The Fribourg Art Centre will be hosting Trilemma: Over a Ghostly Conception, a solo exhibition by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva. The works shown by the duo, who represented their country at the 2009 Venice Biennale, consist in a series of short, silent films on 16 and 35 mm ranging from the poetic to the experimental, as well as objects, installations and camerae obscurae. Besides their plastic creations, they have also produced a written body of work, published in compilations alongside scientific, literary and philosophical texts by other authors.
Drawing on one of Newton’s optical experiments on multiple remanent images, in this exhibition the artists challenge the status of the image and of representation within the perspective of a “phantasmal” world order. At the core of this “Trilemma” lie the fabrication of the image and of its shadows as well as notions such as visibility, projection, appearance and disappearance.
The nature of 16 mm film affords it a particular status. In an age characterized by an overabundance of smooth images, these noisy, rough, material projections command a different sort of attention on the part of the viewer, and seem to invite one to reconsider ones heritage and history. In spite of the fact that the medium itself reveals the nature of the tricks and procedures behind the appearing and disappearing of the patterns making it up, the films’ magical, illusory content induces a kind of
The hovering objects are ostensibly held up by cables, the contraptions are simple and visible. In this, Gusmão and Paiva’s work recalls that of other tinkering artists such as Fischli and Weiss. Their choice of subject matter – stuffed animals, humble objects and unassuming characters – seems to mark a certain aversion towards the technical, as appears also from their resort to the camera obscura and film stock. Referring to younger generations’ fondness of low tech aesthetics, Art historian Thomas Golsenne suggests that it is “a way of combining a spirit of visual resistance with resilience towards a society whose notion of progress sometimes fails to go beyond the consumption of state-of-the-art technology”.
In Gusmão and Paiva’s work, philosophical and metaphysical considerations mingle with scientific experiments, fuelling intellectual considerations as well as a poetic approach. Natural and social sciences alike invariably lead to a lack of resolution, recalling fundamental doubts and letting in the irrational and the metaphysical. Juxtaposition becomes an aesthetic strategy. Their written compilations, which interweave texts by the likes of Pessoa, Montaigne, Daumal or Plato, echo the
design of their exhibitions, where series of short films are projected simultaneously within the same space or according to the visitor’s progress through the exhibit. Far from proposing a resolution or advancing a hypothesis, the perspective suggested by the series of images is poetic, unstable and open, a breath of fresh air in a society obsessed with control, regulation and foresight.