Matter is Sovereign by Isabel Cordovil at Uma LuLik__

Violence, beyond itself, pursues consciousness (so that the pleasure it achieves is reflected and, therefore, is more intense and more decisive, more profound). [1]

Matter is Sovereign is Isabel Cordovil’s solo exhibition at UMA LULIK__, Lisbon. Curated by David Revés, Isabel presents seven pieces made in 2022, among them sculptures and photographs with elements from Western mythology and the artist’s autobiographical poetics.

In the first room, two sculptures together with an aura propelled by lighting anticipate sacred and profane tensions. Amidst myths and stories, the chastity belt is a symbol of obscurantism and medieval oppression. For a long time, the object was displayed in museums as documentation and memory of a perverse utility, later discovered as an invention of the Enlightenment to ridicule the Middle Ages. Beyond relations of submission and domination, Magdalene reflects on how history can be constructed and myths become mechanisms of control and violence. In contrast to the weight of the piece and its strong meaning, Magdalene is suspended by almost invisible strings, seeming to float above its own shadow.

Next is Teresa, formed by two bodies in one – a confessional narrative and a padded touch of Louise Bourgeois – pointing out the opposite; the freedom and emancipation celebrated by the organ whose sole function is sexual pleasure. The apparent seams and signs indicate a body scarred by violence, intensified through the presence of the wire and rope tying the clitoris, recalling the eroticism and fetish of BDSM and tracing the threshold between pleasure and pain.

The oppositional dialogue created by the relationship between the two works has visible dualities in the exhibition. Engaging in something hurtful is one of the controversies suspended in the game of relationships. Isobel‘s attractive glow on the floor – an old revolver storage case inherited from her grandfather clad in bronze – allures the viewer. The latex-covered floor has clues and footprints pointing to the presence of other bodies. The diptych with her parents’ X-rays in Matter, Mütter, Dionysian scenes with empty chalices and a blurred apple on the table in her house in The Decay of Rome (was a long ass afterparty) show intimate connections through religious symbologies, established power structures and warfare instruments.

In Glotte, a punching bag suspended by chains in the centre of the second room, with iron arrows piercing it from all sides, reminds one of Saint Sebastian’s image. In the Christian narrative, Saint Sebastian was a soldier of the imperial guard condemned for treason; the arrowed, divine and venerable saint. The arrow is Eros’ instrument in Greek mythology. Devotion and the myth of love. The inscriptions on Delilah‘s helmet are clear. Eros and Dionysus meet.

Ideological systems are fictions, novels[2]. Our beliefs and desires are guided by the stories told according to the cut-outs. With mirrored glasses, the motomami Rapunzel carries the medieval princess tale to contemporary times, counterposing illusions and traps in myth-making. In A Matéria é Soberana, Isabel Cordovil reconstructs fictions and revisits historical iconography, passing through battlefields and obscure places of human relations.

Matter is Sovereign is at UMA LULIK__ until December 30, 2022.




[1] BATAILLE, Georges. (1987). O Erotismo. Porto Alegre: L&PM. p. 126.

[2] BARTHES, Roland Barthes. (1987). O Prazer do Texto. São Paulo: Perspectiva. p. 46.

Ana Grebler (Belo Horizonte - Brazil) is an artist, curator and writer. Graduated in Fine Arts at the State University of Minas Gerais (UEMG) and postgraduate in Art Curatorship at Nova University of Lisbon (FCSH). Participated in group shows in Brazil and organized the exhibitions Canil (2024), Deslize (2023) and O horizonte é o meio (2022), in Lisbon. Contributes with Umbigo Magazine with essays, reviews and interviews, and works on the platform's international partnerships. At the intersection of practices, reflects on contemporary visual culture, creating dialogues and imaginaries between spaces and artistic processes. Currently lives and works in Lisbon.

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