Horizontes brancos|Henrique Vieira Ribeiro + Alfredo Antunes
2018 | Ocupart – Espaço Camões da Livraria Sá da Costa
SUMMON THE IMAGES, REVEAL THE GHOSTS
The images presented by Henrique Vieira Ribeiro in this exhibition have the quality described by Freud as “Unheimlich”: being simultaneously familiar and extraneous, a disquieting strangeness towards what is close and known. These are domestic pictures that belong to a family album, and now survive as ghosts coming from an undefined time and a place, ostensibly showing their posthumous condition. They request us to fill the blank spaces of “when”, “where”, and “who”: who are those people? In which circumstances, what time, were they photographed?
This is just the first signification level. And, being the most immediate, it is certainly not the most interesting nor it constitutes the center of this exhibition. If everything stayed there and the artist was only a mediator in the image presentation, if he would not submit them to a strong intervention assuming his co-author, this would be a documental exhibition. But there is another signification level, a more important one, and that is where we should apprehend what’s more fundamental in this work. That level is the one where we subtract the documental and historic condition to these images. In this case, the artist is not just the mediator, nor he reverences the images in his file. In a certain way, he desecrates, exercising on them a manipulation that deviates them from its original place. This manipulation has two dimensions: through digitalization and enlargement, the images acquire new plastic qualities, close to an artistic discipline which is not photography anymore.
There is a nullification of the photographic effect, to the point when the spectator feels like there is no more need to ask: who, when, where? And the video, showing negatives, reinforces the idea of the loss of referentiality of the images.
But we must notice that this video has sound, and that sound evokes a projection machine (underlining the technical and mechanical aspects), and it is interrupted by a brief speech that sounds radiophonic or coming from the old television speakers, where a sentence is pronounced in a poetical tone. In this sentence arises the expression that gives the title to the exhibition: white horizons. What makes this audio recording the soundtrack of this projection? They bring the visioning and listening machines to the foreground, integrating the technical devices as fundamental elements to the exhibition – including a light table and three slide projectors. Here, the media don’t have de transparency quality, they don’t turn off to show the mediator images and sounds. On the contrary, they have a special opacity, as they are exhibited as such: the machines and the technical devices are integrating part of this work, they become equivalent elements to the pictures. They are the factor for the annulation of the documental effect. And so, the images move forward to an enigmatic place, where their phantasm-like condition is revealed.