Plataforma Revólver, 2009, Lisbon
The title of this show is Heimweh/Saudade. There is no possible translation for the word from one language into the other. ‘Heimweh’ in German is a word which, we know was used for the first time in the 16th century, and for a long time it was used for diagnosing a disease identified for the first time in Swiss citizens that where going away from their country and by doing so reacted with strong physical and psychological stress. Later on this word was ‘adopted’ by German Romanticism in the 19th century (where it established it’s strong connection to German culture), it became a synonym for strong sensations, related to nostalgia felt for something missing or that had already disappeared, especially linked e.g. to the sensation of missing your country or fatherland (in engl: homesick, wistful). ‘Saudade’ on the other hand is a work only known in Galaico-Portuguese. Thus, you normally hear that it has no translation into any other language. It is probably one of the most words used in Portuguese poetry, literature and music. A sensation you can describe with the need or urge for (doing) something, at the same time that it is known to be a special melancholic nostalgia and state of mind, that you encounter e.g. in Portuguese Fado. We can also find innumerous texts about the Portuguese Saudade, one of them being the famous compilation of Eduardo Lourenço, called ironically “The Labyrinth of Saudade”, trying to elaborate essays on this so called Portuguese state of mind.
Therefore, the two words that compose the title of this exhibition happen to intertwine signs and ideas describing a state of mind very typical for each country and culture. It is from this semantic field that the research and discussion with one’s own culture and the culture of the Other develops.
Both words belong to two apparently very different cultures – the German and the Portuguese – but they’re part of a sentimental and linguistic universe of anybody who travels, departs and comes back… With this starting point, the intention of this show is to create a place of artistic reflection on the meanings of “globalization” and “interculturality”.
Visiting the space of Plataforma Revólver on the third floor, we encounter two different typologies: a spacious attic characterized by its wooden floor and walls, and the tiles of the roof that are visible; on the other side you encounter a living space, with entrance hall, rooms, kitchen and bath room. This space already was a home and artist studio, an information that satisfies our curiosity about the previous use this uncommon space already had, and at the same time we understand its imminent duplicity: home and studio, this place never lost its true vocation. To live, and to live with art.
The space of the attic could easily be overwhelming for any piece of art, so there had to be made a careful selection of the artists to exhibit here. Three were chosen, being Ramiro Guerreiro the artist in charge of the principal intervention, with the installation One Time. It is an installation made of pinewood, a found table, a glass top, two different types of rugs, of which one is an Arraiolos rug, and marine plywood. A railing – a testimony of an architectural space – guides us through the attic. Ironically the title One Time obscures the fact that this installation has two moments of intervention: a first one of spatial organization and linear intervention (in this first moment the railing served as a plot to encounter the several objects chosen by the artist). The second moment finally marks the last intervention of the artist: he came back in form of his alter ego ‘Omar Ri’ to undo the organization, introducing a chaotic element. He brought together all the elements with an apparently decorative function, and transformed them into one protagonizing sculpture, thus assuming a kind of auto-censure on his own previous work.
In former Works, Guerreiro appropriates himself of the architectonical space to reveal structures of power and hierarchy. Through the performatic change and intervention in his work, Guerreiro recovers one of the principal themes in his work.
Juliane Solmsdorf is one of the German artists who came from Berlin to present their work in Portugal for the first time. As Guerreiro, Solmsdorf provokes encounters with day-by-day objects, that are familiar to us, and that she transforms and changes introducing a moment of strangeness and/or surprise.
In the space of Plataforma, Solmsdorf presented four sculpture-installations that mark in a very determinate way the space in which they intervene: two floor- and two wall sculptures, one of them suspended from the ceiling. They are called Süd, Nord, Ost and West (South, North, East and West) – a clear reference to the four directions of the sky. Three of them are installed in the attic: Süd, an installation of two tables and high heel-platform shoes. Nord is a floor installation with sand from Portuguese beaches, and natural and artificial objects found on beaches from other countries. These objects show the traces the sea has left on them, they are objects changed by nature. West, is made of objects found on Lisbon streets and suspended from the ceiling, establishing a parallelism with an object considered a ‘typical German’ house decoration – a deer’s head.
