THE FRUGALITY OF URGENCY
Exile, title of the exhibition of Carlos No at the Casa-atelier Vieira da Silva, puts exile back in the center of his work. With a long-standing concern for human rights, his work offers fragments of a world in which many continue unceasingly in search of refuge.
Vieira da Silva knew what exile was. When she was denied her nationality (being married to a foreigner, the Hungarian Jew Arpad Szenes) in the years of World War II, she had to flee Europe to Brazil, experiencing strangeness and dislike, an uprooting that she never forgot. Even though that was, when compared to others, a golden exile, it still kept some bitter taste.
Taken to an extreme, such bitterness can kill. Not just for being homesick – a minor problem. Above all for the injustice one experiences. The absence of power, the absence of voice can kill. It kills even more because its arbitrariness is meaningless. It emphasizes chaos; it takes the sacred ground from beneath the feet of those who flee. The blindness of some leads so many others to exile; the humanitarian bankruptcy (or its insufficiency) that leads so many to death is the evil that Carlos No makes us witness. Fragments of life, fragments of meaning and hope. What do we take along, when everything burns? What do we carry with us when life is the only asset we have left?
As if he the exhibition were a final port, the Casa Atelier of Vieira and Arpad, the exhibition of Carlos No welcomes us with the frugality of urgency. An old mattress; straps; a stool ("Exile # 1", 2017). Another mattress, a chair, a blanket, a tire ("Exile # 2", 2017). Simultaneously real and symbolic, these everyday objects (these artworks) equate us. What do we take with us when life is the only asset we have left?
Transportable, transported, these objects are strategically set in space. Unstable, intentionally waiting. Can they stay here? Can they be set? Can they be used again and provide effective rest? Alternatively, will they keep going on a forced route of uncertainty?
The Casa means refuge; yet, the desolation we experience is all the more impressive as its means are frugal. And to make sure the human despair the author means includes the visitor; to make sure we understand no one is safe, the drawings (either figurative or in the form of sentences) address us with expressive aridness. On the one hand, the isolated figure of a woman in a desolate landscape. What is she doing there? Where does she come from? What does she expect? What is she waiting for? Is she hiding? Is she seeking help? The uncertainty of the figure of this black woman is our own insecurity, both greater as the indicated geography of the image (strictly the same image in all seven works of the postal format series "Souvenirs") only changes their titles: Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, Democratic Republic of the Congo ... or Venezuela – created this year. On the other hand, the diptych "I love you ... but not too much" (2017) reminds us that our perception of the other (so often the other seeking refuge) is all the more "tolerant" as the other exists among us in reduced numbers. Will quantity erase identity?
Exile, the title of this exhibition, is a harsh word. As outcast - perhaps more literal in the sense of detachment, forced away. The amputation of the root is the amputation of identity – something that springs from a sense of belonging. That is why Socrates, the Athenian, preferred death to exile. Even when the disciples offered him a way out, an opportunity to flee, he gladly drank the hemlock. I owe a cock to Aesculapius. The request for payment is a powerful affirmation of belonging. On the verge of death, the love for the city. On the verge of death, the ontological affirmation of paideia. I am. Culturally, I am. Now, what do we become when we leave our soil and all that it is, and all that it means to us? Questions that the artist leaves in our bear hands.
Almada, July, 2017