Before falling asleep, a pre-cortical image inside a moving train, 2014
Camera Obscura Installation with multiple projections
Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva (*1979 / *1977 Lisbon) have collaborated since 2001 on creating objects, installations, photographs and, most of all, 16 mm and 35 mm short films. The duo describe their overall project as a large conceptual narrative about the analogical, not merely as a media, but as a thought producing world view system. Their approach towards the metaphysical and the poetic stems from philosophical materialism, a concern which is continually challenged by the irrational and the unexplained. In the work of Gusmão and Paiva, these motives acquire to a certain extend the essentials of their own analogical fabrication: the urge to produce images which, while affording no truth-value, pursue the poetic, the conceptual and the idiosyncratic as the highest aesthetical affirmation.
With their camera obscura installations, Gusmão + Paiva have developed complex and sophisticated contraptions that create multiple layers of moving imagery without employing film or video, but solely by the use of optical devices and light. In hidden technical rooms, orchestrated theatre lights fade in and out on objects that are transported into focus by miniature conveyor belts or rotated by small motors. Through one or several lenses in the wall, images of these objects are reflected directly onto a screen in a darkened viewing space.
Before falling asleep, a pre-cortical image inside a moving train is a new camera obscura installation showing the inside of a train carriage in motion with a view onto the passing landscape. The images are inverted, duplicated, slightly overlapping, and alternate as they flicker. The perspective entailed in the projection would seem to be that of a person on a train, about to fall asleep at the moment of losing consciousness. The duplicated effect reproduces the binocular condition of the human perceptual apparatus, while the inversion of the image, naturally caused by the convex lenses in the wall, demonstrates the workings of the human retina before the brain composes a solid image of the world. A mechanical device mimics the blinking of the eye, ascribing to the image a physiological impermanence we are usually unaware of, highlighting the image’s absence once vision is cut off. The projection investigates the mechanisms of sight and human perception of reality through a meta-representation - a cerebral surrogate, enquiring further into the origins of the image in general.
At some point, as the eyelids close, a third moving image is projected which transports the train compartment into the obscurity of a tunnel, implying a connection between blindness and sleep, between the visible and its representation. As the mechanical shutters open, the projection emerges from darkness to carry on the train journey from somewhere to nowhere.
João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva live and work in Lisbon. They represented Portugal at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and participated in The Encyclopaedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. Currently an extensive solo exhibition is on view at Hangar Bicocca, Milan (curated by Vicente Todolí). Recent solo exhibitions include: Fri Art Centre, Fribourg, (2012); Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2012); Kunsthaus Glarus (2012); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2011); Le Plateau, Paris (2011); Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2011); Fondazione Brodbeck, Sicily (2011); IMO, Copenhagen (2011); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2010). Recent group shows include Propaganda für die Wirklichkeit, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2014); The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013);Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice, Ukrainian Collateral Event on the 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); Nouvelles Impressions de Raymond Roussel, Palais de Tokyo , Paris (2013); Film as Sculpture, WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2013); Ghosts in the Machine, New Museum, New York (2012); When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco (2012); Future Generation Art Price, Pinchuk Arts Centre (2012); In the Holoscene, MIT List Visual Arts Center Camebridge, MA (2011); Art and Philosophy, N.B.K Berlin (2011); Magic Show, touring exhibition organised by The Hayward Gallery, London (2010).