Materiality – Forthcoming exhibit

Hello everyone,

this will be a different post – content wise – from what I’ve been doing up ‘till now.

Levada's Factory

Levada’s Factory

I’m gonna talk a bit about a forthcoming exhibition that will open by the 30th of April in Tomar (Portugal). I’ve been invited to this exhibition by Inês Moreira and Gonçalo Leite Velho. Inês Moreira is an architect, curator and Phd in Curatorial Knowledge by Goldsmiths in London, with whom I’ve worked before. Gonçalo is a teacher of archaeology with a long interest in media and currently manages a project called Materiality, which delves into questions surrounding the topic. He’s also the current director of the Art & Intermedia department at Tomar’s Polytechnic Institute.

I started this trip one day later due to this forthcoming exhibit. It should have started by the 4th of April, but I was still in Tomar finishing setting up some things for it, so I only started next day early morning.

In the process of restituting an old factory like building, near the River Nabão, Gonçalo and Inês thought of creating a temporary exhibit on one of the parts of the building. This part will keep its original look, while other adjacent buildings have been re-constructed and some new have been built; in order to populate the space they invited some artists. I have 3 works there, that were already in exhibition at Fábrica ASA in Guimarães, during the European Capital of Culture, year 2012 at the Buildings&Remnants exhibit

You can see the blog for this project here: Há Trabalhos na Fábrica


Inês Moreira & Pedro Araújo

Inês Moreira & Pedro Araújo

One of my pieces is a stencil of a text, a paragraph I found while doing research about another old factory of the city,  in which I worked for my final photography project in Photography.

The paragraph is part of a research paper by Maria Filomena Mónica about capitalism and industries in Portugal, part of the XXIII vol. of Análise Social and it says:

“The management problems continued, now at the level of the workshops: the foreign masters came and went, at an undesirable rhythm. Everything improved with the 1883 fire, when the administration was forced to buy new machinery and was able to stabilize the management. From then on, the Real Fiação would live glorious moments. A big company, the Real Fiação de Tomar became the most productive cotton production unity in the country.” – Original in Portuguese.

Since I’m quite a chaotic person and particularly found of the idea of entropy, or destruction as a creative process, I fell in love with that phrase. I also thought it was a great paragraph to be read in the current situation of Portugal, because it related to it as well. I don’t know what you think but myself I think it should be read by as many peoples possible. It contains in itself a very contradictory idea, because usually when we think about growth (economical, social, biological, etc) we are not picking up the idea that destruction, or death, is part or reason of that growth as well. We usually have a very specific set of ideas and concepts that are associated with it. We think of wealth, we think of health, we think about things going just as they were supposed to go, good plans succeeding and so on. But through my experience I’m becoming each day more certain that the opposite of these ideas are as important. It’s not so easy to see how the destruction of a factory can render it more effective and important. But it seems it can.

©Micael Nussbaumer

©Micael Nussbaumer

One of the things I think is being done through austerity is forcing people to find other solutions and go out of their comfort numb zones. It’s not that I agree with austerity but maybe it’s the only way we (Portuguese and other latin countries) can arrive at the conclusion that we have to design a better system to share the wealth and in the process get rid of corruption. Because really, people have their money stolen day after day and they just don’t do anything about it, maybe if they start seeing things shaky and insecure they’ll start organising themselves better and look to create more transparent institutions, that will give them a sense of security again. Or maybe they’ll just be fed up with the current status-quo where austerity dictates the penalisations for the great majority over and over again while leaving a very well defined range of people untouched  thus making them come out of their sofas, turn off their TV’s and think about how we can change the actual state of affairs and, actually, DEMAND that these structural changes are put forward. Some people say that, well, it’s not the 1%’s fault the inertia that lives in the majority of the 99%, and I agree. With what I don’t agree is with money being spent in football stadiums, paying large sums of public money directly to corporate interests and companies that don’t create anything useful and keep on draining money from the system they so criticise.

