Extinção. Cristina Lamas at Brotéria

I spotted a faded, sunburnt poster of the exhibition glued to an electricity box, where the reddish colours appeared more like flames. I do not know if I was inspired by this sign, by the hosting venue, or by some deeper motive in my psyche, but the exhibition title – Extinção – guided me immediately to the notion of a final judgement. Maybe it is not such a foolish idea, however, and far from a religious interpretation – although still metaphorical – the title is instead a possible verdict – already being carried out – of this trial where the defendants, sitting here on the same stand as the judges, are not yet the ones who suffer the most from the consequences of their actions. It seems that the exhibition is – to borrow from legal jargon – a kind of coercive measure.

Cristina Lamas defines this exhibition – the result of a three-month residency in the Pará Amazon[1] – as “a reminder of the end of languages and knowledge, of life cycles and natural phenomena”. The artist charges us with the criminal facts that have brought us here, using art, specifically one of its 20th century trajectories, to “produce situations, most often circumstantial or environmental, that employ devices drawn from other aspects of human expression, such as architecture, theatre, music or, in more metaphorical terminology, sociology, politics or anthropology”[2]. Yet this becomes something of a crossroads – which happens so often – since, by initially starting from a relationship with the viewer through cognitive processes, it is quickly overtaken, both practically and conceptually, by an aesthetic, sensible relationship, more akin to the drawing logic – but not only – without ever forsaking, or allowing to be forsaken, its roots.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a burnt trunk; it resembles a lump of charcoal, but is not deformed enough to lose its reference. It stands vertically, being a tree and a column at once. It never touches the ceiling, standing just a few centimetres away. It is a column released from its purpose. It is purely symbolic. A tree.

The overall notion of a tree is a fragment of a forest. These self-contained living elements, when assembled together as a standard unit, lose their individuality to become stronger. A tree is to a forest as houses are to cities and as multiple spectators are to an exhibition.

This charcoal tree, symbolising the crossroads between the paths above, but also destruction, ramifies between the written word, the spoken word and the image, forming a unique structure, built by the subjectivity – in context – of each individual. This deconstruction extends as far as the image and the word themselves, fragmented in such a way that they echo the original. The shape is freed from the colour, only to become a pattern, almost a line. Almost a double extinction. But the trunk is there, the origin, buried in the centre of the room, which prevents us from getting lost or free – thus the coercive measure – and makes the exhibition’s set-up a vital aspect.

As the curator Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues said during the guided tour: “Everything works individually, but all of it can – and I believe it should – be thought of as a whole.”[3]

The exhibition Extinção by Cristina Lamas, curated by Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues, is showing at Brotéria in Lisbon until July 7, 2024.


[1] This is not her first experience of the region. The article “Cristina Lamas’ Pororoca at Fundação Carmona e Costa”, by Joana Duarte, in this same issue of the magazine, is highly recommended reading.
[2] Sardo, Delfim. (2011). “Natureza Artificial” . In: A Visão em Apeneia. Lisbon: Babel.
[3] I am quoting Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues from memory during the exhibition’s guided tour..

Tiago Leonardo (Lisbon, 2000) graduated in Art and Heritage Sciences (FBAUL) and attended the Cultural Journalism course (SNBA). He is currently finishing his master's degree in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies, specializing in cinema and photography (NOVA/FSSH) where he focuses his research on post-photography within the Portuguese artistic context. In his work as a writer, he collaborates with several publications; such as the CineBlog of the Philosophy Institute of the UNL, FITA Magazine, among others.

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