João Onofre between the falcon’s cry and the siren’s song

João Onofre presents Untitled (in awe of) at Cristina Guerra – Contemporary Art gallery. Three new pieces comprise a non-immediate audiovisual narrative – one that this article also fails to reveal. The barbary falcon’s screech reverberates through the open field every 95 seconds in the first room. Ten screens arranged horizontally (six) and vertically (four) take repetition, re-dimension and reproduction to the limit. On the one hand, the observer-observed relationship is a widescreen, circular game around the installation. Conversely, it draws closer and further away, possibly making reference to the dexterity of the predator’s ocular system. As spectators or as prey, we are hurried to find a Cartesian location in space, with XYZ coordinates, to take in the whole scene (of the installation). This proves to be a daunting task under the watchful eye of the falcon soaring overhead.

However much we want to flee to another place, running down the gallery stairs to the deconstructed sound of Tim Buckley‘s Song for the Siren[1] from 1969[2], we cannot, or at least we are unable to hide. Music can be the siren’s song, an unruly chant that lures and guides – “And you sang “Sail to me, sail to me;” – and we know how frequently pop music (culture) appears in Onofre’s work, as a means of experimenting with memory and the collective imagination; but this is insufficient to rival the falcon’s watchful eye – “til your singing eyes and fingers / drew me loving into your eyes“.

Not even the whispers trumpeted in the second room, sealed (with three colours: blue, green and red) and thrown into the sea, as if they were secrets or profound love letters, can free us from the falcon ‘s stare. Untitled (It’s About That Time Corner Piece) (2022-2023) consists of thirteen transparent bottles that capitalise on the corner as a blind spot. But soon the scream starts echoing again and the atmosphere inside the jar evades our attention.

Untitled (in awe of) is an exhibition for ornithologists and anyone interested in vision as the noblest of all senses, a sound test under the bird of prey’s watchful eye. To see, to be observed and to listen to at Cristina Guerra – Contemporary Art gallery until November 18.



[1] Untitled (trio of voices for (João) tenor, falsetto and ASRM – Buckley and Beckett ‘s Song to the Siren, 2023.

[2] The song was popularised by the 1983 version of This Mortal Coil.

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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