FPM#4 – Bons, menos Bons e outros Sobreviventes, the culmination of two decades of Fundação PLMJ

“Civilization is defined by law and art”. With this striking statement, uttered by Camille Paglia in the controversial Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, Luis Sáragga Leal, partner, founder and president of the board of Fundação PLMJ, points the way to the institution’s exhibition gallery. The premise is “A Law Firm as a Space for Culture”. It perfectly fits this occasion. After watching the documentary that celebrates the Foundation’s twenty years – commemorated in 2021, during the pandemic – the sentence echoes through the auditorium and chases us to the fourteenth floor of the building at 41 Fontes Pereira de Melo, Lisbon, for the opening of the exhibition FPM#4 – Bons, menos Bons e outros Sobreviventes.

Paglia explains: on one side is law, setting the rules of the game in society’s outer life; on the other is art, governing the human spirit and subjectivity. Both words challenge us to use uppercase initials, recurrent protagonists in the Western philosophical tradition and representatives of abstract but also tangible realities and meanings. But placing them in parallel may give us the fallacious idea that their fields of action remain immune and uncontaminated. After all, doesn’t the law also find ways to invade the field of passions and intimacies? And who can exactly establish the point of departure and arrival of a work of art?

PLMJ’s journey has also witnessed the blurring of these barriers, a place where art is the tool for social and political transformation; and the law is the investor of human desire. As several Portuguese cultural agents point out in their testimonials featured in Fundação’s institutional film by the director Abílio Leitão, we emphasize the entity’s cultural programmes: projects such as Autores Lusófonos or Opções & Futuros already showed the will, rare in Portugal at the beginning of the millennium, to promote the emerging art in the country and in the Portuguese-speaking Diaspora. As a disseminator of art and creativity in Europe, but also in Africa, South America and Asia, Fundação PLMJ reveals new geographical links, new sensibilities and – quite literally – new venues for interaction between artists, the public and the city.

Since the move to Picoas in 2019, the collection, with more than 1400 pieces of different types, is set among several meeting rooms and a 40-metre-long exhibition venue with a layout clearly inspired by the interior architecture of Lina Bo Bardi at São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MASP). After a first show on this newly launched installation context, there was an exhibition of the photography included in Fundação’s archive and another entitled Espaços Imaginados, proposing a multidisciplinary approach to the boundaries between inside/outside, natural/artificial, real/fictional, material/immaterial. The fourth annual exhibition, curated by João Silvério and inaugurated on February 9, chooses the body as the main address for the Ultimate Question: “Who are we?”.

Using the title of the work by Susanne Themlitz (1999), Bons, menos Bons e outros Sobreviventesventures to propose several answers through 28 artists: the hero, the victim, the sceptic, the offended, the instinct. A chameleon doomed to the sorrowful fate of wanting to be who he is not, according to Acting #3 (2007) by Vasco Araújo; or the crossing of an infinite genealogy of faces that want to be seen for what they exactly are – for example, Memórias para 14 bustos #0 (2022) by Mário Carvalho. A handful of matter that crumbles into a useless and hollow skeleton – fragilely balancing in the hands recorded by Eduardo Guerra in Inverted Vanitas, from the series Do you know about the fall? (2008). Or a soul that claims to be eternal on another metaphysical plane, as in A mulher na religião, from the series Os Marizones (2010) by Mário Macilau.

This irresolute and irresistible question may have to do essentially with the locus. We believe that it lies in the body’s immediate vicinity – but in which street? Which alley? Which hole? Where is Wally, Wally, Wally (2007, Joana Bastos)? Where am I – where is I? Almost all the works on show have faces – but they are obliterated, manipulated, masked, proving that there is more to singularity than just a pair of eyes with specific features and gleams. A kind of surrealism, disallowing even the notion that we are dealing with a social being, with human sensibility, intelligence and will, with nationality, name and ID number. But there is also a peculiar confrontation between personalities, an implied realism that takes us back to the criteria of objectivity, to the recognition of the other as something close or distant. On the limit between formlessness and form, multiple and one, possible and I, perhaps, on the top of a glass building, on some Thursday, we discover that neither law nor art can define us.

FPM#4 – Bons, menos Bons e outros Sobreviventes is at Fundação PLMJ until January 9, 2024.

Laila Algaves Nuñez (Rio de Janeiro, 1997) is an independent researcher, writer and project manager in cultural communication, particularly interested in the future studies developed in philosophy and the arts, as well as in trans-feminist contributions to imagination and social and ecological thought. With a BA in Social Communication with a major in Cinema (PUC-Rio) and a MA in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies (NOVA FCSH), she collaborates professionally with various national and international initiatives and institutions, such as BoCA - Biennial of Contemporary Arts, Futurama - Cultural and Artistic Ecosystem of Baixo Alentejo and Terra Batida / Rita Natálio.

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