BY Alexis Jakubowicz in Reviews | 07 NOV 12
Featured in
Issue 7

João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva

Fri Art

BY Alexis Jakubowicz in Reviews | 07 NOV 12

Solar, the blindman eating a papaya, 2011, Film still

In his Meditationes de prima philosophia (Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641), René Descartes introduced rational minds to radical doubt. Citing Descartes’s tract as their artist statement, João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva adopted doubt as their method, focusing, like the philosopher-physicist before them, on aberrations of the imagination and senses. In this exhibition Trilemma: Over a Ghostly Conception, the artists exploited the fallibility of perception, systematically introducing perturbing elements into the ‘ordinary run of things’ – a generic phrase under which they pursue the trivial, the fugitive, the transitory. The transfiguration of the banal into a schizophrenic event manifests itself via the exploration of the inner life of every object and every being. By transforming a potato into a mystic form (Peeled Potato, 2010) or by simulating the bronze scalp of an unidentified beast (Flayed Animal, 2012), they dramatize the disjointed states of the world.

In formal logic, a dilemma is a line of reasoning where two contrary premises, of which one is false if the other is true, lead to the same conclusion. In common parlance, a dilemma forces a subject to choose between two contradictory and equally unsatisfactory alternatives. Gusmão and Paiva anticipate the frustrations of this form of reasoning by introducing a third, phantom proposition to the visitor’s mind. Rather than involving any emotional loss, their ‘trilemmas’ work by adding, grafting or extending.

Wave, 2011, Film still

The exhibition brought together no less than 13 silent sequences, filmed and projected in 16mm and 35mm. Twelve of these were presented as trilogies, accompanied only by the rattling of the old projectors. Each sequence is hallucinatory, quick enough to be intense and insistent enough to be remembered. Visitors were greeted by three stars shining together over the sea in 3 Suns (2009). Shot from inside a cave, the film associates Plato’s allegorical motif of the cave with George Lucas’s popular fantasy of a binary star system for the planet Tatooine in Star Wars (1977). Though there was an obvious collusion here between science and fiction, it never resulted in science fiction in the true sense. In most of their works, the duo maintain an absurd distance between the means and the end. Baby and Window (2012), for example, reveals what it takes to recreate a phenomenon as simple and fleeting as the apparition of a silhouette behind a net curtain. A large-format camera and projectors mounted on a wooden structure gave the impression of a mountain giving birth to a mouse. With their maieutics, Gusmão and Paiva rival Socrates in the art of spiritual midwifery, except that their minds are at large in the realm of dreams and the unreal.
Translated from the French by Nicholas Grindell