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Rui Calçada Bastos

Sabrina van der Ley

Reflections, doublings and confrontations are variations on a leitmotiv running through Rui Calçada Bastos’s videos, photographs and installations – in the real just as the metaphorical sense. They are about the self and the other, the inner and the outer, the here and there. The artist continually changes his position in the perpetual attempt towards a self-assurance or anchorage, which never seems to succeed.

In the video Quadrifoglio the protagonist leaves his own body and observes his doppelganger from the side in amazement, just before re-uniting with him. For Ten Years Looking Forward to See You the artist filmed the faces of friends and strangers he met, over a period of ten years, and reflected himself in the mimic reactions of the respective people facing him.

Calçada Bastos circles around himself and his environment, as if everything could disappear at any moment, as if a direct gaze at a place or a person might change them into a fata morgana. People are often shown from behind, is if he doesn’t want to come too near, and it is exactly this which creates an atmosphere of intimacy, but also that of melancholic exclusion.

This is also true of the black-and-white video work The Mirror Suitcase Man. The film noir aesthetic creates a nostalgic effect, as does the rhythmic rustling of the soundtrack, through which only a few of the speaker’s words penetrate. Neither the protagonist nor the city, through which he wanders as a flâneur, move directly into our field of vision. Instead everything appears as doubled; the camera shows the place the Mirror Suitcase Man is just/currently passing by, and at the same time, a fragment of the place opposite, reflected in the mirrored suitcase which the protagonist carries with him. Of the man himself we rarely see more than the hand with the suitcase. Almost as if the nameless were only a vehicle, as if he were not really present, in no place anywhere. And also the viewer’s gaze is condemned to remain for ever ‘in between’. The city, nearly invisible, appears as a mental or projected reflection, not as a panorama. Only a few scenes show urban spaces, more often only empty in-between areas. The split-up perspective just about allows us to deduce where the Mirror Suitcase Man strolls – in Berlin, the city in which the nomad Calçada Bastos currently lives. But it could also be elsewhere. In the last scene the Mirror Suitcase Man hands the ‘city in the suitcase’ over to an Other, who walks with the case out of the picture – en route to another place?