Sempre e nunca mais, MACE

Are fifty years of democracy sufficient to gauge the democratic, social, cultural and economic well-being of a people?

In a time when right-wing extremism, veering towards fascist, nostalgic, hostile and violent, is storming Western politics, snatching a stranglehold on parliaments and constitutions that stand in its way, a thorough and serious review of contemporary history has never been more important. Nevertheless, it is bizarre that many circles shy away from such a comprehensive reflection, either because such an in-depth investigation is out of step with the times of today’s fast-moving locomotive – tied to an ever-faster, ravenous and history-lacking capital – or because the means available for doing so are meagre and the target audience is not alert to the recent past, at the mercy of a labyrinthine presentism.

Museums and other public institutions fortunately manage to resist the neoliberal fragmentation of Western politics with their educational, encyclopaedic and aggregating mission, pushing for a new understanding of contemporaneity. In effect, the museum accomplishes this unsettling – and therefore fascinating – feat of being both inside and outside of a time, within and outside of a space, by building a seamless continuum that welcomes different pluriverses and cosmopolitics, at times unequal, of course, but always fertile and generative.

Few institutions can answer the above question effectively and with a lasting effect, as only those that protect the plural public interest can avoid the current ruling system, which is at odds with deep and concise reflection, as answers often demand the murmur of something to come, the whiff of a meaning that only then – after much reading, after much experience (collective, individual) – is inspired, inhaled and grasped. The media and media-driven reality, obsessed with instantaneity and immediate gratification, is not suitable for truly transformative research.

Once words have been replaced by elusive, viral, brainless images, stripped of text and context – the spurious anonymous creations subverting and mobilising the lowest passions – only artists (writers, filmmakers, etc.) can bring about a re-signification of this (mediatised, global, non-hierarchial) visual and plastic culture, as only they have mastered the creative and creative tools needed to raise questions, disquiet and doubt among a paradoxical collective spiritual blindness. They alone can scrape away the unhealed wound and restore the body to sensation and the light of perception and reason.

An exhibition on freedom and the triumph of democracy is, by nature, an unfinished and incomplete undertaking, but it is nonetheless necessary, for all the above reasons and because we are dealing with something that must be constantly reaffirmed and fought for eternally. The exhibition (and, by extension, curatorship) represents a space in perpetual development. It is not confined to the architecture of a museum. Its propositional quality is akin to its derivative and mediating nature, adding external reflections, new experiences, and seeking, within each visitor, other and ever-renewed contributions that make it a little more rounded, a little more piercing.

Sempre e nunca mais makes no secret of this fact – rather, it seems to emphasise it – within a collection – António Cachola’s – that grows from generation to generation, with each work, artist or purchase. This exhibition features artists whose work began after April 25, 1974, or who were born after that day, and is consequently a direct reflection of a revolution and a democratic achievement.

Delfim Sardo was quite frank about the collection: “Overall, it might even be said that collection was being created as a major repository of works produced by artists from the generation born after the 1974 revolution – artists therefore who had experienced a climate of openness during their formative development, something unknown to artists of previous generations, who needed to find ways to establish links with the development of international art of their time.” [1] This is a collection that is bound up in a new democratic context, emancipating itself from old ways and old narratives, opening itself up to the future, to new generations and the global present.

There is nothing neutral in Sempre e nunca mais. A museum can never be neutral. Everything touches on the frailty of the contemporary condition and of memory. Manuel Botelho takes us to a recent wound – the colonial wars; Mané Pacheco reminds us of the weapons of women’s struggles; Lea Managil offers a dreamlike moratorium on the utopian construction that the room text underlines – a piece guaranteeing an ingenious reinterpretation with each exhibition; Rui Chafes’ Inferno IX challenges and disturbs in its twistedness; Daniela Ângelo retraces the icons of modern globalised marketing; Maria Lusitano evokes the nostalgia of Portugal Suave of the former colonies; Maria Appleton breaks down the feminine labour of embroidery and weaving, in an entertaining mix of materialities and techniques; Fábio Colaço discusses the ramshackle power of big money, the great invisible hand that threatens to topple the world; Noé Sendas rehearses a Lacanian scene of mirrors, fragmented spaces and loneliness; Alice Geirinhas brings us the grimy melodrama of Salazar’s death, both dramatic and pathetic; Mariana Gomes reveals painting’s plastic freedom and the utter uncompromisingness of the creative and pictorial exercise; João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira’s Vadios is a benchmark of sexual liberation, overcoming the censorship, conservatism and violence to finally celebrate gay love and sex; Carla Filipe visually translates the musicality of the revolution as played by Fernando Lopes-Graça and Michel Giacometti; Xavier Almeida brings the demonstrations’ urban objects inside the museum; and Ângela Ferreira punctuates the gesture that immortalised the Carnation Revolution in Hotel da Praia Grande (O Estado das Coisas) and acted as a romantic icon for historical literature and memory, a symbol summoning something inspiring but also deceptive.

This curatorial exercise calls for the propositional and re-configurative freedom that the curators have been championing, forging less obvious dialogues, broadening the conceptual contexts of certain works, finding other contexts for works that have already been shown, under new lights, rehearsals or proximities. From start to finish, the entire curatorship fosters an endless dialogical nexus of “good neighbourliness” – an immense Warburgian atlas of freedom and revolution.

Curated by Ana Cristina Cachola and assisted by Tiago Candeias, Sempre e nunca mais is on show at MACE and Paiol de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Elvas until June 2, with works by more than 30 artists from the António Cachola Collection.


[1] Sardo, Delfim, “A Subtle Social Thermometer. The António Cachola Collection in context”. Available in

José Rui Pardal Pina (n. 1988) has a master's degree in architecture from I.S.T. in 2012. In 2016 he joined the Postgraduate Course in Art Curation at FCSH-UNL and began to collaborate in the Umbigo magazine. Curator of Dialogues (2018-), an editorial project that draws a bridge between artists and museums or scientific and cultural institutions with no connection to contemporary art.

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