Alguém, ninguém by Pedro Pousada at Pedro Oliveira Gallery

(…) do we not see that the laborious piece of literature which I am to compose from the beginning of this stanza would perhaps be less appreciated if it took its point of support in a thorny question of chemistry or internal pathology?”[1]
– Conde de Lautréamont

Alguém, ninguém, the name of Pedro Pousada’s exhibition at Galeria Pedro Oliveira, implies a true metamorphosis. More than just extinguishing the exhibition’s title, it builds an extraordinary gallery of inhumanity, violence and cruelty, crowded with hybrid beings who can be either victims or executioners, in scenes driven by an explosive blend of evil, greed and cowardice.

Starting with the text I struggled with when I arrived at the exhibition – in itself a feat of literature -, which led me to ramble through Count de Lautréamont’s writings. To put it another way, thorny questions are one thing, art is something else. With the exhibition, the artist appropriates the language, conceiving new and odd effects that previous practices have acclaimed and condoned – the accumulation of horrific elements and the compositional repetition of scenarios resulting from the exhibition’s splintered structure should be noted -, the result of which, having overcome the initial shock, is an initial estrangement and then recognition, trivialising that grotesque world and enabling the viewers to make themselves available to the work that such language entails.

This means that the being, part of the world, preserves an extract of corporeality that is absolutely promiscuous with it. Carrying with it feelings, history and experience, past and future derived from this living relationship that unfolds before it. The artist’s spirit manifests itself in this body extract, “(…) the spirit can be seen and read in the glances (…) that come to us in flesh, bound to a face and a gesture”.[2]

Pedro Pousada’s oeuvre is spiritual by promoting being and generating a world where similarities do not exist, but rather an expression. We will not refer here to this inner spirit, as Kandinsky[3] does, but to the bodily expression emerging from contact with the world and leading to the work, vivid in its colours and on the artist’s canvas. The spirit flowing from his work neither nullifies perception nor makes it impossible to experience the world. It is not reliant on any ability to open up a representation prior to experience, for it is the painter who makes experience possible and all human signification arises in the fabric of the world.

Much like Count de Lautréamont, Pedro Pousada breaks these habits and lays bare the foundation of the inhuman nature on which being is rooted. That is why his characters are uncanny, as if they are seen by a being from another species. Pousada triggers this unfamiliarity by reaching for mystery – that which is revealed in direct contact with the world, something our thoughts suppress through reflection that never again returns to this realm. We inevitably get carried away with the idea that all of this is there and is unwavering.

Searching for answers to address contemporary art issues in an 18th century philosopher may seem anachronistic; and yet I felt reassured reflecting on this idea in Pedro Pousada’s work. For David Hume, the root of the problem with the imagination mechanism lies not only in melding ideas together, but also in simplifying more complex concepts – such as impressions of objects or memory traces – which is why both the concepts of “memory atom” and “cognition” can be compared to the notion of a “free set of signifiers within a universe of differences”.[4]

In short, and building an understanding of this “free set of signifiers”, it would be worth noting the following: “(…) almost at dusk, [Milu] informs the duo that the journey has become dangerous and that ‘the dead will not accept money, they want more’“. “Milu, they don’t believe that, and he who owes nothing fears nothing,” said Juju. “They don’t have to pay the dead anything else.” “They may not believe it (…),” she replied, “(…) but the problem is other people’s beliefs.” “Evil may strike and I don’t want it to fall on João and Pedro. This is just a matter of friendship. The dead want money, and I’m just playing my part out of friendship for them.[5] This set built on the being’s similarity bridges the gap between real and unreal. It allows other works, movements, times and outlandish visions to step in and provide different mental structures, within the same time and geographical scope, as in Alguém, ninguém.

Alguém, ninguém by Pedro Pousada is showing at Galeria Pedro Oliveira, Porto, until January 6, 2024.


[1] Pseudonym of Isidore Ducasse, Uruguay, 1846-1870.
[2] MerleauPonty, Maurice, 2004, The World of Perception, New York: Routledge, p. 135.
[3] Kandinsky, Wassily, 1996, Curso da Bauhaus, São Paulo: Martins Fontes, p. 53.
[4] Owen, David, 1999, Hume’s Reason, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 76-77.
[5] Gusmão, João Maria e Paiva, Pedro, 2014, Teoria Extraterrestre, Milan: Mousse Publishing, p. 222.

José Pedro Ralha (Chaves, 1994) has a degree in History of Art, with a specialisation in Philosophy of Art obtained at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra. He also has a Masters in Curatorial Studies, obtained with the dissertation A Instalação Artística através da obra de João Maria Gusmão e Pedro Paiva: Análise às obras 3 Suns, Falling Trees e Papagaio (djambi), by the College of Arts of the University of Coimbra. He has collaborated in several projects such as LAND.FILL, 2019, with Gabriela Albergaria for Laboratório de Curadoria, Anozero ‘19 Biennial of Coimbra - A Terceira Margem, Terçolho, 2021, with João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, at the Serralves Foundation. He has collaborated with Serralves Foundation and is currently contributing with articles and essays for Umbigo, as well as working at the Museum and Libraries of Porto as Executive Producer of Museum Projects.

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