THERE ARE ALWAYS PLACES ALONG THE WAY
Sandra Baía’s work holds an inescapable relation with space and body via its sculptural facet. It consists of a discipline, or a methodology, anchored in relations of physicality, particular to that which is sculptural and tridimensional. Such confirmed sculptural work is adjoined by a vocabulary of materials inscribed within its transition to an imagery and symbolic dimension embedded in the titles of Baía’s works. As such, the language, the word, is also a ductile material transformed by the artist, nominating one other perspective of the work. The recent sculpture dated from 2017 and entitled “Simplicity Isn’t Simple” stands as an example. It consists of a polished aluminum parallelepiped volume resting on the floor’s level whose form is altered, as if it had been subjected to a small torsional stress or a physical impact. The parallelepiped volume’s shape is almost regular and, by itself, a simple form, as the title may evince. However, such evince, such tautology, establishes a linguistic ploy with the observer in the sense that what is told by the work’s title is not an exact description of the object, rather its condition as an object set before the observer confronting the latter through its apparent and transformed truth. Furthermore, the work’s gleaming surface accentuates the torsion inserted in the reflecting material, fostering a morphological and visual alteration as cherished by practices of representation in painting and quite present in contemporary sculpture as well.
One other work, “Entalada” (“Wedged”), dated from 2018, consisting of a sphere whose surface is also bright and reflector (a plastic and inflatable body), has been installed between two buildings near their top, capping the construction as something immutable, wedged and static. The entitling nomination, again as a language, is paradoxical, since this sculpture would convert into a displaying screen reflecting the surroundings, transforming and visually reconfiguring space and place, hence opposing the term “wedged” by means of the expanded image moving in the surface.
Both referenced works relate to the entitled sculpture “Is There a Place Before Arriving”, which is temporarily installed in Lisbon’s public space addressed as Terreiro das Missas (The Services Yard).
The structured form, composed by industrial raw materials as typical in Sandra Baía’s work, resembles either a container, a box, a scaffolding, or a frame for the entitling sentence which is presented in neon lettering. Flaunting its monumental scale, such structure advances its double meaning. One of its meanings recalls the ceremonial table where, similarly to an altar, fishing ships were blessed before departure when heading for Terra Nova’s seas during the codfish fishing season. The other meaning possible to account to this installation consists of its transitory condition, much as a mobile and temporary structure, as something in a construction process, as something becoming. Such as anteriorly referred, the word exerts a symbolic role within this context and, with regard to this particular case, such role contradicts both the place and its memory within the city’s dimension, as while it is situated alongside the river, nearby past maritime quests, it is however inexorably riveted to the imaginary of someone departing and someone arriving. It adheres to those places charting the path to a certain destiny while conserving such course’s memory, however much exposing the impossibility of its recapture. “Is There a Place Before Arriving” is the poetic form signalling such former and plural place, equal to the announcement of the path’s pre-existing condition which, within a proposition enounced in relation to the concrete measure of its geometrical and mathematical progression, consists of a map’s fold disclosing only the following pleat.
Its sculptural facet revisits constructivism, since it self-presents to a place which recaptures other places through the word’s incandescence, figuring as a riverside Pharos. Its condition as a project is proclaimed by the preliminary drawings. From their inception, these drawings consist of the thought’s autonomous expression whose practice, liberated from the etching hand, is the constitutive root for the word’s container and, thus, for the places evoked by the artwork which are merely known to consist of the deposit of this place of arrival, celebration and reinterpretation of this public space, and which expands accordingly to the river’s flow.
N 38º42’43.668” W 9º8’21.946”
Similarly to some Sandra Baía’s antecedent creations, the work of art is both present and absent. It will remain (for all times) and (it) has (already) gone. It self discloses either as a discrete presence, concealing itself, or as an assertive form, contrasting the signs of times within its clean minimalism; or yet – perhaps first and foremost – as a spatial impetus, a being-(non-)place resonating the place’s identity, as if insinuating an odd uneasiness at the heart of reality through the elegance of its plastic intelligence. A performance of the idea.
Created as an intervention to be exhibited at Museu do Carmo, the work explores architecture from a simultaneously rigorous and informal angle. In a rupture, the mirroring sphere (an essential symbol) merges a magma of timeless narratives whose human testimony – today, the transients’ reflexion – is a casual rumor, however much also the fundamental factor for the work to be a public being, to be lived, to arouse an atmosphere. In these history bursting ruins, we encounter an invitation for the aesthetics’ unlocking, beyond all formalities, calendars, events and, regarding VICENTE Project’s theme, beyond the divine’s own vicissitudes. Concerning what we are unable to speak of, it is best if we keep silent
The artwork’s title, a last minute trouvaille, are geographic coordinates: N 38º42’43.668” W 9º8’21.946”. These coordinates define S. Vicent relics’ exact arrival location to a countless past centuries Lisbon. In its ephemerality, Sandra Baía’s action – this coordinates’ void translation from a historical fact to a new place (by no means accidentally, a Lisbon’s site of exalted heritage), paradoxically references the perennial continuance of ideas and conceptions. The fundamental’s recurrence, the wordless return, a concretion of past lives and futuristic values, it chiefly concerns the artist’s predication as the testifier for an urge to make sense regardless of any message whatsoever.
