March 24th to April 07th, 2023
Exhibition view. Photography: Bruno Lopes
Fernando Moletta, Gabriel Junqueira e Georgina Pantazopoulou
One day, when Care crossed the river, she saw some clay. She started shaping the clay, and once she was done, Jupiter came by and so Care (Cura) asked him to give spirit to her creation, which he gladly granted. But when Care wanted to name the creature after her, Jupiter prohibited this, and demanded that it should be given his name instead. While Care and Jupiter were arguing, Earth (Tellus) arose and demanded the being be named after her, as she was formed from her body. Unable to end the dispute, Saturn finally joined in and pronounced the following judgement: ‘Jupiter, since you have given it spirit, take the soul after its death; Earth, since you provided the body, you shall receive the body. But since Care shaped this creature, she should possess it as long as it is alive. And because now there is a dispute over the name, let it be called homo, since it appears to have been made from humus (earth).´ (Hyginus Fabulae 220, paraphrased)
As stated in the mythology of the goddess Cura, even if we are made out of earth and inhabited by spirit, our life is sustained through care. As long as we live we care, as long as we care we live. However, it is an ambivalent matter, to give care can fill us with joy and it can hurt us - to receive care can make us flourish and it can oppress us. Whether we are caregiver or caretaker, we need care and yet sometimes we need to be careless. Care can be an act of love or a form of work, a moral obligation or the fulfilment of self-serving urges and everything of that at once. It always takes place in the in-between, it is a relational action, characterized by a certain degree of commitment that involves more active agency than love, and more emotional attachment than concern. Care is not a neutral notion, it is everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair ‘our world’ so we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we strive to intertwine in a complicated, life-sustaining web. The mythology of Cura shows the inevitable connectedness of human life to care, but moreover it is composed of themes that can be found in the works of the three artists exhibited here. The feminist perspective of a female goddess creating the first human, the interconnectedness of the human being to earth, as well as the representation of spirits and the metaphysical as part of our life are all aspects that find an echo here in this room. Georgina Pantazopoulou, Gabriel Junqueira , Fernando Moletta and myself were all part of a two month residency here at Duplex AIR and all the artworks visible in this exhibition have been created during this time. However, not only did we work on our practices but in the duration of this residency we got to know each other, learned from each other and began to care for each other. Not only were the artworks visible here created with care, but also the notion of care can be explored in all of them through different perspectives.
Shortly after her arrival in Lisbon, Georgina told us about beginning to feel a deep familiarity for this place. Despite the distance that separates Portugal from her country of origin, Greece, she sensed a profound closeness to her homeland, expressed through the lived culture and local traditions. Coupled with the impressions of the light, the warmth and the colors of Lisbon, this represents the entry point of her work ‘At the end of the day we dance together’. Coming from an architectural background, Georgina often starts with the notion of space when approaching her work, understanding it as the origin and departure of human togetherness. Space as the realm in which we meet each other, we talk to each other, we feel each other, we care about each other and we create memories by being together. The space we probably share the deepest memories and connections with is the one we call home. The place of domestic intimacy plays a major role for Georgina, as she not only creates a familiarity within and through her artistic practice – made visible in this work through objects such as tables, chairs and vases, and actions like the sewed edges of the paper and the artwork being presented like a curtain – but moreover she urges us to reimagine the domestic space together through a feminist and intersectional perspective. The traditional figure of the woman as mother and ultimate caretaker in everyday domestic life remains deeply engraved in our social understanding. Care is seen rather as a natural predisposition in women and not as a social role inscribed upon them through patriarchy – a role whose fulfilment requires actual work and a sacrifice of energy, time, freedom and self-determination. While these conditions resonate in Georgina's artistic work, they in no way dictate its perception. Georgina's work sparkles with joy in a long strand of a seemingly endless narrative of colors, free movement and communality. ‘At the end of the day we dance together’ is a reminder that even if care is a valuable good, it can also be a necessary act of autonomy to completely free oneself from it and dance together into the night without a care in the world.
Gabriel’s work invites us to discover the possibilities of expanding the notion of care as a purely human matter and to think of the potential of care also for-, in- and between non-human and natural matter. He presents to us a sensibly constructed systems of metal structures and natural materials like branches, shells, moss and feathers, which he collected from the surroundings of Lisbon. Watching Gabriel work during the residency, I could see how much he cared for all the resources he is working with. Through his actions and moreover through his artistic practice he opens the door to an imagination of a possible future, where non-human materials are seen as matters of care rather than as matters of fact. Such a shift would entail to no longer approach them as concluded objects, but to be interested, moreover to participate in their becomings. Facing a climate emergency, many call for a return to more natural ways of living. But we are already so far advanced in the world of artificial abstraction, that deviating too drastically from our systems seems difficult. Gabriel's work gives us an idea of what the world could be like, if we no longer subject technology and nature to a power struggle of "either/or", but let both take care of one another. His work is characterized by the duality of nature and technology, yet Gabriel has managed to synthesize them in a peaceful hybridity in which both still remain visible for what they are. This modular system seems to function in itself, without the presence of the human body, and yet the possibility exists to imagine ourselves in this world. A world in which the tasks of caregiving and caretaking are equally distributed between nature and technology could also be a world, in which we humans feel cared for and more importantly a world which we take care of. Oh what a wonderful world it could be.
And what about Fernando? In his work he cares about the intangibility of time, about ghosts and hauntology, about a future that is no longer what it once was, about finding answers to unanswerable questions and by seeing his work right now, you are prompted to care about these matters too. Fernando presents us with fragments scattered around the room, some of them beautifully presented, others seemingly uncaringly thrown about; some of them are empty, others contain fortune-cookie-like slips of paper. What was written in the past on the notes melted into the fragments can impact your future, if you believe in it, if you trust in it, if you care about it; or it can evaporate into oblivion without leaving any trace within you. What will enter in our fragmented memory often lies beyond our control, so we can ask ourselves: do we only remember what we once cared about? Will what we don't care enough about in the present haunt us as ghosts in the future? If we really deal with the state of the earth and all its accumulated crises, a disenchantment with the future is easy to arise that makes us answer this question with 'yes'. Ghosts are creatures of repetition, we cannot control their coming as they begin by coming back. Is it therefore possible, that ghosts take care of us and help us to remember the past in order to avoid its repetition? Similarly to the notion of care that is omnipresent even by being absent, ghosts are non-beings, being present by being absent. But not all care is good, not all ghosts are evil, what can be said is that neither of them are neutral notions.