Not in the attic, but in the passage way to rest of the flat, we find Ost, a deformed aluminum chair leans on the wall that the artist brought from the streets of Paris to finally find its true vocation – in Lisbon.
The first installation we mentioned, Süd, is installed in a space with a glass ceiling – not a common place, but it gives this sculpture an exceptional lightning and position. Like Nord this piece is part of her new series of “Remarked Sculptures”. These sculptures are the appropriation and recreation of street situations the artist documents in photographs – a recurrent practice in her work; most of her “Remarked Sculptures” follow this mechanism, recreating situations on the street, objects and abandoned materials.
In the present sculpture she put two tables from Lisbon, one on the top of the other, and still on top of them two plateau high heel shoes (2 single shoes), which she brought from Paris. Like this, Solmsdorf takes on questions about the known object and its use, modification and redefinition, in general and in different life situations: her main interest is how we react to these objects when found isolated from their original situation. Hence, the form becomes secondary, and its history; the experience attached to the objects becomes her main focus.
Daniela Krtsch, another German artist participating in this show, presents a series of 18 drawings Untitled in pencil, gouache, and watercolor on a small paper format. These meticulously made drawings are dominated by black color, and point out to a specific but isolated moment. We are not able to reconstruct the story of the event from which they are an integrating part. Krtsch is eventually one of the artists who have a most complete perception of the possible ambiguities and intertwining of Heimweh and Saudade, as she is German and lives now for over ten years in Portugal. Thus being familiar with language and used to the culture of this country, her drawings capture very peculiar German elements – as e.g. the person with the ice shoes, or the child with the sleigh – thus mixing (childhood-) memories of hers with typical German imagery, she also confronts us with objects and faces that could be German and/or Portuguese. The installation draws our attention to small groups of stories that link the different images and imageries.
Thus, Krtsch’s drawing concentrates on the representation of the human figure, showing situations of a day-by-day we all know but through its representation – the background in black has imbibed everything – turns distant, thus becoming part of a parallel universe. This loss of place induces a certain loss of belonging – and a re-definition of identity has to be done by the spectator; we have to plot the story of this people in our imagination.
Another installation of this show that requires a more detailed attention is The Ball: a scenery for potential stories, by Lúcia Prancha. This work is thought and installed as a three part installation: a publication “The theory of the party”, a video and a performance.
In the entrance hall of the building Transboavista the visitor encounters a scenery with black wooden boards and posters. This scenery of a party or entrance to a “Baile Funk” as the posters suggest, was the stage for a performance at the opening, with professional bouncers welcoming and organizing the visitors of the opening. Thus, the artist recreates the entrance space to the baile funk in Sao Paulo, Brazil, places where people go to dance and meet other people, and which have a strong connection to African and American Blues cultures, being most visitors of these places people coming from outside Sao Paulo in a context of internal immigration.
The wooden panels and posters stay in the entrance hall and become the annunciation of an event, signal of something that happened or of something that will happen. It is like this that we draw the relation to the publication “the theory of the party” in which the visitor can read about all kind social, psychological or anthropological meanings and interest, between others, that this type of happening has; this compilation of texts reveals the detailed and profound research the artist underwent. This investigation materializes itself in the documentary-style video: in a kind of ‘field-investigation’ Prancha goes to the “Baile Funk” disco Guarapirão Dance in Sao Paulo, during her short travel she interviews the cab driver that comes from the Northeastern zone of Brazil and who explains her these parties and meetings, parting from his own experience.
Hence, when striding through the exhibition space, which is the testimony of a performance – the dance and ball as a place of transformation of whom participates – the visitors themselves undertake a performatic action.
Following the work of Lúcia Prancha whose artistic language reveal a great formal simplicity, we have an encounter with Isabel Schmiga’s works that are placed in two adjacent spaces and that build a certain formal contrast with the pieces of Prancha and Solmsdorf in the before mentioned spaces.
