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Art Becomes Architecture Becomes Art by Paula Januario

Ramiro Guerreiro, Grelhagem sobre abertura pré-existente (Grid over Former Opening), 2011

Resto means residue in Portuguese. It is the title of Ramiro Guerreiro´s individual exhibition, curated by Antonia Gaeta, showing until September 11th at Lisbon City Museum, Lisbon.

Ramiro Guerreiro, individual exhibition.
Curated by Antonia Gaeta

Pavilho Branco - Museu da Cidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
July 8th to September 11th 2011

When we finally turn the back cover of the 24th edition of MONO.KULTUR, dedicated to the work of Cyprien Gaillard and rediscover the reproduction of a piece from the series Geographical Analogies (2006-10) - we can eventually sense a familiar echo of a vast body of contemporary artist's work, in different fields - like Hein Spellmann, Hansjoerg Schneider, or Dieter Balzer - whose practice leads towards and away from questions about what syntheses art can search for in architecture as discipline and existing social, creative, aesthetic and technical fields. To the body of this echo belong some of the questions raised in Ramiro Guerreiro's (Lisbon, 1978; living in Lisbon) exhibition RESTO (RESIDUE), curated by Antonia Gaeta, showing now at the Pavilho Branco in the Museu da Cidade, Lisbon.

The exhibition follows a method of research that informs its artistic position: the deepening of the investigation proper of each exhibition project creating pieces in loco, under the conditions of the exhibition space. The space is taken on treating issues originating mostly from performance, visual culture, history and architecture, stressing the opposite of, referring in this instance to land art, Daniel Buren said would lead artist to exhibit precisely outside architectural spaces: "not to accept architecture as being simultaneously an unchangeable backdrop and limit to their work. (1) In the case of Ramiro Guerreiro, the table transforms itself into tableau.

RESTO is defined by a distribution of five intertwining centers - five moments in the gallery, each of which corresponding to one piece. The origin of the symbolic elements implied in every center multiply in equal numbers, and are, in apparent contradiction only, exterior to the exhibition building: for example a layout of objects and documents stemming from a real architectural office, that of Manuel Laginha (1919-1985), who practiced in Lisbon during the 1950s and 60s.

The spatial composition of the exhibition is founded on an element which on the other hand should not be overrated, a concept from architecture as discipline, namely Vitruvios "utilitas" or Albertis "necessitas" - the use attributed to a space. This definition is given in plan: Sala de Leitura (Reading Room), Sala para Performance (Performance Room), Zona de Transio (Transition Area), Gabinete de Projecto (Architecture Bureau). A fifth one evokes the same idea referring this time to properties of the facade: Grelhagem sobre Abertura Pr-existente (Grid over Former Opening).

Ramiro Guerreiro, Sala de Leilura (Reading Room)/exterior, 2011

Ramiro Guerreiro, Grelhagem sobre abertura pr-existente (Grid over Former Opening), 2011

This last piece is the one most strongly recreating previous architectural interventions. In spite of Grelhagem sobre Abertura Pr-existente (Grid over Former Opening) operating above all on a scenographical level - an intervention happening as scene and not in the form of construction - its significance is similar to the reading of Ramiro Guerreiros altering the architecture of spaces directly. It is a piece of three elements. An enormous print on paper shows the image of a concrete facade screen covering the whole area of a blind wall which includes, during a previous state of the building, a huge window; a wooden frame corresponding to the casement of that disappeared window sits tilted in the space. The third element of the piece, coming from the exterior - the city of which Italo Calvino says she is made of "the relations between the measurements of its space and the happenings of its past", is a pack of postcards of images of various other concrete facade screens used in modernist buildings.

Ramiro Guerreiro, Grelhagem sobre abertura pr-existente (Grid over Former Opening)/postcards, 2011

Ramiro Guerreiro, Sala para Performance (Performance Room), 2011

The Fascism of architecture "that determines everything we do", of which Vito Acconci speaks? It is of Ramiro Guerreiro`s interest to explore this contingency made instrument. With different latent aims. For a positioning in art: by raising a wall through three storeys of the Cit Internationale des Arts, Paris, in the piece Nouveau mur pour la galerie de la Cit des Arts (New Wall for Cite des Arts Gallery), 2010; by a blind wall at the entrance of his studio in Casa de Velzquez, Madrid, in Muro Divisor (Dividing Wall), 2008; or in the efficient gesture of tearing open parts of the double wall of a box of video projection, in the Museu da Electricidade, Lisbon, in Mesa a Partir de Parede (Table After Wall), 2009. In these works he makes an observation about relations between exhibition architecture and spatial architecture, keeping his distance while using them both metaphorically for their systems: architecture and art. But these same art works aim lies also in the fact that "the one referring to architecture" also refers to "the social, political and economical context" (Daniel Buren). Still more because architecture cannot, as discipline, be autonomous, as is confirmed in its specific field by, for example, Keneth Frampton. (3)

By providing a refurbishment for this lack of autonomy, he recalls the whole social, political and ideological complex which architecture takes part in - made of, ultimately, each individual in its relation with the other. Those individuals are represented, in architectural planning, exactly by the human figures on the Letraset sheets which Ramiro Guerreiro uses in this exhibition in two instances: the invite and the exhibition journal.

