New City #1, 2010. Inkjet, Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper. 80 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 plus 1 A.P.
A man walks alone in an empty road. He looks back. He still wonders about his position and it’s not clear that he knows exactly where he’s going. A woman looks for rental opportunities but turns her head when being observed. Is she a transit character in an Asian fiction or simply the human element that seems to be missing in “New City”. Another man is the only living figure in a sweeping construction site. Apparently lost in the enormous scale around him he validates the machinery, becoming the soft focus of the ambiguous situation he is in.
They are different from the one walking in the ‘dream park’, found in a digitally enhanced prospect of a near future. The about to be, always brighter, where skies have different colors and flowers are bigger than life.
For this play to be complete, where everything points to the idea that something is wrong and things may not be what they seem a couple is happily gaming, but aren’t they another pretension, a ‘propaganda’ of something that maybe will never exist.
"No U-Turn" seems to be the underlying message in “New City”. Rather than promoting complacent acceptance of the agglutination that we all live in, “New City” engages us visually with other apparent empty sceneries, leaving us clues regarding questions of significant value. It’s accepted that we seem compelled to alter the spaces around us, but there’s no rational explanation for the extrapolations of identity to which humans are subjected.
The selected alter-spaces of the works incite the viewer to creative thought, proposing a debate on problematic matters of the position of the human being in his environment. Humans are undoubtedly the most dominant species but aren’t these extreme size surroundings leading us to the point of invisibility?
To imagine a city without people…
The white building close up where a car will be expected some time or the CCTV camera pointing to something that we can’t see are showing us that life is at some point expected.
The paradigm of the expectant “New City” is explicitly shown in the empty blue bench to sit and look to the same blue wall or in the sign of a possible older city reflected in the rain water of a tartan track.
This indigent and abandoned place in heartless disorder is also diagnosed in “Few Steps”, the ‘finishing touch’ video of “New City”. In “Few Steps” the axis of this disturbance emanates from the inability to reconcile between the dream and the harsh reality where being in the proper place or belonging to something is reduced to the disclosure of our own loneliness.
These works disintegrate conceptually from inside, they slip out from the realm of art and approach life. Assuming that observation is one important element of science each one of the works is a document of some sort. “New City” casts the artist in the role of expert authority and aesthetic interpreter, as an anthropologist of this particular time where persistent issues of desegregation rise constantly. However the work of Rui Calcada Bastos leaves these issues open to individual interpretation rather than striving to establish any ‘absolute truth’.
The identity of these spaces is not evident. Not evident is also the reality of them being immutable which ultimately points us to a certain dysfunctionality and thereby in some point to a certain oblivion, breathless, about to explode but kept closely under a thin layer of illusion.
José Drummond in New City Catalogue, 2010