Vigilant Deliveries

Both floors of Galeria Appleton are busy until February 3 with exhibitions by two artists: Ano Sabático by Nuno Nunes-Ferreira, curated by Luísa Santos and Ana Fabíola Maurício, and Guarda Nocturno by Horácio Frutuoso.

Like the definition of a centre resulting in a displaced centripetal force, the first exhibition features a metal office shelf on which several cardboard boxes are displayed, bearing a number representing the month of the year, whose working period yielded a set of artworks, now sealed inside the box, the opening of which immediately renders the artistic value of the pieces impossible. Nunes Ferreira’s piece is visually bereft in the room, but this is negated by the excessive amount of information written on the boxes, using repetition as a way of drawing attention to the work: interestingly, the regular variation of the writing on the box is exactly what leads the viewer to read it over and over again, comparing the boxes with each other. The impression of the shelf’s weightlessness, its cold metal, the sobriety of the cardboard’s colour, the words in capital letters and written in black, the piece’s modesty, all make the viewer indulge in guesswork – a strong belief that is easily overturned under the impression of being vainly tempted to decipher an interpretation. As the picture carousel picks up pace in the viewer’s mind – what’s inside the box? -, we take a step back and recognise the obvious fact that what we are facing is a work that coincides with its own archive, positioning us in the space of any room next to the one in which something is being made and created. Exhibition room, studio, archive? More accurately, it could be called an anteroom which, by definition, is the tributary of a public space, populated by many. Therefore, an anteroom is a withdrawn area, resisting the geography of norms, reason and power. Believing that these boxes are massive in weight or, on the other hand, that they are just the mass of cardboard, paint and the hands handling them, is one and the same deceitful stunt, one that is indeed deceitful: the shelf not only represents a set of time and physical factions, but is also their very embodiment and, as such, their very fanciful form. Besides, everything and nothing is allowed by this piece. What makes it possible to embody a form, colour and temperature, ultimately a single unit, are the exhibition visitors themselves surrounding an object that can no longer tell them anything, as virtualised as they are in the exhibition’s discretionary time, inciting both the longing to reach the future with something more to tell and giving back the image of an anticipated moment, thereby reverting to the reminiscent past. Meanwhile, the present is receding, and fiction and reality become one and the same ground. The authentic is imposed on factuality as proof of proof, and ironically as proof of value, as the conditions under which art is no longer art are proclaimed: an authentic work proves its value through performative irony, which, by denying artistic value, is affirming it and, to put it another way, adding a commercial value, determined by the former.

Horácio Frutuoso’s Guarda Nocturno brings (to the archive where all art finds itself, the archive of the market (and) of the Times) a certain arcane force, gauged by the Eastern and Maghreb rugs (Kilim? Persian?) laid out asymmetrically and juxtaposed throughout the room, pointing to this world before theory, before narrative (how can we fail to think of the office of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis?), as well as the paintings of houses torn between construction and ruin. As such, we cannot tell if they are buildings in the process of being built or if, on the other hand, they are a print, in other words, the artist’s capture of a ruin, compelling it to spring to life. Destruction is the process of the unproductive, just as history is the mechanism of the non-repeatable and narrative is the endeavour of the imponderable. A narrative cog is turned on and its compositional elements are matched in their incompleteness. In this way, the act of narrating never comes to an end, just as the act of going in never stops: the rug that is walked on is followed by other feet, steps and, figuratively, yet another rug is formed. One layer after another. One and the same fabric: protecting while at the same time distancing from itself.

In Guarda Nocturno, the palimpsest is the space’s architectural yardstick, as well as the sensitivity and apparent device of the paintings surrounding a centre that, in return for an impossibly neutral and inane surveillance, is imaginative. Surveillance avoids the unity of a subject who owns it as a guise and status to address a way of thinking about the memory of space, the silent narrative it tells, exempting it from any narratives prior to the visual set-up it offers us. Stepping into a room, a gesture extended by the fabric that we build up within it: on it, to the extent that it touches the substance of the room, and on it to the degree that we add yet another fabric, yet another volume and weight. Walking into the gallery, entering the painting becomes, effectively, a way of veiling it (putting on a veil). Horácio Frutuoso’s pastel colours give the pieces a familiar look and feel. There have been many contemporary cinema examples in which the pastel is the filter through which a story is told, the moments of which are nothing more than parts of the day we all live through: I’m particularly reminded of Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles, by Chantal Akerman. However, the mixture of gold and copper tones dispels this somewhat cosy impression of familiarity, giving the impression of an ancient past, of a matrix of which equivocal signs persist: large stone blocks, vaulted windows, a black sky that is nevertheless velvety and welcoming, someone wearing a striped sweatshirt and All Star, as if they could not belong there, to that place and time. These signs, the resistant envoys of a very distant source, are apparently only available for a simple symbolic codification of forms. One could outline two elementary movements in Guarda Nocturno: on the one hand, the sketch of something familiar, of an intuitive recognition of the forms – the house would perhaps be the primary unit and icon of this dialoguing acknowledgement – on the other hand, the hint of the origin as a symbolic commitment and hence responsible for the destruction of a building, for the new images arising from symbol formation, without this destruction ever reaching the very foundations of the house. In any event, destruction is seen at altitude, and many of Horácio Frutuoso’s houses are only half of what they were or what they will become. But it is the insidiousness of a question that presses, and obstinates us, on the truth: where is the ground? Where is it already the source and the past and no longer the home and the present?

Master in Portuguese Studies, with the thesis “Modos de Cindir para Continuar: uma leitura de A Noite e o Riso e Estação, de Nuno Bragança”, from Nova University of Lisbon, where is currently pursuing her PhD and working on a thesis on Agustina Bessa-Luís and Manoel de Oliveira, from the concept of melancholia. FCT scholarship holder, having published poetry and essay in national and international magazines, she has published two poetry books: Hidrogénio (2020) and Rasura (2021). She is also co-editor of Lote magazine and writes literary criticism for Observador.

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