The presentation of Entalada (stuck) by Sandra Baía at Travessa da Ermida brought up some memories of other artworks. In Lisbon, the Entalados (the stuck ones), was the expression used by Keil to name the figurative artworks made for the yield buildings, predominantly in Avenidas Novas de Lisboa. These artworks were literally, and by and large, placed between the buildings’ entry doors upper part and other architectonic façade elements such as windows or balconies on the first floor, creating a visual effect of tension or squeeze. At that time many of these artworks were women representations and remained commonly known as As entaladas (the stuck ones), origin and inspiration for this installation. In 1961, Christo and Jean Claude presented Wall of Barrels – The Iron Curtain, Rue Visconti in Paris. This artwork consists of eighty-nine petroleum barrels piled in a narrow street, for only eight hours, in order to block the street’s circulation. It was thought in the context of the construction of Berlin’s wall in 1961 and the protests and barricades in reaction to Algeria’s war. This feeling of tension, given by something compressed or forced in-between two already existing structures appears in Sandra Baía’s installation, a 5 meters’ diameter mirrored sphere thought specifically to be placed in-between the exterior façades of two buildings in the narrow Travessa da Ermida, allowing the circulation below the piece. Passing by below the artwork the visitors interact with the mirrored sphere the same way one can interact with Michelangelo Pistoletto’s (1933) artworks, making part of it, creating stories, but with a difference: a 360º spherical reflex. Everything around it will be reflexed, including the observer, what takes us to the artwork from 1434 The Arnolfini Couple by Jan Van Eyck, in which it can be found a mirror representation with a circle shape generating images and distorted reflexes of the couple’s room and the objects in it. It is a game of images intensified through distortions and field depth raising the observer’s curiosity at the same time. Tensions and reflexes have been subject of investigation in Sandra Baía’s work throughout time: the tension created by a slight imbalance in structures that are apparently stable or balanced and reflexes by the usage of mirrored material. In the artwork Entalada (stuck), by the artist’s subtle action, the observer’s presence and by the space where it is integrated, a perfect sphere sees its structural perfection being changed.
The Memory of Water (2017)
Assigning visibility to the invisible as an object-image, the art work is historically associated to imaginative, cognitive and reflective production mental processes of images and concepts. The sensorial, emotional and intellectual perceptions’ and interpretations’ convergence deployed by the cultural object, from such perspective considered a contextualised simultaneous phenomenon of artistic practice and knowledge production, activates human imagination to produce efficient iconography and symbology whose temporary and volatile concepts of beauty, be them either conceptual and immaterial or objectual and material, translate and synthesise all cultural systems’ complexity and multidisciplinarity, and of that inherent to its specific spatial and temporal context. Both a reproduction and a cause of imaginary images and concepts imagined by man within all and each historical and cultural contexts, his iconographic and symbolical patrimony, the cultural object-image constitutes itself as man’s intra-representation and inter-projection, a grasping tool for expression, communication and knowledge.
Hyper-accelerated contemporary transnational and transcultural processes of high-lightened complexity and interdisciplinarity are simultaneously the designed cause and accidental consequence of a multitude of movements, transformations and hybridisations within realms such as economy, politics, environment, media, communications, art, entertainment, public health, human rights or demography. Permeating as many immense possibilities as conflicts, contemporaneity is marked by a challengingly fluidity as Bauman observes, franticly unstable and uncertain in its paradoxically simultaneous expanded universality and compressed fragmentation.
Formerly considered as static independent entities, one regarded to the threatening service and deep affectation of the other, it is today indisputably evident that nature and society unite within a continuous and mutual interaction whose balance is mandatory not only to the natural world and its self-generating ability’s ransom but to the human social worlds’ configuration and preservation. In such enticing and haunting times of flows, currents and circulations, The Memory of Water considers water as the binding element of nature and culture occupying their in-betweeness dimension. In fact, underneath its life destructive and generative ability, its landscaping properties, its function as a resource and as a transport route, lies water’s social nature as the forming and shaping substance of social worlds and theirs correspondent ideals, values, habits, norms, traditions, behaviours, symbols. It matters water’s meanings in offering ways of thinking of the world’s past and making of the world’s future. It matters The Memory of Water’s semiotics.
Imbued by a simultaneously emotionally cathartic and intellectually analytical purpose over contemporary social world’s fluid contradictions, The Memory of Water’s spatial and temporal minimal and conceptual composition recreates the atmosphere of a swimming-pool, exploring liquid social world’s incongruent opposing forces.