RESTO exhibition invite.gif

One fatality of architecture is its invariability, "not at ease with the temporary" (Ramiro Guerreiro) (4). His interests demand of him a flexible position in relation to this obstacle. We know, since the opposition to the modernist independence of the field of art which took place mainly during the six years identified by Lucy Lipard, that the performing human body is one of the most fleeting artistic media, therefore, what could better serve this cause. At present his taking position in relation to art approaches the practices which James Meyer joins under the concept of "functional site": "may not incorporate a physical place". Instead, "it is a process, an operation occurring between sites, a mapping of institutional and textual filiations and the bodies that move between them (and the artists above all)". (5) The whole exhibition brings forth this underlying idea. The body is more obvious in Sala para Performance (Performance Room) and Sala de Leitura (Reading Room) because both pieces are marked by the expectance of his physical arrival.(6)

To the contrary of previous exhibitions, this one does not include a performance. In this rejection lies exactly one of the motifs which in the past led Guerreiro to use the body: the rejection of authoritarianism, persisting in visual culture in the form of spectacle. This holds true in spite of, "no more heroes" being pronounced, in various forms, for some time now. If we remember, Ramiro Guerreiro used the body in performative anti-spectacle situations before, making use of those which Judith Rugg understands as "contingent spaces" (7) : the "dialectic, interstitial spaces", the use of which has consequences in the representation of all they belong to. In Entalados (Wedgies), 2005, he let himself be photographed in yoga postures inserted in tight facade openings of buildings; Pessoa-Pano-de-P (Duster-Person), 2005, consisted of photographs and a video in which, dressed in a suit made of dustcloth, he crawled over a central square in Lisbon and later, in the theme park Portugal dos Pequenitos (8); also in Teatro del Mondo (2006), a model of Teatro del Mondo by Aldo Rossi is taken on a leash underneath a bridge in some outskirts of Lisbon. Precisely by revealing these places he questions "the spatial hierarchies of the ordered city" (Judith Rugg), meaning, necessarily, not only the reading we make of the urban space and its architecture, as well as and above all the social and cultural hierarchies which lead to its organizing.

RESTO, view over Gabinete de Projecto (Architecture Bureau), above; and Sala para Leitura (Reading Room), below

RESTO, view over Sala para Performance (Performance Room), above; and Grelhagem sobre Abertura Pr-existente (Grid over Former Opening), below

Trama, the exhibition journal, is distributed in the instalation Sala de Leitura (Reading Room). Already before Ramiro Guerreiro oriented the back of a piece towards the main perception space, rejecting the illusionist front of the architecture, just as happens in Sala de Leitura (Reading Room). He did the same in the piece The Spokesman created for an exhibition in South Korea (9). It consisted of a studio mounted for a political discourse. The installation intensified through various details discrediting the staging of political power. In the end, the discourse was a karaoke session instead. In the Trama journal, Pedro Barateiro explains, in his Objectos de Arte que Esto a Desaparecer do Museu (Art Objects Disappearing from the Museum), the history of a museum in which the objects of art disappear by vaporizing: "the situation was as follows: some of the works were disappearing, but only little by little, beginning to turn transparent until they disappeared completely". Curiously, it is in the title of an art object by Colombian artist Gabriel Sierra, that another phantasmagory is evoked, in the claim "the phantom of the modern house is the architect". The relevance of this exhibition in Lisbon, in the Pavilho Branco of the Museu da Cidade, lies in the creation of meaning for our time reflecting on the superimposition of all these elements.

Text by Paula Januario

(1) Buren, Daniel - Daniel Buren: textos e entrevistas escolhidos. Rio de Janeiro: Centro de Arte Hlio Hortcia, 2001.
(2) Vito Acconci cited in Rugoff, Ralph - You Talking To Me? On Curating Group Shows that Give You a Chance to Join the Group. In Mirancola, Paula - What makes a Great Exhibition?. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Exhibition Iniciative, 2006.
(3) Frampton, Kenneth, Reflections on the Autonomy of Architecture: A critique of Contemporary Production. In Chirardo, Diane (ed) - A Social Art of Site: Criticism of Architecture. Seattle: Bay Press, 1991.
(4) Ramiro Guerreiro cited by Ricardo Nicolau in 05 BES REVELAAO. Oporto: BES REVELAAO and Museu Serralves (cat)
(5) Meyer, James - The Functional Site; or, The Transformation of Site-Specificity. In Suderburg, Erika - Space, site, intervention : situating installation art. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
(6) The expectation referred to, for example, in Sala Para Performance (Performance Room) is created by the fact that this piece refers to Vito Acconcis Seed Bed, (1971). In a previous piece, Mise en Espace/Rampe Ascendente et Descendente (Spatial Setting/ Ascending and Descending Ramp), 2010 - installation and performance at Muse de la Dance, Rennes, France - he also evoked this piece, and was performing at the exhibition opening.
(7) See Rugg, Judith - Exploring Site-Specific Art - Issues of Space and Internationalism. London; New York: I.B. Tauris & C0 Ltd, 2010.
(8) Thematic Park from the 1940s, in Coimbra, called Portugal of the Small Ones, where Portuguese architecture was reconstructed in miniature, including the one of Portuguese colonies at time.
(9) Exhibition The Multicultural in Our Time, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art. Gyeonggi, (2010).


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