The Long Shadow
Curated by Horácio Frutuoso
Opening: April 30th (FRIDAY) — 3pm til 10pm
until: May 30th
Eduardo Fonseca e Silva & Francisca Valador
Luís Lázaro Matos
Two years ago Saco Azul Associação Cultural invited me to make an exhibition to take place in the Maus Hábitos exhibition hall. I accepted this invitation having the desire to conceive a group exhibition where I could gather a group of artists and works, which came constantly to my memory for being held in my retina, works that have been illuminating me in very different ways.
After a year of intense work in the studio, going back and forth with transformations in my daily life that led me to redefining plans, habits and relationships, postponing or shifting projects, the opportunity finally arose to start thinking about going on with this invitation, in order to make it happen.
While shelving my books, I came across a question written on the back cover of a book: "How can life take place, or persist, in a state of permanent crisis?". This question made me think for a few minutes about the current situation we’re living in. The book is entitled “Melancholy and Architecture: on Aldo Rossi”, which is an adaptation of the PhD thesis of the architect Diogo Seixas Lopes, where the author reflects about the feeling of loss with architecture or the social space, covering the historical variations of the concept of melancholy, as a peculiar state of consciousness motivated by the universe of the architect Aldo Rossi, focusing on the construction project of the cemetery of San Catalo in Modena.
I automatically reread the book and found a purpose for the show. The praise of melancholy as a device of accurate perception of the world, its mysteries and the perplexity of life, touched me very deeply making me think this could serve as the aggregating element of an exhibition.
The works I selected, when thinking about them as a group, refer to a space of introspection, escape from a repetitive daily life, an attempt to survive the brutality of our time where consumption and production of images is instantaneous and massive. They are works that somehow lead to a dialogue with the viewer, points of connection or proposal with our inner self, where the relationship with the spoken and unspoken word is present in different ways, as if the act of reading, writing and saying, were the key to this so-called state of consciousness.
“Precisely because the melancholy character is haunted by death, it is melancholics who best know how to read the world. Or rather, it is the world that surrenders to the scrutiny of melancholy people like no one else. ” Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn [free translation]
The word melancholy comes from the Greek melas (black) and khole (bile), which we can affiliate this provenance with the fundamentals of medicine established by Hippocrates around 400 BC, the precursor to a systematic description of parts of the body and its diseases. Black bile, one of the four bodily humors whose balance was responsible for health, was the origin of the melancholy that, according to Hippocrates, caused mental imbalance, fear or discouragement. It was believed in the possibility of black bile spilling through the eyes, leading to blindness, which gave rise to a primordial symbolism of the melancholic as being somber and dejected. But the complexity of the term is ambiguous, since melancholy was not seen merely as something negative in the ancient world, in fact the melancholy could be seen as an exceptional person. Aristotle promoted melancholy, linking it to higher degrees of human activity, to an intellectual and heroic category: “why are all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics, poetry or the arts, are clearly melancholic (…)? ”. While black bile brought suffering to most people, there were exceptional figures associated with intellectual activities and social prominence, whose concentration of humor increased their faculties instead of declining.
But the concept has been transformed and changed over time, as the fragments of the philosophers have been appropriated and continually reinvented for successive generations, from the state of connection between the earthly and the divine, to the moral judgment during the growth of Christianity, describing it as a loss of faith. In the medieval world, the melancholic individual was considered an archetype, someone who carried the burden of taciturn behavior. Consequently, and with the advance of science, many of these ideas - sometimes contradictory - claimed astrology to justify the influence of stars and planets in the way they affected people and earthly subjects.
With the advent of the renaissance, this vision gradually changed until modernism, where new views about the place of the human being in the universe emerged. Melancholy started to be recognized as a disposition for a transformation, assimilated to intelligence and creativity, as an experience of soul enrichment. But the socioeconomic changes brought about by regime changes, the growth of cities and the transformation of work by the industrial revolution increased the feeling of inadequacy and loss to these transformations and contradictions, leading the individual to question his place and role in society, such as Baudelaire testifies in Les fleurs du mal.
There are countless examples in art where melancholy emerges as a motto, while Vasari describes it when reporting the lives of artists, Michelangelo describes it in letters, or we can see it in memento mori’s, in Goya's “Los Caprichos”, in works by romantic authors from northern Europe, in the impressionist paintings, and highlighted in surrealism or abstract expressionism. Freud's studies and the impact of the two world wars brought many other notions to this concept, and which, consequently, influenced contemporary artistic production by changing their ways of operating.
Highlighting two examples mentioned by Diogo Seixas Lopes in the book: Melancolia I by Albrecht Dürer - which is part of a series of engravings that illustrate the temperaments of the human being - where Dürer synthesizes the work of intellectual life, as someone who keeps holding to a problem that cannot be solved; And Chirico's paintings, specially his metaphysical paintings, where paradoxically empty mysterious spaces with the presence of disturbingly incomplete elements or in meaningless actions, covered with large areas of shadow that both reveal and hide, suggest an atmosphere of silence and feeling of solitude, without historical time, like a dream under construction, where at the same time there is a place of freedom and revelation.
Imagem: Sermon © Horácio Frutuoso
Curatorship: Bruno Leitão
General Coordination & Production Direction: Mariana Vitale
Production Assistance: Catarina Rangel Pereira
Digital Content and Comunication: Catarina Rangel Pereira, Diana Reis e Mariana Vitale
Press Office: Diana Reis
Design and Teaser: Catarina R. Pereira
Exhibition Montage: Kiko Richard
Photograph: João Pádua
Cleaning: Manuela Pinto
Organization: Saco Azul e Maus Hábitos