Partida do fim: a play on words, a set-up of meanings.
We are somewhere between the year of our birth and demise. We enter an irregular room, with jagged corners and nooks. The light is low and focused, just like the ceiling. In the background, amidst the intoxicating tobacco smoke, Isabella Rossilini wears a blue velvet dress, Julee Cruise is heard. Lewis Carol, seated in one of the many booths embedded in the walls, is looking for Alice on the other side of the mirrors. The floor has an even tone and, on the carpet, an imposing pool table is the centre of the scene. This is the prelude to fiction without psychological stiffness. It is not surrealistic, but an imagined staging.
Diogo Bolota also projects at Gabinete Giefarte a staging. An exercise that imitates life. A game he called Partida do Fim, where he places the spectator in the confrontation between determinism, playing by the rules, and free will.
The rules are clear: two players, fifteen numbered balls and a white ball. The first seven are the plain balls, the last seven are striped. The player’s objective, on their respective turn, is to put their balls into one of the six holes on the table without fail. A foul means a penalty and allows the opponent to have a momentary advantage. The eight ball is black, it is at the centre of the play; although it closes the match, in the exhibition it refers to infinity – a final play that for the artist is perhaps synonymous with a new beginning, a restart and not an end point.
Diogo Bolota has focused part of his art on the game as a theme: No-Reply Delivery System (2021), Amor obstáculo (2018) Sabotagem (2015). A game almost always emerges as a playful, theatrical, performative and interactive gesture. And the interaction is not only an interchange with the audience, but with the space. The pieces are not site-specific (because they live beyond the space where they are exhibited), but the spatial element is implicit (the artist’s training in architecture perhaps contributes to this). They are pieces in dialogue with the place, where the spectator is invited to partake. That is what happens when we enter the Gabinete Giefarte. We are invited to start the match and the installation assumes a communicational role between players, us (me), the artist and the space. But what starts as a game quickly becomes a semantic manipulation (linguistic and logical).
Ana Anacleto is the exhibition curator, problematising the relationship between the ludic practice (of play) and language through the Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work (Philosophical Investigations). The concept of play or recreation is intrinsic to society (and I believe contributes to its healthy functioning). There is a body language between opponents, which I call quasi-intimacy (or the quest for the next moment). In chess, like other board games, this behavioural proximity is even more evident. A duelling communication, not only in the logic of confrontation, but also in the innocent competition or play to which we associate leisure. Diogo Bolota does not seem to be our adversary; we are not pairs, at least in billiards. The artist tries to deceive us in this staging, like an ambush. The proof of this ruse is the flag-painting in the centre of the space. An unfurled flag, with a billiard cue as a structure, positioned diagonally across the room. It aligns the eye between the blackbird’s nest where it is born (Início, 2023) and the circle of light of the backlit white ball in the opposite corner (Fim, 2023). The flag is a painting of a triangle that appears to have the fresh shape of a watermelon when carved. And the piece’s title reveals the trap: faço da Bandeira a minha pintura (I make the flag my painting). Almost like a jest (play on words), complementing the role reversal, where the white ball is exchanged for the black one resting on the nest.
Partida do fim does not stop at the finitude of objects or the meanings of forms or symbols, nor at the apotheosis of triumph or the devastation of defeat; it opens up possibilities and interpretations. And what does the artist want to say? That painting is the foundation and process of his thought. The flag is the visual symbol representing the loop we are in, ending before beginning, arriving before leaving, and all this in reverse. This is a statement not of a victory-goal, but of the conscious subversion of the rules to give way to continuity.
Partida do Fim by Diogo Bolota with text and curatorship by Ana Anacleto can be visited until June 10 at Gabinete Giefarte.