The Monster Dresses in Mirrors

André Romão

 

Exhibition opening: 15_12_2016 / 19.00

Exhibition dates: 16_12_2016 – 4_2_2017

 

 

 

The work of André Romão is deeply rooted in the process of reawakening, reappearance and historical returns. History and the material and immaterial residue it leaves behind, than serves the artist as a point of departure for the construction of a new sequence of narration, which although seemingly abstracted, is through an intricate web of relations and associations interlaced with the politics of the present.

 

The Monster Dresses in Mirrors however presents us with a return that is two-fold. The first is a return of the artist to a language and to the formal origins of his practice. The second return are the themes introduced by the exhibition as such. Here through a controlled process of gathering, reuniting and animating, André Romão awakens the themes of a historical context, while building up on the symbolic value of its subjects. These are than reactivated through a poetic play of metaphor, association and opposition.

 

The animated Western Freeze of the Parthenon in Athens, which governs the exhibition, serve us here as a reference to the process of the above mentioned gathering, awakening and reactivation. The cold and inanimate stone is brought to life along the sound of a rhythmic beat by drummer Quim Albergaria. The initially fragmented and seemingly dead is united in a search for a new common and a new polis. The past, the present and the future are intertwined by a play of materiality and opposition, may it be by the hardness and the coldness of the stone, or by the artificiality and the transparency of the plexiglas sculptures, which enthrone dead bodies of exotic wasps. As if suspended in time on their journey to the north, we might see their gathering as a projection of a possible future or a reflection of a former past. After all the monster does dress in mirrors.

 

Markéta Stará Condeixa

 

 

André Romão (1984) is one of the key representatives of artists of his generation. His work has been presented in a number of institutions such as Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Astrup Fearnley Museet (Oslo), MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (Rome), 98 Weeks (Beirut), Spike Island Art Center (Bristol) Kunsthalle Lissabon or Serralves in Porto among others. His exhibition at Syntax presents a series of new works developed especially for the exhibition.

 


transplants: contamination as collaboration

COYOTE

 

Performative talk presenting COYOTE ongoing research at Syntax on September 30th at 19:00.

 

 

COYOTE (Grégoire Benzakin, Tristan Bera, Nuno da Luz, Elida Høeg, Clémence Seurat, Ana Vaz) is a collective formed in 2015 as a dérive and aftermath of their experience at French philosopher Bruno Latour’s experimental laboratory in arts and politics at Sciences Po, Paris. COYOTE is a cross-disciplinary group concerned with art, ecology, ethnology and political sciences.

 

 

Dear Coyotes,

 

For “Sud e magia”, Syntax has been painted with lime whitewash and iron oxide – one room in ochre, the other in red – to host circles of plants and lights that talk with each other: the lights do it in a kind of Morse code that is sound activated and devil’s weeds do it by growing, bearing fruit, releasing seeds… and dying. Both are clues taken freely from Carlos Castaneda’s books on his so-called shaman apprenticeship with the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan. I got to read Castaneda a few years ago as a curiosity on California 60s anthropology studies but as we have tried to read through Roy Wagner’s “Coyote Anthropology”, I realized more and more how Castaneda is such an important storyteller, a trickster (another coyote in the history of trickery). By the way, Ana and I covered some connections between Castaneda and Wagner during our “no longer innocent or guilty” event in New York. It has been printed as a newspaper sheet and plenty of copies are available at Syntax.

 

And so, for our coming together starting on Sept 26th, I propose that the space is used as a common room for working (crafting) for a week. Hence, things might and should move around and new things should be added, brought in, spatially, sonically, invisibly.

 

For now, I just want to leave you with the truest of coincidences: when in Japan (collaborating with Ana on a film project), I got to know that the plants at Syntax were sick and dying. Later that evening at Kita-Senju station, I saw an “ikebana” arrangement combining branches of devil’s weed, bearing fruits with yellow daisies, and, as I was taking a photo, an email notification from Clémence appeared on my phone’s screen, chaining together this huge “South of the heart”.

 

This leads me to ask you to bring things to craft together… in the spirit of “ikebana” arrangements.
— Nuno.

 

 

P.S.: Ana Vaz is coming with some images from her detour to Fukushima, bridging real and potential contaminations via the new Japanese release of “Shin Godzilla”. Speaking of contamination, Tristan Bera has found this poem by a Mohawk poet Peter Blue Cloud alluding to our fetish animal – should we say totem or taboo? – the coyote. Clémence Seurat will be drawing on witchcraft. Elida Høeg will be bringing some North in the form of stones and stories.

