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Group show: A Roll of the Dice (over)

21 January 2010 until 6 March 2010
  A Roll of the Dice
Exhibition´s view
  Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art

Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art
Rua Santo António à Estrela 33
1350 - 291 Lisbon
Portugal (city map)

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Curated by David Barro

The idea of this exhibition arises from a "suspended moment": the instant that comes before the roll of the dice, before they touch the ground. As if we could stop the clock at that precise moment and everything unexpectedly stopped at a certain moment. At a moment of maximum tension we are forced to stretch out time like in suspense in the movies. The importance of the gaze, of observation and perception thus stands out, turning the spectator into a sort of chess player moments before moving his piece.

As Stéphane Mallarmé magically wrote: "All thought implies a casting of the dice". It is true that knowledge is born out of awareness of the incomplete, of a state of parenthesis. Yet he also stated that "no rolling of dice can avoid bad luck", and in that sense we have concluded that it cannot avoid any thought. It is therefore a question of carrying on playing, thinking, inventing and creating. Expanding and concluding the work already begun by the artists, in this case with works that despite capturing images remain in a state of fracture, in an interstitial space. The spectator should give meaning to the act of reading as penetration. What matters is not so much the ontology of the secret as rhetorical force, but rather their capacity of persuasion.

In Julião Sarmento's work we see a sort of coitus interruptus that leads us into a world without absolute certainties. Sarmento decomposes the order of the text, working on language as a mis-encounter, as a penetration into the unspeakable. We thus come across a series of drawings that correspond to the origin of the series Dirt. After the initial drawing, Sarmento makes a copy to then later silkscreen it onto a canvas, so that, when we see it, it does not correspond to an abstract reality but to a hyperrealist one. Now these works are shown on squared paper, emphasizing that game between reality and fiction, given that the artist points out that one of the virtual truths of the drawings is false, but without telling us which one.

As in the whole of the exhibition, there is the proposing of an expanded narrative, a writing that might penetrate the darkness. Something like what Barthes noted about Mallarmé's poetics, which consisted of suppressing the author in favour of the writing (returning the place to the reader). More that talking of contemplation, we are talking about attention, about going beyond the suspension of the experience of the gaze. Like in the works by Filipa César and Sabine Hornig, the image leaves us with a desire to enter it. In the photographic series Raccord, Filipa César places the spectator on the film sets in the centre of Berlin, revealing everything that stops us reaching the image. In the case of Sabine Hornig it is the virtual nature of the reflections that unties distances, standing as a sort of formal impossibility.

Then I think of Beckett's words: "The expression that there is nothing to Express, nothing to express it with, nothing for it to express, not being able to express it, not wanting to express it, also with the obligation to express". Like in many conversations, most communication is just this, silence. It was here that Beckett surely took his inspiration when he created the character of Buster Keaton as the protagonist of Film, seeking to double himself into someone who made silence his language. Everything fits together with the intention not of stating, but of showing. When words become a meaningless murmur there is the elimination of presence, of the referent. Or when the image is made blind, like in João Onofre's drawings or in João Louro's images, drowned in their own invention in a game of gazes and impossible questions, visible more than ever in Blind Image # 27. Like a language that speaks for itself, contorting itself until the image is decoded.

Another impossible gaze is John Baldessari's proposal in Raised Eyebrows/ Furrowed Foreheads.: Two Cannons, which shows cannons as if they were binoculars in his habitual visual game of the juxtaposition and confrontation of images. Like in The Great Curve by Rui Toscano, we are talking about unexplored contexts and man's capacity to imagine. He puts a sort of telescope on a tripod, through which we can see a straight line that paradoxically refers to a curved space. The speculative thus gains protagonism, and observation becomes aware of its limits, as takes place in the works of Filipa César, Sabine Horning, João Onofre and João Louro. One can also use the term speculative to refer to the work Night Sky: Alioth 4, by Angela Bulloch, which represents a night sky in its game of lights, speaking to us of the non-existence of a single point of view at the time of observing the universe; or the images that are constructed in a virtually unconscious manner, like automatic writing with infinite combinations, as in the case of Matt Mullican.

The image of reality is no more than the reality of that image itself. Like when Godard was rejected for putting a lot of blood in one of his films, and cleverly responded that it wasn't blood, but tomato sauce. Everything is a game, and this game of dice proposed to the spectators by the artists is never a game of solitaire.

As if completing a puzzle, George Perec reminds us that each gesture made by the player was previously carried out by its creator. Each play, each intention, have been decided, calculated or at least studied by someone else. The rest is not so if it does not start from the magic of the fragment, and, perhaps like Houdini, we feel something more than curiosity for the mutilation. We are thus accomplices to the secrets that the artist has to reveal on our path to the unknown, to the impossible.

This exercise of shock, of suspended observation, happens throughout the whole of the exhibition A Roll of the Dice. Even at its end: two cameras painted by Tatjana Doll point straight at the spectator, who is caught by them and discovers that he has been so since the beginning of his course throughout it. A spectator caught in a space that, however, is more open than ever. This is stated lucidly by Lawrence Weiner in the work he presents on this occasion: "The die is cast". It is true that if the die is cast, leaving perception in suspension, the destiny of the same image is different for each spectator.
David Barro, 2010

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