Loosening time, lifting bodies, finding voids: Em Estado de Suspensão by Albano Afonso
“The light carried / In itself the agitation / Of paradises, gods and infernos, / And the instants in you were eternal / Of possibilities and suspension.” 
There is some kind of moment – which appears almost always suddenly, sometimes unrecognisable in the present, and then indefinable in the future – where a gesture, image, object or event elicits such strangeness that it puts down – or up – the mountaintop of mental and empirical references that give meaning to our experience in the world. In that restless moment, of delicate balance, we can say that the symbolic ceiling that protects us collapses over our heads; but, on the other hand, we can say that this boundary moves and widens to reveal a universe that, despite its infinitude, grows a little bigger. How many times in a lifetime do we realise we are in Em Estado de Suspensão [Standby], that strong and fleeting moment?
Albano Afonso captures and translates the mystery of that instant in his latest exhibition, curated by David Barro and in partnership with Fundación DIDAC, at Appleton Square. In the perfectly square room of the cultural centre in Alvalade, Lisbon, the Brazilian artist’s installation is based on a circular structure that leads the viewer to wander around the contours and in between. Hands, face, crystals, a bell and other small objects are suspended in a sculptural vault. In the centre there are lights projecting on the gallery’s white walls the fragments of bodies of different colours and transparencies, manipulating silhouettes and textures that lead us into a kind of Shadow Play. We can see birds, letters or even a re-reading of Rodin. But there is also something abstract, some kind of pictorial force in the floating, flickering, timeless and expanded figurations in space.
I don’t remember being in a cot, distracted by the spinning dolls above my baby head. But, as a child, I do remember the ceiling of the small room I shared with my sister. It would turn into a fluorescent Milky Way at bedtime. The points of light, planet-shaped stickers and stars scattered according to their scientific positions drove away the fear of the dark, providing the vibrant tranquillity of a night’s sleep under the sky. In Em Estado de Suspensão, it was as if the enormity of the world became more palpable. In the blink of an eye, the painful and beautiful epiphany that we are not protected emerged – around and above our bodies exists the obscure and incalculable void.
Albano Afonso’s piece is a manifestation like that of childhood: a dream lulled into a soft and tender music, almost audible in the metals and lines of the suspended sculptures, but which ends up opening fissures in the real, in the anatomy of things and beings – quite literally, even. In the catalogue for the exhibition 7SP – Seven Artists from São Paulo, at Fondation CAB Brussels in 2012, Afonso is described as an illusionist whose tricks reflect the gift of making “the public believe in a reality as solid as light.”  At Appleton, we are witnesses to this power of playing with the devices of photography and the eye to trigger pauses or loosening in time, making us see ourselves with the eyes of those who watch us – from inside and outside, simultaneously -, awakening us to the fragility of matter, flesh, and respective intervals and tensions.
“But each / gesture in you shattered, dense / From a gesture deeper in itself contained, / For you always carried in yourself suspended / Another possible and lost garden.” 
Em Estado de Suspensão by Albano Afonso is at Appleton Square until June 10.
 Andresen, Sophia de Mello Breyner. (1990). “Jardim Perdido”. In Obra poética I. 3. ed. Lisbon: Caminho, p. 47.
 Available in <https://fondationcab.com/exhibitions/7sp-seven-artists-from-sao-paulo>.
 Andresen, Sophia de Mello Breyner. Op. cit.