Are they mountains or aren’t they mountains? They are mountains but they are not mountains.

By June 25, 2018texts

A first and more distant look leaves no doubt, it is indeed an outline of mountains that clearly shows up drawn on the wall. A kind of strip builds the perception of a mountainous contour on any wall of any exhibition space. The wall, then, divides itself in two parts: one, interior (inferior) and an integrating part of the perception of the mountains and the other, exterior (superior), separated by the discontinuity caused by the presence of the strip. The strip enhances the border space and, yet, it is not an empty signifier, quite the opposite, it is in itself that the essential questions are embodied. It is, therefore, decisive a thorough approach to the strip. A positioning that allows to go to another level of signification; to a closer reading that refers the general idea of strip to the surface and thus declares itself as another thing that loses the condition of a whole in order to organise itself around the constituent idea of group, i.e., the voluntary gathering of individualised constituents.


The colour smudge that claims the division on the wall is, after all, a wide group of elements that repeat themselves. Common graphite pencils used by friends and students from the schools of the artist’s region. And yet this finding changes everything radically. The piece is not, after all,  an aesthetic remark to a kind of updated picturesque  and neither does it want to be, in any possible way, bearer of any dialogue about a (n) (im)possible update on the idea of sublime.


The extended set of pencils laid out horizontally on the wall refers to other dimensions far away from the sanitised world of aesthetics and integrate in their core a relation of extreme proximity with the social reality where they come from, adding, therefore, a political thickness to the piece that deserves reflection.


We find ourselves facing a new post-Duchampian possibility of poetic introduction of objects in the interior of the exhibition space. Now, unlike the original ready-made, these are not anaesthetised of taste, on the contrary, they bring with themselves, just like a genetic imprint, an entire adverse reality that unfolds here in its whole. The silhouette of the mountain reveals itself, after all, as an integrating line of a reality filled with problems that the precariousness of the objects chosen by the artist punctuate in a brilliant way. I hereby use the term precariousness intentionally and according to the use Thomas Hirschhorn makes of it, says the Swiss artist: “My work isn’t ephemeral, it’s precarious. It’s humans who decide and determine how long the work lasts. The term ephemeral comes from nature, but nature doesn’t make decisions”. The piece by Dalila Gonçalves ideally (and visually) embodies this differentiation. Its necessary engagement with reality places her in the centre of contemporary discussions about the relevance of the artistic practices that want to embody in its doing that essential condition.


Nowadays it is often required from artists a responsible attitude towards reality. It is known the huge discussion about the so-called advantages of collective authorship over the individual one, about the potentialities of a participatory art, etc. To all of this the artist and her piece answer clearly. Firstly because the viewing of the whole of the piece physically refers us to a distance that states exteriority: the one the observer experiences when he is able to see the entire outline of a sequence of mountains, here, naturally, as a metaphorical possibility. This distance has been fundamental so that the works survive and may, from that distant place, look critically upon the reality which they are inserted in.  And yet far from accountability claims they are alienated from. I would say, along with Adorno, that art is, in any case, irresponsible and without that integrating condition it is not art. An irresponsibility which, naturally, affirms itself by opposition to the exemplar and very current neo-liberal responsible citizenship.


All the surroundings of the work lead to procedures that cleverly refer to that condition of strategic distance (Foster) without, nevertheless, becoming isolated. A thorough look reveals an entire community living and with the community the artist enhances: the pencils are after all an excellent allegory – it is indeed of ruins that we talk about in here – to a reality that now turns visible and able to be shared. A precarious and differentiated reality and , therefore, real – the different levels of the use of the pencils, from those that are almost intact to those that were intensively used to their limit, claiming, once again, an intense allegorical load.


So the mountains present in the work are, indeed, mountains, but of another kind, they are mountains of social problems; they are mountains of precariousness; they are mountains of friendship and complicity of several types; they are mountains of artistic experimentation; they are mountains of whatever we want. After all, it is to that myriad of possibilities that the work offers itself and, at the same time, it doesn’t offer itself. It offers only to those who want it. Perhaps in the interior of the mountains we visualise in here one can find that crypt that Mario Perniola talks about and that at its door is the artist with the key.

But who shall enter?


Fernando José Pereira