From a dead artist to another (on cynicism issues.)
Sexta-feira, Agosto 15, 2003
“Pedro Cabrita Reis is one of the most unique artists in the context of the renewal contemporary sculpture which dates from the middle of the eighties until today.” – João Fernandes, Vicente Todoli (commissioner/ Portuguese pavilion), in Venice Biennial’s site.
Just imagine that Pistolleto presents a ‘statue’ honoring the Mayor of some little Italian town, say Tara for the purpose of this demonstration. Or that Susana Solano designs a ‘monument’ honoring the controversial Gil y Gil, ex-President of football team Atletico de Madrid and ex-Mayor of Marbella, the well-known Spanish tourist resort. In terms of pure esthetics, you should also imagine that we are talking about very conventional, “pompier” sculptures. It seems unimaginable doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.
Pedro Cabrita Reis (PCR) did it. On June the first, eleven days before the 50th Venice Biennial opened it’s many gates to the Press, an incredible monument to one of the most notorious Portuguese conservative Mayors was inaugurated in Maia by the local authorities (a notorious bishop included), some populace and Mr. Cabrita Reis.
José Vieira de Carvalho, died last year, was “elected” in 1973 a deputy member to the “Assembleia Nacional” (a puppet Parliament designed to legitimize the dictatorship). Three years before he was nominated Mayor of the suburban village of Maia by the Government. After the chute of Salazar-Caetano dictatorship, in April 74, Vieira de Carvalho entered the new right wing party CDS, and under that status was elected Maia’s Mayor. He perpetuated himself in power 28 consecutive years (until his death), thanks to some oddities of the new Portuguese parliamentary democracy. Actually, some Portuguese local politicians manage to stay in power for decades.
The fact that there is now a noisy, though not very substantial discussion about removing this constitutional “bug”, in order to induce more transparency in our democracy and prevent endemic corruption, turns even less tolerable the decision of the City Council to build a Monument to it’s Mayor (“the founder of modern Maia” in the new Mayor’s commemorative words), and the will of carrying on with it by PCR. The idea is in itself unacceptable (just imagine a statue for each politician in every European corner!). And the form, I mean the ridicule statue, in it’s entire submission to the supposed ideological mandate of the client, is intellectually aberrant and artistically null. Modern Maia is the result of 28 years of democracy, and not the work of one dedicated bureaucrat, one resilient politician, one omniscient paterfamilias and one undisputable ‘cacique’. It’s a collective outcome and not a dubious heroic narrative (which by the way one cannot find no matter how hard one looks into Maia’s municipal web site).
In a short note about he’s commitment to the Mayor’s homage, PCR wrote, “it was a profound challenge set to himself”. He also wrote in the same note that “an artist is someone that carries inside him the will and power to brake with any tradition. But this very same vitality would also allow him to make a gesture so wide and deep as to interrogate even the utmost and thrilling novelty, undoing in this way any myth or interdiction.” Worsening things up PCR closes he’s “author’s note” writing this amazing paragraph: “It is from this assumed individual creative liberty, and it’s inherent refusal of any political, esthetical or cultural command, that the desire of accepting the invitation to sign this Homage was born.” One may wonder if the City Hall was expecting anything less than a realistic and “academic” outcome of such a statement. Words, though, are not enough to disguise this obvious and opportunistic double standard.
How can a so-called contemporary artist show at the same time – in Maia and at Venice Biennial – such completely antagonistic art visions? Which are indeed two decadent versions of 19th century and 20th century art: a reactionary statue honoring a local conservative politician, as if we were living in pre-Rodin days, and some loose installations about nothing (though with a touch of refreshed “arte povera”).
The curators Vicente Todolí and João Fernandes, that chose PCR to be the Portuguese representative in Venice Biennial, quoted him as having said or written the following: “I believe that in any art work what is to be perceived is that very particular, brief and silent moment when one experiences Intelligence, an absolute and total Intelligence through which everything comes together”.
Is this the very example of the decadence and cynicism in the present art system? Is the fact that nobody saw such a flagrant ethical anomaly (namely the art critics, art journalists and apparatchiks of Portuguese art scene), or cares about such trivialities, already an evidence that the only thing that matters in the so-called art world today is nothing but media coverage and money at all costs?
An artist can prostitute his body, but not his art. — ACP
¶ 2:27 AM