Joao Maria Gusmao
Joao Maria Gusmao + Pedro Paiva present a magical, immersive film installation that takes viewers on an imaginative journey into science, philosophy and religion. Ruth Ewan brings to life the French Republican Calendar: months and weeks are restructured in collaboration with artists, poets and horticulturalists
Joao Maria Gusmao + Pedro Paiva
Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva present a magical, immersive film installation for their first major show in London. The kaleidoscopic world created by 27 16mm films and two camera obscura installations takes viewers on an imaginative journey into science, philosophy and religion.
Each film examines a particular subject - a treatise on material, animal or human behaviour that probes at the nature of truth and perception. Shot with a high-speed camera but projected in slow motion, the films reveal ordinarily imperceptible detail with ghostly effect. Starting from journeys, stories, anecdotes or cinematic allegories and with few contextual cues to enable the enigmatic scenarios to be located in a specific time or place, the veracity of each film is ambiguous.
Whirring mechanics of projectors create a soundscape that draws attention to the absence of sound in the films themselves. Concerned with ‘analogue’ approaches and technologies, any editing is done ‘in camera’ and several films contain multiple exposures within the same frame. The two camera obscura installations directly investigate and display the behaviour of vision and light, and the aperture motif which is reiterated in other works, connects representations of the eye to the camera.
A major new 16mm film work Papagaio (Djambi) 2014, shot in São Tomé and Príncipe (a Portuguese speaking Island nation off the western coast of Central Africa), bears witness to a West African voodoo ritual, known locally as D’Jambi. Whilst intoxicated, the participants dance and enter a state of trance in which they channel the spirits of the dead. At times the footage is shot by the artists, and at other moments the camera becomes an alibi, held and manoeuvred by one of the participants.
With an emphasis on materiality and aesthetic immediacy, Gusmão + Paiva’s work draws attention to the paradoxes in the appearance of reality and probes at the nature of truth, perception and the objectivity of vision.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new artists’ book, assembling meditations on philosophical subjects including Taoism, Buddhism, Decartes and Wittgenstein.
It has been co-curated with Vicente Todoli and organised in association with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.
Paint generously donated by Farrow & Ball
Back to the Fields
London-based artist Ruth Ewan brings to life the French Republican Calendar in a new work made for Camden Arts Centre’s Gallery 3. In use from 1793 until 1805, the calendar temporarily redefined and rationalised the Gregorian Calendar, stripping it of all religious references in post-revolutionary France. Months and weeks were restructured and seasons and days renamed in collaboration with artists, poets and horticulturalists to reflect nature and agriculture.
Bringing together all 365 items used to denote the days of the year - such as a lettuce, a cart, wax, a turnip, honey, a fir tree, ivy, figs, mercury, lava, moss, tuna, a pheasant, an axe – the gallery will be transformed into a tangible calendar. The title of the exhibition comes from the former title of the French folk song Il Pleut, Il Pleut, Bergère (It Rains, It Rains, Shepherdess) written by the Republican Calendar collaborator, Fabre d'Églantine, who allegedly recited the song’s lyrics calmly at his own execution.
For Ewan, the Republican Calendar is an inspiring and innovative example of collaboration between artists and the state. Often cited as a ‘failed utopianism’, Ewan reconsiders the calendar as a complete artwork in itself, asking what can now be gleaned from this bold reframing of our daily lives. Presenting strands of subversive histories, her work reflects on how radical ideas have been transferred, absorbed or lost within popular culture, whilst reopening their historic continuity to the present moment.
Ewan will present two other projects in sites around Camden Arts Centre, including her ongoing work A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World (started in 2003) in the Café. The CD jukebox invites visitors to choose tracks from its growing catalogue of over 2,200 politically and socially motivated songs. Ewan’s 2011 work We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted to Be, a decimal clock also relating to the Republican Calendar, will be shown outside Gallery 3.
Camden Arts Centre will launch its Instagram account in 2015 to coincide with Ruth Ewan: Back to the Fields. Follow @camdenartscentre #backtothefields to find out more in the forthcoming weeks.
Supported by The Henry Moore Foundation
Image: Joao Maria Gusmao + Pedro Paiva
Alison Wright +44 (0) 1608 811474 +44 (0) 7814 796930 email@example.com
Opening 29.01.2015, 6.30pm
Camden Arts Centre
Arkwright Road London NW3 6DG
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Wednesday 10.00am – 9.00pm