Objetos, Things in Motion and Atirando Pedras are at CIAJG until February 26, 2023.




[1] Walter Benjamin, in Benjamin, Walter, 1969, orig. 1935. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Illuminations, in Hannah Arendt, trad. por Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken Books, pp. 3-5.

[2] Marta Mestre, in the exhibition guide Heteróclitos: 1128 Objetos, 2022, Centro Internacional de Artes José Guimarães, p. 3.

[3] Jacques Ranciere, “Dialectical Montage, Symbolic Montage”, in Ranciere, Jacques, 2009 The Future of the Image, London: Verso, pp. 56-67.

[4] In

[5] Marta Mestre, in Ibid, p. 5.

[6] André Gide, in, Gide, André, 1993, Journal 1889-1939, Paris: Gallimard, “Pléiade”, p. 41.

[7] Marta Mestre, in Ibid.

[8] In Ibid, p. 14.

[9] Pussetti, Chiara, in Nenhuma ferida fala por si mesma. Sofrimento e estratégias de cura dos imigrantes por meio de práticas de ethnography-based art, 2016, Interface – Comunicação, Saúde, Educação, 20(58), p.817.

José Pedro Ralha (Chaves, 1994) has a degree in History of Art, with a specialisation in Philosophy of Art obtained at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra. He also has a Masters in Curatorial Studies, obtained with the dissertation A Instalação Artística através da obra de João Maria Gusmão e Pedro Paiva: Análise às obras 3 Suns, Falling Trees e Papagaio (djambi), by the College of Arts of the University of Coimbra. He has collaborated in several projects such as LAND.FILL, 2019, with Gabriela Albergaria for Laboratório de Curadoria, Anozero ‘19 Biennial of Coimbra - A Terceira Margem, Terçolho, 2021, with João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, at the Serralves Foundation. He has collaborated with Serralves Foundation and is currently contributing with articles and essays for Umbigo, as well as working at the Museum and Libraries of Porto as Executive Producer of Museum Projects.

Signup for our newsletter!

I accept the Privacy Policy

Subscribe Umbigo

4 issues > €34

(free shipping to Portugal)