If you`re going through hell, keep going. Exhibition view at Galeria José Robles, Madrid, 2012
Left: Untitled, 2011. Inkjet, Semi Matte Photo Paper
Right: Untitled (Palm Springs), 2011. Inkjet, Premium Luster Photo Paper. 110 × 150 cm Edition of 3 plus 1 A.P.
If you`re going through hell, keep going
Galería José Robles, Madrid
19th January - 24th February 2012
Another roll of the dice
If you're going through hell, keep going. Rui Calçada Bastos aims to unsettle by starting out from what we find most familiar and then suggesting limits and defining images. The walk through reality blends in his works and resonates like the echo of a look in the mirror. Everything is happening before our eyes and yet time dilates the scene transforming the space. In this case a photograph and two videos are provided as both structure and structuring element, and turning obvious only once the viewer starts organizing and is in his turn organized by familiar codes that allow him to make sense of it all. It is, nevertheless, impossible to unravel the entire story. It is as if each image were dragging a threat, a mystery, even if it entails an invitation to continue.
From one side, we stand on a truncated path before the end of a road in the middle of a desert or, perhaps, before a desert in the middle of a road. Insecurity arises from the uncertainty of the motives, from the poetry of the inconclusive. Because in Calçada Bastos’ work the present has always been suspended. Only the past can abandon that state of unstable equilibrium to show itself as something secure. We have already seen it in his previous works such as All I Had, where Calçada Bastos documents packaged objects from his studio, from his past; or in Studio Accident, where the present of that very past collapses in the presence of the artist, who seems to accept it matter-of-factly as irreversible. And it was all the more obvious when he strolled along with a suitcase covered with mirrors that reflected broken reality (The mirror suitcase man), which highlighted the idea of travelling to a virtual, unknown future that only exists potentially, never actually turning real.
Yet Rui Calçada Bastos is always offering clues, small revelations available to the attentive spectator. In his works one small detail is enough to unleash a narrative always less ambiguous than one might actually think at first sight. Always tense, the rhythm of his work has much to do with everything cinematographic. Even when the sight is absent, it seems to resonate like a complicit echo. Something takes place, something happens. The spectator drives and directs himself. Gestures are configured as essential, and then become thoughts. More than ever, the reception of the image happens to be key, an image that never looks the same even though it really happens to be. For Rui Calçada Bastos handles the mechanism of timing as well as the possibilities of different media such as drawing, photography or video. And he also masters humour, as when he shows his own nervous tics in a video and some drawings. The title of that gag in two stages is revealing indeed: Self portrait while thinking. Once again we find the something uncontrollable and splitting, as well as that relation with the intellectual that takes the spectator away from reality as he wonders what is going on.
These are, definitely, ways to go back on typical cinema behaviors. Rui Calçada Bastos’ photography has much to do with that kind of framed movement. Static wise, it is the glance that applies temporality to the piece’s surface, going through it all in search of the lost structure. From a supposedly dynamic point of view, as in the video of the characters walking in a sort of Moebius strip, the mobile landscape is at the same time a still journey. And the mysterious image keeps us watching the screen on and on.
In that sense, it is curious how one of Calçada Bastos’ earliest works presented in the late nineties, -Ten years looking forward to see you-, already kept that sort of distance. In that case he gathered all the looks from all those people who would stare straight at his camera during a period of ten years, to show them afterwards in two projections that made a clear difference between acquaintances of his and those people who have a name, while playing with the complicity, himself and the distance required when watching.
Just as Mallarmé once stated, every thought is a roll of dice, and this becomes all the more obvious in Rui Calçada Bastos. The poetry of hazard, of the instability from which emerges a lack of response and which we can appreciate in his most recent works, was already dominating the tense rhythm as well as the black and white typical of his earlier works like Quadrifoglio, Casting Thoughts or The mirror suitcase man. We still ignore the message of the letter Rui Calçada Bastos handles to us through works such as Rendez-vous. Just as we ignore what the artist is watching through the peephole in the door in O caso. It is as if the artist saw himself trapped and at the same time tried to trap us as spectators in that network Musil described in his first novel. A network supporting another one and wherein it is impossible to discern where is the first network supporting all the others. For the work of Rui Calçada Bastos is rooted in a renunciation that bring us to Handke: the renunciation to the plot, to the precipitation of tragedy. As it happens in the above-mentioned Moebius strips, his characters walk hooded or bear faces difficult to see. But they always keep going. As cars driving pass on a highway at night, highlighted only by a few sentences out of context and stated by well-known serial killers. At the end of the day, everything has been said at the very beginning but since nobody ever listens we have to start all over again: If you're going through hell, keep going.