Reading Against the Grain: Rudolfo Quintas at Galeria Foco

Rudolfo Quintas‘ art is an ongoing dialogue between philosophy, science and technology, taking an interest in invisible systems of power and control in the social, political and psychological realms. Through works that use interactive, generative techniques and artificial intelligence, the artist explores the cognitive effect of processed information and allows this for the public to explore.

In Reading Against the Grain, the new solo exhibition at Galeria Foco, Rudolfo Quintas presents an artistic investigation into the impact of media on mental health, information overload and the influence news has on public opinion and social behaviour. There are data paintings, drawings, sculptures and algorithmic and computer installations.

Rudolfo Quintas starts the show with the work News Reader System (2022), where a monitor shows in real time the news published by the world media. This detailed and constantly changing list broadcasts information that is impossible to assimilate. The algorithm of this large-scale information gathering is the great fuel of Rudolfo Quintas’ work. He, since 2018, has been developing a study on information overload. For this, the artist works with artificial intelligence, collecting data not only from the media, but also from social networks. The works he has been presenting are developed from the establishment of Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems, in the “field of linguistics and computer science and, more specifically, in the branch of artificial intelligence. This allows computers to understand text and spoken words in the same way that humans can”[1]. In collaboration with data scientists and information visualization programmers, Rudolfo Quintas combines science and technology with art, so that we understand normally incomprehensible systems.

The artist presents himself as an information mediator. What if that information is not true? That’s what happens with the works Screengrab (2022), which make up their own news. They are three works made with copper plates, displayed on the wall like a traditional painting. On the copper were placed sentences that copy the semantic structure of newspaper headlines. We read “Trump disqualified from the Olympics” or “Astronaut travels to the past”. The choice of copper is interesting. As a reflective material, we look at our reflection standing before the work.

On the ground floor, the atmosphere darkens, and our senses are heightened. In Type Dataset (2022) we see three small, illuminated crystals, where information from the database gathered by the artist has been recorded. We see dates, times, and the name of the media of this archive. This is a digital universe, but turned here into a physical piece, emphasising the connection between these two worlds.

The last two works belong to a process that translates the semantic information of news into feelings to unveil the emotional burden in the headlines we read daily, which have an imperceptible psychological effect on us. For this, the artist uses intelligent software that analyses the words, translating them into visual elements that are distinguished in a spectrum of warm and cool colours. Warm colours, such as yellow, correspond to a more positive feeling. Cool colours, such as purple, represent a negative feeling. In Sentiment Data Painting – Memory (2022), five screens show the result of this experiment that gave rise to digital paintings – generated from a news archive -, where different spots slide vertically and alternate colour.

Following the same principle, Sentiment Data Painting – Memory (2022) has a large format projection of a data painting, which is here “painted” in real time, translating news that come out live in the media. The headlines appear in the video’s footer and, when they appear, the colour stains start to draw from left to right in a horizontal movement. Each news item corresponds to a layer of digital ink and a colour. The accumulation grows as the news come out. Keeping up with this real-time video is a murmuring, continuous sound, creating a delicately introspective atmosphere. We are invited to slow down the pace, to sit back and watch.

Reading Against the Grain is a large organism, brimming with information, conveying truth, but also manipulating it. This is a large system that operates and reads information and presents ways of seeing the manipulative – usually invisible – power of the media.

The exhibition is at Galeria Foco until December 23, 2022.



[1] Information taken from the exhibition text Reading Against the Grain.

Laurinda Marques (Portimão, 1996) has a degree in Multimedia Art - Audiovisuals from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa. She did an internship in the Lisbon Municipal Archive Video Library, where she collaborated with the project TRAÇA in the digitization of family videos in film format. She recently finished her postgraduate degree in Art Curatorship at NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition “Na margem da paisagem vem o mundo” and began collaborating with the Umbigo magazine.

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