 

* taken from Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of life in Capitalist Ruins

Project partners:


Sud e magia

Nuno da Luz

 

Exhibition opening: 21_7_2016 / 20.17

Exhibition dates: 22_7 – 1_10_2016

 

 

“All I can tell you is that we are fluid, luminous beings made of fibres.”
Carlos Castaneda

 

 

Inspired by the writings of Carlos Castaneda, Sud e magia (South and Magic) aims to challenge the idea of culture(s) as a universal and a prefabricated consensus, which determines one’s understanding of his/her surrounding and one’s role within a web of pre-determined and previously described relations as fixed. This predominantly Western perception of reality as an absolute, driven by a social contract of a specific cultural context, results in static comprehension of reality and in the inability for change in thought or in behavioural patterns.

 

Through the prism of the present day environmental crisis, a need to shift these behavioural patterns as a means to tackle climate change and further exploitation of nature becomes pertinent. Although fictional, the writing of Castaneda here becomes particularly useful, namely due to the authors interest in shamanism, spiritualism and the tribes of the Southwestern United States and Nortwestern Mexico, whose rejection of an absolute reality and the refusal of Western materialism, introduces a number of productive alternatives of re-establishing relations with the natural. These arise namely through a bi-verse or even a multiverse approach to a series of separate realities of the so-called non-rational.

 

A popular method of achieving such a “state” came hand in hand with Castaneda’s interest in the botanical, and his experimentation with hallucinogenic and psychotropic plants. Originally endemic to Mexico and Southwestern United States, Datura Stramonium (Jimson Weed or Devil’s weed) is considered an invasive species in Europe and an unwanted weed frequently growing on cultivated/farmed lands. It serves us here as an illustration of the fixed relationship determined by a prefabricated consensus and of our inability to stop the world in order to arrive at seeing. (The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, 1968)

 

Markéta Stará Condeixa

 

Sud e magia presents a series of new works produced and composed for the purpose of the show and is a continuation of the artist’s engagement with the dichotomy between the natural and the cultural. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of performances and performative discussions of the Coyote collective, which will take place throughout September 2016.

Project partners:


Brother

Johana Pošová & Barbora Fastrová

 

Exhibition opening: 26_5_2016 / 22.00

Exhibition dates: 27_5 – 9_7_2016

 

 

One of the central subjects in the collaborative practice of Prague based artists Johana Pošová and Barbora Fastrová is the field of Nature and its antagonistic relation with the concepts of Western modernity. Nature in Western modernity has been traditionally conceptualised as an obstacle that is to be overcome or utilised by human needs, determining thus the stance of the Modern human as the anthropocentric other, whose wants and interests are given preferential treatment. Nature therefore, became subjugated to the purpose and the operation of scientifically equipped humanity, making Western man the master and the possessor of Nature. The objectification of such understanding transformed Nature into a subject detached from man; Nature became a separate space, a threat and something that is to be overcome and exploited.

 

Drawing from a myth of the Kogi indigenous group – a tale of two brothers, whose distinct approach and treatment of nature in many ways mirrors the Western and the Non-Western approach to the natural, Johana Pošová and Barbora Fastrová present through their exhibition a place where these relations are questioned and renegotiated, and the superiority of the Western man is rendered other. Rather than applying a strict rationalism, which has repeatedly failed and served only as a means to unveil the limits of modernity and the inability to control (the destructive) interactions between society and Nature, the exhibition employs a language of the absurd and the non-rational. Making use of the archetypal nature of selected objects and the obvious artificiality of these objects, the exhibition tries to point to the complexity of the biotic community and to our failure in understanding and trying to manipulate Nature similarly to the younger brother of the Kogi myth.

 

Markéta Stará Condeixa

 

Brother is the first collaborative project of Czech artists Johana Pošová and Barbora Fastrová presented in Portugal and introduces solely new works, developed especially for the purpose of the exhibition at Syntax. The exhibition has been produced with the generous support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Camara Municipal de Lisboa and the general partner of Syntax – Pedro Sousa Arquitectos.

Project partners:


Silent Spring

Nikolai Nekh

 

Exhibition opening: 24_3_2016 / 22.00

Exhibition dates: 25_3 – 14_5_2016

 

 

Although working across a wide range of media, which escape the category of the somewhat classical, when taking a closer look at the work of Nikolai Nekh we might be surprised to disclose a rather traditional artistic genre. Although not necessarily presented as the final outcome, the still life in the work of Nikolai Nekh occupies in many ways a central position, creating a revised micro economy of carefully selected and composed objects, which although taken from a specific context of the everyday, in many ways capitalise on their original function, through the symbolic value they bring into the “frame”. Although mostly inanimate in their nature, compared to the classical understanding of a still life, conventional categories of object use and object functionality are broken here, allowing for Nekh to treat the inherently static medium rather as a form of an intellectual catalyst and a place of a random encounter of objects, which are brought together on the premises of reflecting and tackling the frequently contradictory nature of our present day.

