Dissonance - Instalation view at Galerie Sans Titre, Brussels, 2010
Left: All that Glitters, 2010. Video, Pal, b&w, sound, 4:3, Edition of 5 plus 1 A.P.
Right: Self Portrait while thinking, 2007
15 drawings, graphite on paper, 70 x 50 cm each
Video, colour, 4:3, 3`17``. Edition of 3 plus 1 A.P.
Galerie Sans Titre, Brussels
28th May - 10th Jully 2010
Dissonance and Disappearance
Eu nem sou um poeta: eu vejo.
Alberto Caeiro (Fernando Pessoa)
Poemas Inconjuntos / Discontinuous Poems
On a restlessly rippling surface, a man’s towering shadow is rendered. The fleeting apparition slowly disappears as the last trace of his being
fades and transforms into a sparkling constellation. Such is the fugitive vision of Last Evidence of the Drowning of the One Left with Thoughts
of Dissolution and Gloom (2005). In this work, the basis of form and substance, line and volume, are reduced to a residue. The outline of a
body distils into the essence of sound and light effervescence. Silence and noise surface as contrasting textures. Contrary to the proverbial
saying that a man cannot jump over his own shadow, here, the artist succeeds in escaping even himself in an act of material erasure. It is
paradoxically this gesture of poetic effacement that enables an abstract realization of his subjectivity even as the artist attempts to break free
from the image.
A sense of discontinuity and contradiction, rather than coherence and consistency, characterizes Rui Calcada Bastos’ experimental oeuvre.
Pivotal to Bastos’ work is the experience of Self and City, where ‘noise’ becomes a form of signification and means of identifying otherwise
overlooked aspects of one’s inner world and external surroundings. His is a dissonant aesthetic that draws on the rhythms of everyday life,
its unpredictability and randomness, its rising and falling cadences, its intervals of quietness and cacophony.
In Self-Portrait While Thinking (2007), the artist’s idiosyncratic facial “ticks”: the twitching of his nose, pursing of his lips and crinkling of his
forehead, manifest as an excess of mental stress and emotional noise. On the other hand, the installation, which comprises a video and series
of sketches, underscores his interest in juxtaposing formal and material properties particularly in relation to moving pictures.
Interestingly, Bastos’ employment of self-portraiture in this instance manages to achieve a parallel effect to Last Evidence’s existential
undercurrent through his use of video. By projecting a semblance of ‘Self’ directly into the spectral space of the screen, an emphasis shifts
to the unreliability of the medium as truth, as media theorist Sean Cubitt puts it, “the video portrait admits defeat: the human escapes.” The
artist employs visual incongruities and dissonances as exit strategies, red herrings that belie the performance of his disappearing act. The
gallery may be filled with his image, but the artist is nowhere to be seen.
Elsewhere, the sound piece I.N.S.T.I.T.U.T.I.O.N.S (2009), weighs the artist’s absences or presences within the loaded parameters of the white
cube. At the same time, the work queries the artist’s position and treatment as a resistive individual who must function along lines of power
that exist in the art world. Only his disembodied voice is heard, mechanically pronouncing each letter that forms the acronyms of the names
of famous museums, a jarring sound that collides with the fact that the artist’s work has yet to feature in many of the powerhouses on his
Bastos not only explores the withdrawal and imposition of Self as an artistic position. Much of his work also contemplates the quiet visual
delays and (in)auditory reverberations occurring in an urban context, brought about as a consequence of changing modernities. A black and
white elegy to cinema after television, All that Glitters (2010) alternates its glance between a post-war past, a globalised present and future,
a moment of change that found expression in golden-age movies such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Nothing is really what it seems and
all that glitters is not always gold. Playing up the concept of ‘white noise’, image and information loss, the work bemoans the vanishing of
the Silver Screen’s romantic pull. Yet, the conceptual resonance of this piece lies in Bastos’ poetic treatment of the handful of glitter, accentuating
the properties of the material to evoke ideas of entropy, excess and dematerialisation. A similar sense of cinematic nostalgia is also seen in
Bothways (2006), in which the discordant sound of wheels grinding against the railway track is accompanied by an observation that the twin
reflection in the windows makes it appear that the train is going nowhere, as is the non-existent conversation in the empty booth.
At no other time are evidences of change more acutely experienced than during the act of travelling, when one’s sensitivities grow more
sharply attuned to noticing visual anomalies in unfamiliar environments. Bastos’ Life in a Bush of Ghosts (2008) captures these cognitive
moments in the mode of psycho-geographical, urban dérive. The photographs in the series comprise of scenes that document the rapid,
almost discordant speed of urban reconstruction in Shanghai. The ebb and flow of movement and sound recorded by the sculpturally composed
images nonetheless resound with a sense of contemplative quietness, responding to the poetic values of the chance encounter - a rendezvous
with objects in-situ. This is the ‘intimate immensity’ Gaston Bachelard speaks of, as he quotes the poet Rilke: “Le monde est grand, mais
en nous, il est profond comme la mer.” And as follows, Jules Vallès, “L’espace m’a toujours rendu silencieux.”
The world is large, but in us, it is as deep as the sea.
Space has always reduced me to silence.
The oscillating dissonances, discontinuities and disappearances that Rui Calcada Bastos evokes in his work drifts towards a common point:
the amplification of space and sound as an expression of intensified, poetic experience.