Exodus Stations #1

Research Cabinet and Exhibition
- David Casini, Benoît Maire and Marco Pires -

15th July - 3rd September Museum Carlos Machado
Topic: This exhibition is proposing an incursion into the history of the founding of the Museum Carlos Machado, specifically into strategies of self-representation. Artists: David Casini, Benoît Maire, Marco Pires.
Curator: Marta Jecu

This exhibition is proposing an incursion into the history of the founding of the Museum Carlos Machado, specifically into strategies of self-representation. This is the first show in the larger project EXODUS STATIONS – which is inviting contemporary artists to work with ethnological collections: after a residency period in the archives of some European museums, the artists elaborate a critical and interpretative view on the history of the objects and the meanings with which they have been invested according to fluctuating ideologies.

In this current show, we take as a point of departure some of the first photographies that document the museum Carlos Machado’s founding exhibitions (dating from 1903 to the 1960s) which brought under the same roof century old collections, deposited during the colonial trade routes on the island. These first photographies are including the representation of the initial display when the museum opened in its current location in 1930. The three artists were invited to interpret these photographies and the information contained by them – especially in respect to display politics, the status and value given to the objects in that epoch as it is visible from these images, the circulation of cultural symbols and their classification according to disciplines. In the images, we can see how regional and colonial ethnology, natural history and art objects were all displayed and treated in specific ways, according to the importance given to the objects. The artists create a meta-discourse in which the historic photographies and the presence of today’s museum in the Convent of St. Andre are distilled and augmented by associations connected to their subjective heritage of material culture, to their personal methodology of display of information and according to individual critical paradigms. A small documentation cabinet will be associated with the exhibition.



Artist's Website: www.davidcasini.com 

David Casini has spent 7 residency days on the Island for taking contact with the Museum, its objects, and history, before starting to work on this piece. During this process, he viewed various archival material and got into contact with the original images. His space filling installation is commenting precisely on structures of display of information. He is constructing a brass tube sculpture which supports light fabrics with prints. These create hybrid landscapes of forms and symbols, rests and fragments of the imaginary contained in the historic pieces – which took his attention during his strolls inside the museum. He creates a visual surface which brings together tactile textures, imagistic input and the sensory dimension of the museologic items – like a second skin of information accumulated in time in this old museum. His work comments therefore on the characteristic mix of disciplines that this museum characterizes since its foundation: the way in which natural historic objects (fishes, animal skins, exotic woods) were juxtaposed with African rarities and Renaissance and Baroque European painting. The three geometrical brass arms hold up and keep the printed fabrics in a light, perpetual movement as if they were ship sails or ghosts of what used to be.



Artist's Website: www.benoitmaire.com

Benoit Maire proposes an alternative image archive. It is a collection of relics of history – images that found a way to sneak into the present moment – from a multitude of other forgotten images. It is (like the museum’s image collection too) an archive of representations (rather than of material objects) therefore a rather virtual archive. And it is a collection of images that became interesting in the context of this project as it creates meaning through a particular association of items – similar to the ancient photographies.

This collection of images, which Benoit Maire wanted to have placed all over the museum, is functioning like a bunch of references to alien visual and conceptual codes related to notions of VALUE. The objects in these late capitalist advertisements will be juxtaposed with the visual codes of the historic museologic objects and with the self-contained museum itself. They represent in a way different moments in time and in space of the ever-present same quotidian, culturally connoted object. To the contemporary viewer, both these archives seem very distant from our visual sensibility of today. Nevertheless, both archives gather ‘chosen objects’ – presented as the interface for an ideological discourse behind. Although at a first sight the historic images present cultural objects, while the other present purely commercial items, at a second view they are not at all so different: the museologic objects were themselves objects of trade (obviously not a fair one) in the Colonial Empire, while the commercial items act as innocent capsules of their time.



Artist's Website: www.marcopires.com/exodus_stations.html

The large-scale photography by Marco Pires is part of his three-fold installation conceived for this show. The photography represents the Cedars (Cryptomeria Japonica) of Azores shot by Marco Pires in the “Mata do Canário” near Lagoa do Canário at Sete Cidades. Besides the photography reproduced here, his installation contains also a small print of a page of a Compendium treating with vascular plants of Azores, published in 1966 by Rui Telles Palhinha.

A small wooden table, with some personal ‘archeological’ objects Marco Pires has found in the island complete the installation: fossilised pieces of wood, naturally polished stones and other relics present ‘fake’ museologic objects. This association of references create a context of meaning which remains hermetic for the viewer. This work reveals mechanisms of creations of meaning. The bare association of material suggest and actually initiates the creation of conceptual connections, demonstrating the AGENCY of objects of display in shaping the understanding of the world in which they are situated. Material objects mixed with medial representations show the agency of hybrid ‘objecthood’ with hybrid meanings over the human. The work also talks about secondary objects – objects which have no commercial or cultural value except the one attributed to them in a personal register by the artist – as being as powerful as singular objects, in establishing narratives.

Marco Pires exhibits his works placed on the floor, reloading a display form visible in the archive images of 1944, depicting painting and religious sculpture, placed on the floor and leaned to the walls in a surprisingly ‘modern’ fashion. Nevertheless, we can deduce that this display is carrying still the heritage of the early space-filling unclassified exhibition system present in the earlier images.

Other works included in the exhibition:

  • Untitled (after azorean vascular plants by Ruy Telles Palhinha) 2017 / 74.5 x 51 cm / Acrylic gesso and inkjet print on Fabriano paper 
  • Untitled (azores) 2017 / 56.5 x 48.5 x 34 cm / Wood table with found objects, inkjet print on Fabriano paper