João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva


Aug 30 – Sep 27, 2008

Galpão Fortes Vilaça

Meteorítica [Meteoritic] is Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva’s first solo show in Brazil. The show features never-before-shown works which include 16-millimeter film projections and bronze sculptures.

Gusmão and Paiva became known for their silent films which present a singular mix of philosophical thought and visual arts. Although at first sight their artworks seem to be purely scientific in nature, it soon becomes apparent that they defy any linear explanation. They are brief experiments, with no narrative, evincing a mysterious and even humorous character. Incomprehensible explosions occur in holes, without any explicit origin, effect or reason; veils of radiation pass through landscapes; men try to open giant stones with steel tools; blocks of ice are thrown into the sea, etc.

Nevertheless, far from being merely unrecognizable images of illogical happenings, the work by Gusmão and Paiva deals with dense themes such as subjectivity, freedom of choice and the very nature of existence. Making a reference to Fernando Pessoa, the duo says that their productions are “fictions that discuss the philosophy of poetry.”

At this exhibition, Gusmão and Paiva work with the concept of Meteorítica, which is based in the experimental, aesthetic and philosophical idea of attributing to the being an informal origin, a generic multiplicity that precedes his/her/its material condition. As Gusmão states, “like a meteor – which comes from the infinite and acquires a finite existence when it strikes the earth’s crust – Meteorítica has to do with exploding from the void into existence.”

All of the films are silent and they have a purposefully aged look to them, as though they were made in the first days of filmmaking. The duo customarily works with amateur actors, and many of the absurd scenes in their films are created with the help of low-tech special effects, apparent to the eyes of the spectator. In Sombra Magnética [Magnetic Shadow], the camera is a fixed plane and shows the shadow of a tree moving over a white tabletop spread over with steel filings. While the shadow passes, a visible magnetic effect takes place between it and the steel shavings. Iniciação [Initiation] shows the scene of a head having its hair scraped off with a shaving knife, as though being prepared for a trepanation. In Chama Meteórica [Meteoric Flame], a glassmaker takes a red-hot piece of molten glass from a high-temperature oven, rolls the glass in a glassmaker’s tube in lets a drop fall down in one continuous stretch to the floor. The glass burns the floor, causing flames to rise.

As Jens Hoffman so aptly observed, “Gusmão and Paiva essentially focus on basic questions related to ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and logic that embrace ideas of existentialism and reject a fully rational understanding of the world.”

The artists have shown previously at Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, USA, in 2008, and at MNAC – Museu do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal, 2005; their participation at group shows includes the 6ª Bienal de Mercosul, A Terceira Margem do Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2007, and at the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, in 2006.