In March 2022, Pedro Barateiro interviewed by Elfi Turpin about the exhibition Love Song.
The exhibition Love Song begins with images taken by Mário Varela Gomes on April 25th and 26th 1974, during the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon, which marks the end of the fascist regime. Why did you choose those images?
The images record the occupation of the censorship offices by a group of people who enter the building and throw large piles of documents from the balcony to the streets, while the crowd examines the papers and cheers for press freedom. I chose these images because of the importance of documents as facts in our post-truth era. For me they are a tool for examining our relation to a personal and collective imaginary produced within Western narratives. Today, the data monsters produced by the libidinal economy measure our participation in online interactions. This economy abstracts our notion of action and its relevance. Online interaction with either human or non-human agents is used for its ability to increase capital.
How have these photos affected your own political imaginary?
I’ve remembered these kinds of images since a young age, they are a part of collective memory. These ones specifically, I had the impression I’d seen them before so I just continued to look into various archives until I found them. I was so impressed to see this action recorded that it made me think about censorship today and how information—and access to it—is a tool of power.
This relationship to power is manifested in other works in the exhibition, such as My body, this paper, this fire (2020).
Yes, in the film my distorted voice conducts the viewers through dystopian scenarios. I take an event I participated in, a 1994 student demonstration in front of the Portuguese Parliament protesting against university fees, as the starting point of a narrative that deals with the role of the individual and the collective. The demonstration was one of the most violent since the fall of the fascist regime. The film focuses on the idea of touch and care, taking a kiss between two people as a way to produce a relation to the world that is both subjective and committed.
Love Song is an exhibition in which the works relate to a certain space that you perform. Can we consider the works as agents or subjectivities interacting with your body and the ones of the audience?
This is an exhibition where I orient and disorient myself and the world around me, transforming it while being transformed. For instance, the series Bússola [Compass] (2022) is presented along with another group of new sculptures, wallpaper prints and photographs. The use of mirrors transforms them into self-conscious entities. These works reflect an obsession with the excess of human representation and how it overshadows other perspectives. The improvement (interior and exterior) of the human body and its technologies demonstrates the need for human agents to feel stronger, more effective, more productive, feeding into a system of competition that benefits the abstract production of capital. Another voice inhabiting the exhibition is that of actress Naelle Dariya in the animation Monologue for a Monster (2022). In the film, a creature addresses the viewer in a personal and intimate tone, revealing the transformation they are going through. The “monster,” who discusses their non-binary identity, speaks of the way in which the information they capture and manage ends up indelibly transforming who they are and how they relate to the world around them.
We talked a lot about the silence and self-censorship of the oppressed as a persistent symptom of the Portuguese fascist regime. How do you mobilize narratives, silence and voices?
Love Song, the newly-commissioned work that gives its title to the exhibition, focuses on deconstructing narrative through the use of sound. The 45-minute piece uses various materials, both purpose-made and found, carefully knitted to create a soundtrack that accompanies the recording of one of the video cameras transmitting live from the International Space Station (ISS). The color composition produced by the “low-quality” aspect of the footage generates an almost accidental image reminiscent of a landscape. The narrative intends to present a non-hierarchical relation between contents, with a particular approach to time. Love Song is presented alongside the sculpture Espanta-espíritos (2022), a metal structure resembling a wind chime, preceded by the drawing Clair de Lune (n.d.) by painter Aurélia de Souza (1866–1922), where a mime walks away from a red-lipped maleficent moon. By bringing other artists’ work and documentary photographs to the exhibition, I’m evoking facts that can’t be overlooked. It’s about using facts against ignorance and arrogance, and how to deal with those facts in the present.
Pedro Barateiro interviewed by Elfi Turpin, February 2022.