Art as artifice: either the spectator does not belong to the sculpture, or they belong to it
Pedro Neves Marques, 2017
Dedicated to António Bolota
Although we were artists, we were also the curators– I speak in the plural because there
were many curators, and I was just one of them. When we invited António Bolota, we knew
that what he offers is not merely a sculpture, but a sculpture-as-exhibition; not a sculpture,
but an interruption, an occupation of space. We knew that António’s interventions return
the space to the spectator as sculpture.
This is how it happened. A column, well centered in the gallery, dividing the space in two,
pushing and wedged against the ceiling, in tension, a long wood board, not too slim, not too
thick, honey-coloured. The board almost touched the gallery walls, hanging down at each
end, pulled by gravity. A slight torsion. In order to see the rest of the exhibition, the visitor
was obliged to choose one of the sides of the column, and to pass under the wooden board.
The sculpture– let’s call it a sculpture, anyway– gave a sense of weight, pressure, balance
and, as desired– it was what we had asked him for– energy. Could the answer be simpler? It
did justice to the space.
Looking back, today I would prefer to frame the sculpture as an artifice. By artifice I do not
mean illusion, since in fact the column upheld and secured the wood board. I speak of
artifice as farce, not as magic– there was no magic trick. Even so, yes: I am referring to
António as an impostor. After all, the column was made of MDF, but since it was painted
white, it mimicked the white cube. Camouflaged in the apparent nature of the gallery, the
sculpture disappeared into the form of architecture. The wood board, however, was
treated, not raw. Bare, polished and cut to perfection, the board was less wood than an
industrial product: a commodity.
Another thought: sculptures that refuse to fit in their allocated spaces cause distress in the
audience’s attention. Either the spectator does not belong to the sculptures, or they belong
to them exceedingly.
I mean, the sculpture was literally useless. The visitor’s decision to pass through one or the
other side of the column was irrelevant. The potential collapse of the wood board was also
unreal– the artist made sure that the board would not fall. Would anyone actually believe
that that column was structurally sound? I guess not. In any case, which side did you
choose? Left? Right? For a false ontology, false choices.
But after a certain time, that energy under tension settles and soaks in. Sometimes, in fact,
things crumble, buildings collapse, gravity fails. Better pay attention to fiction. The
expectations are bigger than the objects.