Additionally to the observer’s ever distant closeness around the composition inhibiting the observer to actually merge with the composition, it is his elevated, perhaps levitational, solitary position in the pool diving board’s edge which is privileged, yet opposed by the absorbing ambient sound work, as such inviting, provoking, defying the observer to introspection and reflection through which he may plunge in the work and within himself, his own internal and external world, and pushed to unexplored, unbounded proportions, personal objective and subjective territories. As a fluid contradictory realm, to immersion withstands emergence, to contraction, expansion, to proximity, separation. Ignition for renewed or ransomed perspectives.
Surface embedded oxidation and stains suggest time and memory evocative of spatial and temporal social places of playfulness, calmness and safeness, yet only available to those who are and have been privileged to accede such places. Water stands as the generating and perpetrator symbolic element of life and nature, yet contained within freedom suppressing imposed obstacles and invaded by plastics’ and metals’ plunged aggressive artificiality. Fragile individual and randomly shaped watery life elements spatially arranged at equal level invoke the precarious condition of communitarian equal coexistence and diversity tolerance. Exploring nowadays liquid and malleable era’s complexity, vulnerability and uncertainty both in society and in individual, whose variety of perceptions and interpretations resulting of the sensorial, emotional and intellectual experience is augmented by the reflexions’ variety of natural and artificial light in the water as some sort of a kaleidoscopic effect, The Memory of Water negotiates the subjective concept of contemporary social and natural worlds’ balance as a necessary condition for their own united sustainability.
Água | Pedra
CÔA- as a place of affections, vitality and grandiosity, CÔA is for Man, a vast and infinite learning fields functioning as an inspiration and knowledge tool. Here time has no time, and an extensive series of feeling and thoughts are hovering in the air. Stone and Water come together, as every force in the word is concentrated in the Sacred Valley. Sandra Baía, plastic artist and João Francisco Vilhena, photographer accepted the challenge to explore Côa territory, which approaches the strictly pictorial frontier and beyond, searching for answers to the stone and waters materiality: their memories and how they affect us. Making good use of his prodigious creative ability, João Vilhena registers, through photography, brief moment’s sensations making use of all his skills to capture each one at a glance. The artist has the particularity of focusing on the details beauty, sometimes ignored by the common mortals, in the quest to reveal the poetry that lies in nature’s elements. Each image is different while at the same time forms a coherent part of the whole, as if it was a diary where each journey is singular - each day is different, but they merge together as if they were a nostalgic memory that loses its chromatic definition, only producing matter - stone, light, the sépias misty details and black and white. On the other hand, Sandra Baía, through exploring and experimenting with the sculptural space, pictures a conceptual world revealing its motivations and anxieties while pursuing the human identity. The artist seeks to interact with the visitor, inviting him to question his inner and outer world, confronting him with its weaknesses in the search of self knowledge. For this exhibition, based on research made by Professor Massaro Enoro on the morphology of water, Baía has materialized an installation where she confronts the viewer with a varied, range of late sensations in his perception and knowledge - the waters memory and its messages. João Vilhena and Sandra Baía convince us through this exhibition that, although very distinct, their works “cohabit” in full harmony and fruitful conceptual coherence they fell in love with a territory which brought them many challenges while exploring it.
To denature an object, a space, a concept is rarely seen in a positive light, as if changing something's intrinsic nature were essentially frowned upon or poorly received. What about a denaturation of cities? How can we contemplate removing the very essence of the urban space? Would it concern restoring a part of nature to cities, or would it concern returning them to nature?
This is an issue that Arraiano explores in his work. While looking into the contrasts and contradictions of the urban space he gives them new landscapes. He prompts the essence of things, the essence of bodies, by practically taking up a role of landscapist, as if he wished to return to the very beginnings of construction.
The construction of cities, their elements – Matos and Kosta-Théfaine are themselves witnesses and observers of these poetic moments and fragments. By providing or restoring meaning to this space and its components, they are interested in removing them from their context, in denaturing their ephemeral character. Matos explores, studies, creates and examines the textures that surround city dwellers. Similarly, Kosta-Théfaine focuses on the beauty of subject matter that is generally ignored: a detail of a decayed wall, broken glass, an old advertisement poster for an exhibition that has been vandalised. Matos and Kosta-Théfaine denature; they are not interested in the usage itself but rather in revealing the beauty and the poetics of these urban elements.
A poetics that can also be found in Baía's work, introducing into the urban space the notion of human being. With her series of portraits Baía offers us an abstract vision. By denaturing existence itself she removes its physical characteristic, stripping away the very image we have of ourselves. Distorting reality and its nature, removing the aesthetic vision that we have of any given individual, Baía guides us into looking deeper.
Through their exploration of the urban space and those who inhabit it, these four artists are playing with it, denaturing it and rendering it with a poetics and sensibility which it deserves.