portuguese artists joão pedro vale and nuno alexandre ferreira have constructed a two-storey building inside the MAAT in lisbon. the space, a cross between a sex club, a prison, a shower stall and a sauna, is reminiscent of gay cruising venues. titled loving as the road begins, the installation draws parallels between the constructs of incarceration and lives lived on the margins of society.

images courtesy of MAAT

accessed via a staircase that leads to the first floor, upon entering the damp and dimly-lit structure visitors are faced with what looks like the washroom of a prison covered in grafitti. alongside one of the walls is a bar, modelled on a popular gay club in lisbon and decorated with half-empty drinks, ashtrays and an old radio.

sections of the space are partitioned off into cells juxtaposing antagonistic references and evoking images of dirtiness/cleanliness; sickness/cure; and crime/punishment. separated by a gridded metal ceiling, downstairs the walls are painted with images of naked men surrounding a large pool that evokes the interior of gay bathhouses.

the piece is the culmination of a research project joão pedro vale and nuno alexandre ferreira conducted during an artistic residency at la cité internationale des arts in paris. it borrows its title from a poem by late surrealist poet and painter mário cesariny, whose life and work serves as its thematic starting point.

the pair stayed in an apartment close to the monument, saint-jacques tower when they recognised it as the cover image of cesariny’s book, a cidade queimada, or burnt city. the book is a compilation of poems, drawings, collages and diary entries where he talks about his obsessive relationship with the saint-jacques tower.

cesariny wrote the book in 1964, during a two-month incarceration at fresnes prison, after being accused of gross indecency following his arrest for soliciting a police officer at a paris cinema. the structure is reminiscent of an archaeological find, that reflects the artist’s own discovery of cesariny’s life events.

the exhibition calls to mind environments that manifest signs of queerness and its consciousness while considering the perpetuation and reconfiguration of forms of imprisonment and appropriation. this episode in cesariny’s life leads them to develop another project conceived exclusively for MAAT’s project room, which takes the form of a reflection on spaces of control and the body as dissidence.

the work during the exhibition’s run will be engaged with by two performers (duarte pinho e melo and guilherme leal), in a choreographed intervention developed by joão dos santos martins. loving as the road begins is on show at MAAT until 20 april 2020.

project info

artists: joão pedro vale and nuno alexandre ferreira
title: loving as the road begins
venue: MAAT
dates: until 20 april 2020.

kieron marchese I designboom

dec 03, 2019

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