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Light is an involuntary choreography

“À luz sincera do dia” [In the sincere light of day] is the title of Rui Calçada Bastos' first
solo exhibition at the Elvas Museum of Contemporary Art – António Cachola Collection.

Here, the artist explores several instances of urban landscape,
confronting us with a self-referential view of the city.
One of the pieces, entitled 'Ghost', is an ephemeral sculpture that was built on one of the exhibition's rooms and will be torn down at its close, leaving behind its project as a descriptive memory and document of the work and its building history, both past (it was already built in Berlin, as part of the 'Passagem de nível' [Level crossing] exhibition, at the Invaliden1 gallery) and future. This work conveys a temporal relationship with the transitoriness and amnesia of everyday life, which we have difficulty in resisting.
The city is the field of possibilities that the artist investigates and observes via a perspective that, though seemingly romantic, does not overlook the most (in)significant details, sometimes at its limits, as is the case of 'Untitled 2012 (Snow Dust)', a series of photographs taken at Lake Mälaren, which runs through the city of Stockholm on its way to the Baltic Sea. Light and tiny, scattered residues of snow combine to evoke a kind of visual immateriality that is quite close to familiar images of the cosmos from the scientific sphere. On the other hand, these images develop like a sequence, hinting at an itinerary across the landscape, which mirrors their urban nomadism. This introspective (and self-referential) process is also observable in other pieces in the exhibition, like 'Passagem de nível' (2014), a video made in Berlin, the city in which the artist lives. These images, however, do not pinpoint, that is to say depict, any specific city; instead, they depict events that are part of the city and which we have internalised to such an extent that they no longer affect our daily lives.
However, as a work of art, they achieve relevance through the author' artistic process, as they try to regain in our eyes the protagonism familiarity has stripped away from them, by moving into an imaginary, fictional city that materialises under the artist's gaze.
Untitled Dyptich (2008), a set of two interconnected medium-sized photos, is a harbinger of this line of work. In it, Rui Calçada Bastos offers viewers a kind of test of their understanding of the image as a place undergoing transformation. Between the two pictures, there is a difference that will bring us into contact with time and rational systems of urban organisation. As a dyptich, the images convey two distinct moments, a 'before' and an 'after' the inscription of a pedestrian crossing, but there is also a change in the image itself, which becomes more graphic and less contrasted. The photo showing the pedestrian crossing on the black tar of the pavement displays a greater range of half-tones. The process of luminous gradation used here is similar to the one in the set of photographs taken at Lake Mälaren, 'Untitled 2012 (Snow Dust)'.
If there is a tendency towards a poetics of images here, it is challenged by 'Ghost' (2014), a sculpture that consists of a wall to which the memory of a staircase still clings, a pre-existence that brings us into contact with human activity, in which the presence of the movement of the body finds its temporal, fragmentary inscription. The sculpture, which materialises somewhere between drawing and installation in the exhibition room, is also a paradoxical place, not only due to its symbolic shift but also because the wall's other side displays the screen in which the video 'Passagem de nível' (2014) is shown. The rapport between these urban situations and what we may call small everyday 'accidents' (some of them caused by natural phenomena), which we incorporate into our life experience, combines with a secret movement of the city that puts us back in contact with a romantic vision, in which a visual murmur mingles with a sound construction that envelops the viewer in the work's intermittent narrative.
In this context, 'Untitled' (2013) brings a contradictory stance to the exhibition, by changing the position of its support, a plasma screen. The screen is vertically placed on the floor of the room, thus enhancing the systematic, repetitive motions of workers who are taking apart a scaffold in the back of a building. Nothing remarkable occurs during a task that demands precision, care and attention; just another banal moment in a work that is constantly taking place and is part of the urban landscape with which we daily interact. The location in which the process takes place is unknown, but there is a near-musical metrics in this action that develops around itself, like an involuntary choreography without beginning or end.
Rui Calçada Bastos seems to trigger a shifting motion of our gaze and perception over concrete moments, in which transitoriness prevails. However, self-referentiality may become the most ambiguous presence: an austere picture of a man's back reveals an intimate, uninhibited moment by displaying recently-cut hairs scattered over his body, covered in a shirt (as white as the wall in 'Ghost'); these debris of hair and that clothing of the body convey a stance that is peaceful, sincere and free of conventional codes for the display of that corporeality that depicts itself as a transformed morphology that is nothing more than a recording, a spectre of itself.

João Silvério
September 2014