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July 07th to July 28th, 2023

Exhibition view. Photography: Bruno Lopes


Paula Koenig


Johannes Munk e Paula Koenig

The artist borrows the term INTERCALATIONS [lat. intercalare: to push in between] from various disciplines: it describes geological rock layers that push between already existing solid segments, chemical processes of lithium ions within a battery, or, in a narrative sense, as an insertion into a larger, framed story. For example, when the green mobility transition is declared as "official" and strategic raw materials as "of great importance", an intercalation – another layer – may give space to local knowledge.

In search of new visions for the future, the exhibition is dedicated to the coexistence of the people of Barroso with their surroundings, as well as to the structures which shape their community in the form of their commons to this day.

The video installation Para o Barroso, para as montanhas, [...] thus forms the core of the exhibition: In listening to and watching the images, the singing, the sounds as well as the words of Aida Fernandes from Covas do Barroso, the characteristics of the region’s natureculture entanglements unfold in front of us: Intergenerational knowledge and circular agriculture, communal bread ovens, a collective management of the baldios [the commons], land use free of pesticides and a traditional irrigation system for equitable distribution of water within the community. The connection these people have with the natural cycles is reflected in the way they treat their agricultural heritage with care and in the clear distribution structures of their goods.

At the same time, there is a clash of ideas about sustainable living and visions for the future: on the one hand, there is the resource-conserving economy from the valleys to the mountaintops, on the other hand, there is the interest of political centres and decision-makers, driven by the great hunger for what is hidden in those rock layers: lithium. With the aim of increasing the extractivism of the metals for the mobility transition at Europe’s margins, the UK-listed company Savannah Resources wants to open one of the largest lithium mines in Europe, using open-cast mining. Without the long-term involvement of the local population the mountains in Covas, which are used by the community, are to be eroded, water is to be withdrawn and soils are to be deserted. And all of this not least is to be done in order to maintain the future of a business model dependent on large, heavy and fast cars which have a high demand for raw materials.

Fernandes' narrative, accompanied by animals and plants, mountains, waters and stones thus meanders through the exhibition space and pushes like a new stratum between the prevailing proclamations of a supposedly green mobility transition. Margaritifera margaritifera, the freshwater pearl mussel, is introduced in reference to an encyclopaedic illustration from before industrialisation began. Until then, it was commonly found in European rivers. With a maximum lifespan of 270 years, its memory stretches further than multiple human generations. During its life cycle, the freshwater mussel spends a year in the gills of the brown trout until it burrows into the river bottom for several years. Only then does the mussel begin to filter and clean the waters from the riverbed. Its habitat of particularly pure water has become precarious; dams now block the way of the brown trout, the effluent of industrial agriculture washes through the water, and riverbeds are altered by human intervention. As a symbol of an intact natureculture system, it links up with other accumulated sensations, associations, traces and matter from the Barroso region, when photographs in the form of protest posters reflect the mountains and water, when the pale traces of collected flowers from the exploration area appear on a panel of red burnt clay, and when a stone recalls that rock on the mountain that marks the communally organised sharing of the water.

Finally, it is the painting Cosmic Biographies, bye, bye until 50,000 years from now that guides our gaze into the distance to the green comet, as it came so close to Earth on its orbit in February of this year, for the first time since the Neanderthals. According to the latest IPCC world climate report, we, as small beings in this cosmos, not only live far beyond planetary boundaries in the global North, but can only keep our planet livable if degrowth and resource-saving policies take hold. The exhibition does not aim to provide answers, rather, it wants to insert intercalations: narratives of cosmic, geological and biographical nature that meet to celebrate the Barroso region and stimulate our imaginations for sustainable living with visions for the future.


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