Didier Fiúza Faustino at Maat or a body odyssey

There is an experimentation lab in Maat’s oval room. It could be the stage sitting for a NASA test programme or perhaps the scene of a sci-fi plot, but it is a retrospective of Didier Fiúza Faustino’s (France, 1968) work over the last three decades. Exist/Resist is also the Luso-French experimentalist’s first show in Portugal and one of the biggest from an institutional standpoint. The title is taken from two works – Exist (2016) / Resist (2017) – and tries to sum up the tensions, conflicts and oppressions generated by Design and Architecture (in bodies), the resistance in the face of social normativity and other Faustino’s concerns about the body and space.

Architect-designer-artist, with a hyphen between the designations, since the separation between the disciplines is blurred in his work. The limits of each subject are challenged to make clear the object of study: the body. The body as scale in architecture (the theme of housing is in the DNA of Faustino’s creativity), the gesture of the body in place; the body-object and the gender bipolarity that we “assign” to forms. All themes are in the exhibition and there is iconography associated with each. Divided into 4 major themes: Housing and Dwelling, Borders of Bodies, Design as Resistance, Agonism in Public Space, in 2 rooms and 17 modules, the exhibition is organic, ergonomic and playful.

The imposing exhibition design is signed by the architect’s studio Mésarchitecture. In the first moment, in the iconic oval room, a ship’s hull (between the definition of a bote/ark and space-ship), white light, ascetic ambiance and tall vitrines. Separated modules cut out by circular shapes and intersections displaying the core painted in electric blue. A blue between that which Yves Klein patented[1]and the blue that visual memory associates with the multinational IKEA. Perhaps these are not innocent references. Firstly, because the relationship with domestic comfort is implicit in Faustino’s discourse. The show must go home (2013) and Home Suit Home(2013) or the prototype for the One square meter house (2003-2006) show his reflection on the home[2]. Then, Faustino presents a piece inspired by Yves Klein’s famous photograph Leap into the void (1960), at one end of the oval room. Opus Incertum (2008) recalls vertigo (or perhaps Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958)), the paradox between comfort and collapse, the fear or desire to fall. We read in mural letters on the concave wall: You are invited to try me out. Faustino challenges us to experience the awareness of the absence of ergonomics in falling over the void (“how do you feel” – we hear someone ask in English to a visitor lying on the piece. The answer is quick: “terrible”).

The “try me out” idea is a guiding statement of the visit. We climb a telescopic ladder to see the exhibition from above, sitting in a maternal niche (Asswall, 2003); we peer into the various showcases between the different supports, as if it were a furniture fair (or even a guided tour of the Vitra factory). We walk around the objects, models, sculptures with our body on one level and our eyes on another. Or we climb aboard Democracia Portátil (2006-2022), a travelling military bunker that reminds us that “(…) freedom of expression is not guaranteed and needs protection[3].

In the second room we hear Don’t trust Architects (2010-2022)[4]. A multilingual looped sound installation, an almost manifesto about the distrust (or demand) we should have with architecture and design. The atmosphere darkens and the room is occupied by a battlefield. On one side there are galvanised steel structures from Builthefight (2015), which fuel passive “protest, occupy, resist” demonstrations[5]. On the other side, steel shelters fictionalise a camp in a minimal post-apocalyptic landscape, lit by flashing neon, where we read “Too Late for tomorrow

(when the letters “ate” are “off”, a “too…l/tool” appears for the near future).

Didier Fiúza Faustino’s work is based on the questioning and resistance of Design, Architecture and how these disciplines relate to society, generating, shaping, corrupting barriers. With humour and irony, eroticism and strength (sensually violent) and often as a manifesto, but always playful (a game of fun and pleasure), Faustino paves the way for reflection on yesterday’s objects in tomorrow’s and today’s bodies. Or perhaps the other way around. We should remember that Resist (2017) is not a concept, it is something underlying all gestures.

Exist/ Resist curated by Pelin Tan is at Maat until March 6, 2023.





[1] IKB – International Klein Blue

[2] Besides several pieces where the lexicon “house” or “home” appears, the exhibition features a prototype exploring the domestic space.

[3] We read it in the table’s explanatory footnote, attached to the piece’s caption..

[4] What is art?

What is architecture?

What is firm? What is function?

What you see is not what you get.

Don’t trust architects.

We read in the table next to the piece

[5] We read in one of the footnotes in the graphically appealing tables – luminescent yellow sheets organising the archive of thirty years of work and reminding us that Design is also graphic.

Frederico Vicente (Lisbon, 1990) master in architecture (FA-UL), researcher and independent curator (postgraduate at FCSH-UNL). In 2018, he founded the Sul e Sueste curatorship collective, a platform that aims to be a hinge between art and architecture, territory and landscape. As a curator he has regularly collaborated with the INSTITUTO, in Porto, from which we highlight exhibitions such as "How to find the centre of a circle" by Emma Hornsby and "Handmade" by Ana Paisano. He was also the curator of the exhibitions "Espaço, Tempo, Matéria", Convento da Verderena, Barreiro; "Fleeting Carpets and Other Symbiotic Objects" by Tiago Rocha Costa, AMAC, Barreiro or "Do Território aos Lugares", Museu de Almada, Almada, among others. Professional activity orbits mainly around the multiple ramifications of architecture.

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