Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Elephant’s Journey (We always arrive at the place where we are expected)

The Elephant’s Journey
(We always arrive at the place where we are expected)

The title of this exhibition comes from a book of José Saramago that narrates the journey of an Indian Elephant offered by D. João III (the king of Portugal) to the Austrian Archduke, and that made his trip walking along his mahout.

Project – The Elephant Journey I
Mounting / Painting / Sculpture / Objects
Estoril – Lisbon – Portugal – 2012


After Based on true events (Rio de Janeiro / Lisbon 2011/2012) and View Through Trees to a Town / Vista de Uma Cidade por Entre as Árvores (London 2012) I’ve made an object outside the space of a museum - and rejecting the idea of a “White Cube” - maintaining some of the previous assumptions (Estoril 2012).

This objects were primarily created in Tanger (2009).  At my studio - shared with Sofia Aguiar and Yto Barrada - I started to use the walls and the furniture as support, maybe because of the lack of canvas.

In Lisbon I founded hidden paintings on the room where I live in. The room was white when I came in, but during the time the paintings started to emerge underneath the white paint, revealing some hidden themes that I made appear by using a small knife.

The hidden paintings

The representation of the four continents appeared:

Europe (N)
America (O)
Africa (S)
Asia (E)

In London, the Hyde Park’s sculptures of Albert’s Memorial, also represents the four Continents.
In my paintings I represent this representation:
An Elephant representing Asia
A Camel used to represent Africa
A Buffalo representing America
& a Cow representing Europe

This goes with native representations of the human beings of each Continent. The fifth continent does not exist – if it did – probably it would be something like a kangaroo and an aboriginal, or maybe a bigger animal for a more important representation…

From the museum rooms to the “real” space

In the same way as it happened in the spaces of previous exhibitions, the floor and the walls are worked areas that surround the different rooms of the restaurant that hosts my piece – The Elephant’s Journey. The floor is painted and exists to be stepped on and walked over in a carefree way. As to the walls - and besides the work done with the brushes - they also receive some objects that hide parts of their painted surface.
The usually “untouchable objects”, that live as “untouchable art” when placed in a museum or gallery ( modified - tables, chairs and lamps) assume once again their original function, being  able to be used one more time, as normal objects of everyday life.

The triviality of the work

I have in mind some ornamental paintings I’ve seen in restaurants / chop-houses / tents (...).

I wish to retake this traditional desire of creating an idyllic scene, sometimes evocating a glorious past and also the eventual desire of upgrading the place itself.

In order to construct the piece I spend a particularly low budget, focusing my attention on selecting and recycling old objects. This intention of spending a small amount of cash, makes me able to center all energy in “object-transformation”.

Changing objects - furniture, “bibelots” and different surfaces. Even with the possible stigma that this “glorification” may bring, the aim is to create an intimate space - elegant maybe - but never to intimidate the spectator.

In other words: I wish to create a massification and democratize my piece returning to the initial idea of painting as ornament.

I wish to make the objects live outside the “white cube” - inherited from modernism.

I pretend that the objects live for itself, being able to create a gateway that reveals a new experience in each viewer.

With this work, I am coming back into a place where people eat - the same starting point that José Saramago uses in his book called The Elephant’s Journey - This leaves me to think that maybe I was somehow trying to reinforce the idea of “unmaking” / the idea of returning / the idea of desanctifying art.

Modernism and Crime

Adolf Loos speaks of “Ornament and Crime” - one of the funding theories of modernism. In my work I tend to follow the idea of using painting as ornament.

(I don’t see ornament as something particularly criminal)

I feel the need to transform the space inside a modernist museum. On the other hand – when working in the “real” space - my intention is simply to surprise the viewer by inviting him to walk over my floor paintings. People also will be able to sit on this objects and even eat on it.

Key elements

Orientalism / History / Ornament / Crime / Narrative of Saramago / Imagery / Colonialism / Slavery / Ornamental Classical Painting / Modernism / Extinct Animals / Tradition / Glory / Statute/ Automatic Writing.

Note: In a flood in Tanger I lost my traveling books The Elephant Journey / Inside The White Cube / 100 Years of Non Linear History / & Animals from Amazonia / I am now using memory to evocate all references.


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