 

Playing around with the analogy of a still life here, does not however only allow us to understand the methodology of how Nekh selects and composes his works, but can be suggestive also and most importantly, of the topics, which his current practice has been addressing. The contradiction hidden in the term still life (still and life) here suggest a clash in our understanding of the animate and the inanimate, pointing thus not only to the fading borders between what we understand today to be within the category of the “living” and of the supposedly “dead”, but also and most importantly, to how does this distinction influence our exploitation of the planet that comes hand in hand with the direct capitalisation of the resources it provides.

 

Silent Spring navigates us into a world of seemingly sensible, yet simultaneously absurd contradictions reminiscent of the flow of energy outside, as well as within the power socket. While faced with a series of small economies, which operate as interdependent clusters, yet bare a clear reference to the frequent absurdity of the systematic whole, the stillness of presented life here echoes the somewhat loud silence of a new season, which has long began (!).

 

Markéta Stará Condeixa

 

Silent Spring brings together a series of new or revised works by Portuguese (Russian born) artist Nikolai Nekh (1985) and is the first larger solo presentation of the artists practice in Lisbon. As part of the exhibition, Nikolai Nekh will introduce his latest film A Taste of Sun (2016), which will be screened in a Brunch With Nikolai Nekh in April 2016.


in residency: Stan Van Steendam

 

1_3 – 30_5_2016

 

The works of Brussels based artist Stan Van Steendam (1985) can be best understood through the prism of a new materialism, characteristic to one of the lines of contemporary art practice today. The physicality of the art object in the work of Van Steendam, may this be through the medium of sculpture, drawing, painting or a book bares a strong tie to nature. Nature for Van Steendam is a not only a conceptual precondition for his practice, but also a source of material, may this material be plaster, jute, pigment, wood, earth or paint. Regardless of the final medium, the same matter is worked, shaped and transformed into layered blocks of colour, shapes, movements and textures, final form of which, suggest a revised, yet somehow present nature of their origin.

 

With the rock as a central subject/object of the artist’s recent works, Van Steendam questions our revised and somehow fleeting relation to the natural, evoking visual memories of what the natural once was and what within the domain of the artificial, it might become.

 

During his three-month residency at Syntax, Stan Van Steendam will develop a new body of work. His practice will be presented to the public through a series of presentations in as well as outside of the artists’ studio.

 

http://www.stanvansteendam.be/


L’Eternelle insatisfaite

Julie Béna

 

Exhibition opening: 21_1_2016/ 22.00

Exhibition dates: 22_1 – 12_3_2016

 

 

The work of French artist Julie Béna is an open stage. It is a place of encounter – a place for the development and engagement of fictional characters, characters who come to life through the animism of objects and the mythologies they embody. The power of language here has been muted to the very minimum. Words have been emptied through the course of time, transforming them into labels that convey manifold, yet somehow standardised meaning, depending on the characters they dress and the ones they engage with.

 

The beauty mark that functions as a leitmotif of the exhibition and that follows us through the show, is suggestive of a female character. It might be the artist, who frequently develops and impersonates multiple personas in her practice, may it be through the performative or through the symbolic value and the power of the object based, as is the case of L’Eternelle insatisfaite, or it may be a mark, which signifies the presence of the absent body.

 

The diversity in the materiality of individual objects advocates multiple impersonations. The common denominator that some of them share: i.e. the use of colour or a repetition in form, point however to a dialectic relationship between these objects. Although seemingly lifeless – as if suspended in time -, the mythologies of these objects question through their materiality, the present notion of the living, which surpasses our standard idea of the human and the humanisation of the supposedly dead, creating a strange ecology of equality, through which objects are brought to life and their voices are heard.

 

Julie Béna (1982) is one of the leading representatives of the youngest generation of French artists. She has exhibited her work in numerous institutions around the world, among other at the ICA in London, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, ISCP, New York or Kunsthalle Bergen. Her exhibition L’Eternelle insatisfaite is the first presentation of the artists’ work in Portugal and introduces solely a series of new works produced especially for the purpose of the exhibition at SYNTAX.

 

Markéta Stará Condeixa

Project partners: