Exhibited ambiguity


in: Público, 31 December 2005


The 6th edition of the EDP Young Artist Award is mainly characterized by escaping a strict exhibition logic, being able to construct a multiple shapeless unity between all the works presented in the architectural space [*]. The great visual and formal diversity of each of the works on view, doesn't allow us to discover the most recent artistic practices but to see the presentation of different forms of understanding and making art. The dialog felt in each moment is of disruption with the space, on one hand and, on the other hand, of a subtle continuity. The question of the architectural space and its essentially ambiguous and uncharacteristic nature, is probably the prevailing note of this exhibition. In some cases in a more direct way then in others, the dominant evidence is that certainly the nature and vision of art is affected and even changed by the ways and conditions in which it is exhibited. [...]

With João Leonardo, winner of this year's edition of the EDP Prize, it is the muteness that is revealed in the character’s actions. A man – the artist himself – drinks beer, urinates and drinks his own urine. It is a video that inhabits a region where it is not easy to demarcate limits. It can be viewed as a narcissistic, eschatological exercise, as a metaphor for the degree that the subject must descend into the interior of himself, or even as an image that reveals the artistic process. If on the one hand the interpretation of the artist’s condition seems to be a forced reading, on the other it allows the realisation of the multiple meanings the work possesses.

The strangeness of the work is undeniable, associated as it is with disgust, as is the controversial nature of the piece. The ambiguity here is transformed via the working method, making the work indefinable. This inability to be categorized becomes the dominant principle. This then seems to be the defining feature in all the exhibited pieces: an ambiguity and inability to be labelled.

This diversity, in both the formal sense and in the media used, prevents the classification of the discourse and makes it unclear what direction the so-called new art is taking. And here we say ambiguous in the sense of an energy transformed in search engine, in the sense of something that resists all systematic attempts of classification or ordering. The nature of the exhibition space itself is ambiguous: it always assumes the quality of what is displayed inside. But its classification or ordering always depends on exterior actions and movements. In this context, praising ambiguity is to raise intelligence on the search for reference guides, on the search for principles of reasoning.

Nuno Crespo

Art critic


Translator's note

[* The exhibition took place in the Portuguese Pavilion, designed by the architects Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto Moura for the Expo 2000 Hannover in Germany. The Pavilion is an exhibition space that is dismountable in order to enable its re-use and in 2003 has been re-erected permanently in Coimbra.]