Prontuário dos afectos
2017 | Biblioteca FCT-Nova | curated by Andreia César
The reflection on the human condition marks a compass in the work of Henrique Vieira Ribeiro. In Affective Record this reflection is focused on the subjectivity, the identity observed according to the infinitely incomplete archive of the memory, of a past both lived and inherited that informs us, along with the intervals of forgetfulness, the course of our life as subjects. The story of a subject, like a community, is made in what one chooses, consciously or unconsciously, to remember and forget. It is up to oblivion to select and model the memories that give body to memory. In this sense, memory can be understood as the transmissible and depositable composition of a particular universe of data and relations.
The portrayal of a family calls into question both the representation of individuality and the identity of the group: relationships are evidenced by the confluence of those portrayed in the various photographic frames, by the similarity between physiognomies, but above all, given the familiarity with the genre that directs the viewer to the unfolding of narratives where the original story is lost. The word portrait was once almost a synonym for photography – it was often said that “the photographer was supposed to take the portrait” – the genre thus seemed to circumscribe the medium; individual or group photography corresponded to the representation or presentation of a “second best” (Bell, 1999, p.12), similar to what happened with painting and sculpture, of a characterizing and aesthetized version of the photographed addressed to the future. An aestheticized version readily denounces a stylization that defines gender. But stylization of the portrait still holds the fundamental peculiarity of operating beyond the image, it also operates on the word often called for the function of legend. The affections deposited in this memory medium are expressed by a brief delimited text to the formality, to a pre-established model which highlights the paradoxical impersonality of those who offer themselves through the symbiosis between photography and written word.
The artist presents us with a composition of messages, of testimonies entrusted to another participant in the intimacy (more or less present, active or passive within the limits of this intimacy) in the installation of the Book of Affects (work that gave the title to the exhibition), which are attached to the hidden image, reinforcing, in this relative proximity that style allows, the appeal to the “duty of memory” (Augé, 2001, p 104). This duty is, as indicated by Marc Augé, the duty of remembering and updating this same memory, is the evocation of the past or, in this specific case, from the ancestor to the present, is the intersection with a temporality lost through the vestiges to the descendants left, which now extend to the viewer.
However, it is also at the intersection between these temporalities, in the reinterpretation and in the reconfiguration of the vestiges or memories – these products of erosion by oblivion (Augé, 2001, 26) – that accentuates the dilution of memory and recognition of identity – what remains of the subject represented in the image? How much of your character fits in your words? What in the recollection do we find of him and what we find of ours? And finally, of course, will we find in our memory something that is not exclusively ours? This is the effective question of portraiture as a memory support, and it seems to open some answers in the reflection about the genre executed by Henrique Vieira Ribeiro in the Portrait series, by the shredding and reconfiguring of the image-vestige.
In each portrait we see the splintering of memory, the total blurring of identity in favor of the standardized assertion of the genre that renders obsolete – there is no portrait at all, no identification, the portrait no longer fulfills its function. However, the “format” of the picture persists, the memory experience is involuntarily given by the familiarity with the genre: its recognition firm survival to oblivion and complete anonymity, acting through the simple process of (self) identification, mirroring, emerging an active participation in the construction (if not reconstruction) of fictions that are linked to our own narratives.
The narrative – the history of a life or the history of a community – is the (re) construction and constant (re) organization of the memories by which memory is established. The continuous construction and updating of a narrative implies an imaginative participation, that is, a fictional participation that is revealed in the processing of the succession of events that is, as previously mentioned, filtered by oblivion (and lack of knowledge), in the dependence that memory has on information, communication or a dialogue that, moreover, not the subject with himself. It is thus perceived that the choice of what one chooses to remember defines the tone of the truth of each one, the tone of all truth about the man presented. It is this agency of temporality and remembrance that is proposed to us in White Horizons; the artist presents us with a new selection and succession of images in negatives – evidences of the unwinding and life of a lineage – invited to the thought and the dialogue, the testimony and the participation in a new history that transcends the memory .