In the 1960s, French Nouveau Réalisme, Italian Arte Povera, and the American postminimalists invigorated the evocative power of materials and objects, opening the door to a set of poetic and political highlights which, rather than alienating the theatricality of spaces and objects established by the minimalists, brought it to a subjective territory where the subject was reconnected with the world and with the possibility of a transfigured view of it.

We can think of the memory and crossover between those artistic adventures as a possible genealogy for the oeuvre that Carlos No has been developing in the last few years and for which a tension between the empirical and the conceptual, the contingent and the historical is fundamental.

Politically engaged and socially awake, yet not less aware of the specific nature of art's possible place and field of action, No invites us to find a type of refraction in the objects he selects, transforms and presents; an effect of empirical mirroring that places those artefacts in the heart of a network of apparently invisible relationships that reverberate the material conditions of the world we live in and, at the same time, the social dialectics that rise over them.

Yet, contrary to design and the conceptions that guide the creation of functional objects, configured for efficiency, Carlos No's artistic strategies focus precisely on the idea of misadaptation, sprain, disconnection, imbalance, rejection, thus projecting onto a sensorial and shareable plane the economic, cultural, and ethnic imbalances that give shape to contemporary societies.

In “Impasse”, a large-scale sculpture-installation that extends diagonally across one of the rooms of the José Malhoa Museum, we recognise the metallic appearance of one of those passages we are forced to take when a building is being renovated and the works might bring down on us the debris or some tool dropped from a higher point in the building.

The piece makes a direct reference to the universe of building but we can find in it another, veiled, reference to those who constitute the workforce – illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, those who, for one reason or another, always in connection with exclusion, have found in physical, unskilled labour a way to survive.

By endorsing the paradox of a sealed hoarding barrier that prevents passage, Carlos No turns the impossibility of movement into a physical reality within everyone's reach, forcing us to stop for a few moments and find in our (non) experience the condition and destiny of the other.

Turning an experience of something mundane, mechanical, and potentially non conscious into a process of defamiliarisation is a vivifying route of interruption, an objectual détournement that interrupts our automatic response to naturalised life and makes us face a place of exile we never imagined us to be. For once, like the refugee, the migrant, or the “illegal”, we also shall not pass. Perhaps in that temporary and painless “Impasse”, something might stir in us.

Celso Martins, January 2019