Sopro by André Cepeda and Alka-Seltzer by Jorge Queiroz at Rialto6
Sopro and Alka-Seltzer are the two most recent exhibitions at Rialto6. Sopro is a solo show by André Cepeda (Coimbra, 1976), an artist who has used photography to explore the urban nature of cities, and through it invoque intimate and sensitive spatial relationships. In Alka-Seltzer, Jorge Queiroz (Lisbon, 1966), an artist who has built up a complex personal imaginary with his paintings and drawings, presents a surprising, powerful and immersive installation.
Motivated by his ceaseless apetite for experimentation and investigation into new formal ways of seeing and relating to space, this is the first time André Cepeda is showing Sopro to the public. It is a video, something he has long wanted, and until now not been able to do. It is, in actual fact, a natural development in his work, as the moving image has long been part of his creative process. Unfurling asan intimate and personal reflection on experience, and perceptual and experiential awarenesses of the city, he has been filming since he was 18, mainly in Super 8 and 16mm, to relate to, explore and appropriate the places he works from, having since then built up a huge personal archive.
Sopro, the video he is now showing, and which he has been working onover more than a year, is comprised of seven fixed shots, spatial and temporal fragments taken over the normal course of time. We see two women, depicted suspended in a moment between time and action, lying down in a vacant lot and looking up at the sky. Free, natural and spontaneous actions, taken out of their flow. Perspectives that expand temporal limits, undermining what we understand by photography and video, where the still image seems to expand to reveal small gestures and subtle inhalations of breath.
The video ends with the image of four reinforced concrete pillars. They are captivating focal points, remnants of the past in a wasteland, a place on the periphery, incongruous presences in the city’s frenzied cycle of production and resistant to the normativity of the centres of power. In this image, as in others by André Cepeda, we are reminded of the way Walter Benjamin understood the city as durational, a place where we check in with our presences and actions, revealing the way we live, inhabit and abandon places, caught between loss and reconfiguration, absence and presence, memory and forgetfulness. The images in this video, like the places being portrayed, seem to project an openness tothe unexpected, other times, actions and thoughts. Places marked by the memory of the past, but which simultaneously promise chance encounters and freedom.
In the course of this work, before these four columns, a site ofcontemporaneity in ruins, André Cepeda seeks to find the origin of the city he has been photographing for so many years, in a personal research project both inquisitive and incisive. This long process of research and preparation took him to Greece, “the cradle of European ‘humanity’“, as Joerg Bader, the exhibition curator, calls it. We are transported from darkness to the radiance of the basement of Rialto6, where we find the photographs that the artist took in the Parthenon, a temple built in honour of the goddess Athena Parthenos, protector of Athens. Under André Cepeda’s sensitive and exploratory gaze, this eminently recognisable ruin seen in endless snapshots, acquires a quality as familiar as it is foreign. These are in fact perspectives one would not expect to see, novel and fragmentary, and open to the vagaries of space, focused on the intensity with which bright sunlight glimmers on the marble to become almost spiritual. Photographs that carry us along in intimate silence, to a place otherwise unattainable, while notoriously popular with tourists.
Back in the dark, the exhibition ends with a slide projection of a photographic portrait. The sound the machine makes sets the tempo, the rhythm with which a man’s face gradually reveals itself and subtly shifts until he ends up staring back at us.
In the temporal arc the exhibition takes us on, between darkness and clarity, past and present, André Cepeda shows the way in which the most private of gestores inhabit social narratives and far-reaching, far-flung stories.
Leaving behind us the contemplative world of André Cepeda’s Sopro, we ascend to the upper floor to plunge into the efervescente imaginationof Jorge Queiroz’s Alka-Seltzer.
The exhibition picks up where the artist’s concert-installation in October 2020 at Appleton left off, in response to a challenge posed in the summer of that year by musician David Maranha, with whom he collaborated on the project. Expanding upon what he presented that time, at Rialto6 now he has conceived an immersive installation, which we first encounter with the sound of three Alka-Seltzers, on whichJorge Queiroz painted a bird, for them then to be dissolved in water. The sound of the fizzy tablet, at once familiar and strange, being of a predetermined duration, seems to expand and up-end our expectations of temporal perception. Guided by three sound foci arranged in different parts of the room, the sonic space, as we weave between sounds of heavy breathing and birdsong, triggers a cascade of memories and images.
We are sucked into this new world of image and movement in a video projected onto the tentacled body of an enormous creature spreading itself out across the space. Taking as a reference point the 8.20 metre-long, 207 kg squid that in 1972 the crew of the codfish trawler Elizabeth donated to Aquário Vasco da Gama (where it is now on display), an 80m octopus made out of white fabric has been installed at Rialto6, which folds and unfolds upon itself, and whose head, body and tentacles we start to make out. The record of the alchemical metamorphosis of the Alka-Seltzer is projected onto it. On six different occasions across the space, this video is shown in no particular order. Beyond the sight of dissolving effervescent pills, toys, drawings of birds, models of Chinese pagodas, glasses of water appear. Characters populating a fiction through which we can wander and ourselves participate.
As Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues says in the exhibition text, Alka-Seltzer engages in breaking down the boundaries of the mediums it explores, in a “singular experience that goes from drawing to sculptural object, from installation to sound recording, and from audio-visual to filmic environment“. Assumedly ambivalent, Jorge Queiroz manipulates our physical and sensorial experience of the space, at once an exuberant and becalming invitation to stay a while there.
And on we go. Images appear one after another and constantly surprise us, emerging through the folds of the fabric. Still we carry on. The sound is syncopated, ebbing and flowing, as we walk ever onwards. Hit by beams of light, the shadows cast by our legs, arms and body are projected onto the tentacled beast and the walls of the venue, as multiple forms fill the space. And, thanks to this, the exhibition only gains in readings, becoming ever more transformative and unpredictable.
As we wander through the space, we then come across twelve works on paper hung on the walls. An original image of a small holographic postcard, hung on the stairs leading up to the space, has been manipulated in different ways, blown up and silk-screened. Above and below two birds which seem to be headings for each sheet of paper, joined by markings that Jorge Queiroz himself has added, we see drawings that densify and warp. The metamorfoses taking place in these works, whose forms merge with that of the octopus, reverberate in their surroundings, as comings-togethers and pullings-apart. Drawings revealing a humour imbued with the vigour of Alka-Seltzer‘s free-wheeling, effervescent imagination.
At Rialto6, these very different exhibitions both share elements in common – even if this is not essential to enjoying the experiences they offer. They remind us of what is at the genesis of film, time and light, decisive to creating the works on show. It is through the drawn-out sensation of time and the action of light that envelop us and intersect, that we get a sense of Sopro and Alka-Seltzer, between experienced and inhabited real space, and an invisible universe of our thoughts, memories and imagination.
 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 252.
 Joerg Bader, “André Cepeda abre o diafragma” in André Cepeda, Sopro, Lisboa: Rialto6 jb books & projects, 2023, p.17. Edição publicada no âmbito da exposição.