Schmiga is the other German artist that came for the first time to Portugal to present her work. All in all there are five pieces, all craving a smaller dimension and almost in an ornamental form they animate and interfere in the exhibition space: four assemblages and a small sculpture-object. All this works point out to the meticulous look, the love to detail and the irony of their creator. In the first room, a bigger one and with a direct connection to the rest of the spaces, we find Nostalgia, an inflatable globe on a black felt ground behind a frame – our world on miniature scale. Still in the same space, we find Staccato, white drawing film cut out on its superior side in form of little waves and on which we find balancing a small black marble. At its side, we find Untitled, where we can recognize hands that have been cut out from drawing paper (like architects use in their daily work); these hands are on a hanger giving them an odd positioning inside the white frame. False nails have been designed on the hand-shaped paper, which augments the weirdness because the nail polish is a real one normally used by women to paint their nails. Cut out and hanged like this, these hands seem a little bit out of place, taken from one and put into a new place. These hands came from Berlin, and have been relocated to Lisbon.
In the second room, Schmiga presents two works: Hüzün (melancholy), a Turkish name – reflection of her several stays in this country, with residencies and several participations in group shows in Istanbul – is a piece made of sugar pearls, normally used for enhancing cakes and cupcakes. In the other work present in this room, Subjectile, two Turkish tea spoons have been dressed up with false eyelashes balancing each one a marble in its center. They are installed in a theatrical manner, right in front of the passageway, so when we look inside – before going in – this object, with a curious and artificial ‘look’, gives the visitor’s gaze back.
In all these works Schmiga who sees herself more as a sculptor, uses materials and images of a very feminine universe that transform themselves into subtle ironical comments about the position of the female sculptor in the art world where sculpture still is connected to the idea of heavy manual work of a male artist.
At the end of these spaces we discover a passageway to a smaller space, from which we pass on to the last room of this flat, it has been darkened and we encounter a double projection of a video on its wall. It is here that we can stay for a little while to discover two very different places, without doubt exotic ones, and each one in its own way. The video in this space is by Susana Anágua and is called London – L’Institut du Monde Árabe, and was done during the year of her Master in Digital Arts in London.
At first sight, Anágua opposes two completely distinct universes: on the right side we see the architectonical grid of Jean Nouvel’s building L’Institut du Monde Árabe in Paris, where six elevators are going up and down along nine floors in an invisible working exercise. It is an image of a regular technical mechanism for which Anágua already demonstrated a great fascination and interest in former works; new for her work is the human figure. It is a Muslim woman in Piccadilly Circus (London) that called her attention, as we can see on the projection on the left side.
The connection between these two images of happenings and movements becomes more obvious when Anágua tells us that Nouvel’s building draws its inspiration from the Muslim habit of women covering themselves when going outside, and taking it off of when coming home. These delicate questions of interior and exterior, as well of obscuring and revealing are some of the important ideas for this building that during the 24h of a day ‘opens’ and ‘closes’ directed by a photo-sensible mechanism of the facade.
Another question that interests the artist are the gaps inside the structure of society, which permit the construction of uncountable isolated cultural systems that confront each other, and of which the Muslim woman in Piccadilly is a possible example.
By confronting these two movements – mechanical and human in these two places – the artist draws our attention to ideas like social entropy, spontaneous generation of change, chaos and its reconstruction.
The artists invited, Susana Anágua (PT), Ramiro Guerreiro (PT), Daniela Krtsch (D), Lúcia Prancha (PT), Isabel Schmiga (D) and Juliane Solmsdorf (D) have already lived this reality of the traveler and immigrant, or are currently living it. Their experiences range from countries like Germany, Brazil, Spain, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey, among others, and are presented in multifaceted and multidisciplinary ways as seen in their works for this exhibition.
Hence, the idea of discovering the different meanings of Heimweh and Saudade is the core of this show opening a debate about the different personal experiences that are not limited to the artist’s countries of origin, but enclose all kind of multicultural influences. Consequently, and being sensitive towards this special thematic and the peculiar space of Plataforma Revólver, as well as with a certain irony, the works presented here take us on a trip to other worlds and identities.