Video frame from 20 Stamps - There's no more time to burn ©Micael Nussbaumer

Video frame from 20 Stamps – There’s no more time to burn ©Micael Nussbaumer

Politics as actors should play the role for which they are nominated, that’s why they’re getting money – or at least working on emancipating people – this although can be problematic to achieve, holds the solution for the future. It’s not as rewarding economically – immediately – and certainly less fancy. If we want people to take part and create things of value we have to somehow give them the philosophical tools to do that and have the will to do it. Many politicians and intellectuals in Portugal will tell you “Yeah, you know, people don’t want to worry, they don’t want to do nothing at all, they don’t want to have real responsibilities and so on”. It seems that although stoping being a slave is not something as easily achievable for the masses as a whole, for all human beings, education and passage of knowledge that can produce humans more likely to interact and take part in the formation of society is plausible. We have seen it happening and we have to start taking into account what we learned through experience, science and spirituality through the long walk humanity started some thousands of years ago. We now know that Marxism, in a sense, is very right. The material conditions do have a huge impact on how people perceive the world and interact inside it. That structures of education – like public schools – decent housing, access to food (the opposite of scarcity) and cultural items free humankind from the survivalist mindset and open it up to much more interesting and deep interactions. Although we can also argue that they tend to produce indulgent and formatted beings.

So public school and compulsory education, for instance, cannot serve the creation of slaves but instead the creation of a dynamic and organic mindset in those who go through it. Things should not be taught as dogmas, but by what they are, current but ever changing theories to understand what makes up reality.


On the other end of the political spectrum, the right, there are as many important things as in the left. You have to be the master of your own destiny. You have to restrict your desires, both material and spiritually, because you can’t have it all anyway and easily things, that are good when done in a balanced way, become quite destructive if done with absolute disregard for the balance of your own body and mind. So I think the next step, is the marriage of the left and right hemispheres. And I mean it in every sense, political, social and personally. And we have to start trying to understand what some philosophers, thinkers, religious leaders and politics said, without a biased view on it due to the rotules we attached to some ideas. I think it’s possible to design a better system. Not an utopia, not a dictatorship of ideas over all people, but something more organic, something that is more well thought of. A system that is less worried with the weight of ideas but instead with the practical results of their implementation and that does not force DOGMA.

Because as we move on through time, entropy only increases, being it in information and knowledge, being it in the state of chaos of the universe. When we think about it regarding knowledge and information this poses great questions, being the most interesting the end of “history” as we’ve been used to. It already started. For instance, regardless of what you’re interested in, you can’t, BUT REALLY CAN’T, keep up with everything that’s done in that field you’re interested in. You have to rely on 1st, 2nd and 3rd wave curators, both formal and informal, to get access to what “would be” the most interesting things being done on those fields. It’s not like you can keep an eye on what comes up around the globe by yourself alone. It has become impossible and it will certainly only get worse. This can mean, at some point, that reality and how we understand life’s history will become a complete construction of the moment. And if information systems tend to progress in the direction we’ve seen until now, the whole perception of the actual reality can also change in the matter of seconds and spread through all the planet in seconds as well. This would be cool – if we didn’t know by now how easily mankind can be manipulated into believing something – even when it defies logic.

On the other hand, entropy itself means the increasing of variables – which becomes exponential when we think about knowledge – and as we delve deeper into each branch of knowledge (specialisation) even though we start seeing similarities between many things we also become more detached – because each branch goes deeper and more specialised, therefore developing a very technical and specific language – non-translatable between disciplines.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity


©Micael Nussbaumer

Going back to Tomar and Materiality exhibition. Besides the stencil I also did a small video, which related the text with small stamps of the Factory which have a crown over a cross (a nationalistic symbol) printed on them. Once again this is related to entropy and what I wanted was to create a ritualistic performance for others to see. Because I think it’s when we repeat things that they become more alive – repetition draws small maps on your brain making recollection easier and so it creates habits once you repeat it again – because these maps are like small rivers and consciousness flows through them easily the deeper they are – so each time you repeat an action – whatever it is, you’re making that action a preferred pathway to consciousness.

Crowns are very symbolic. They’re used over the head of the regent, in order to mark him as being commanded by the divine. They symbolise the connection between the person wearing it and the “divine will” thus giving them power over the remaining people. Although we have by now discarded that idea, of a person endowed by “god’s will” to rule over the others, we still haven’t become totally independent of “regents”. We’ve changed the bodies of power and decision but at a very basic level we are still enslaved.

So I was burning stamps for this and I filmed it. And you can see it in Tomar. And the ashes as well, they were quite pretty stamps, but now they’re just ash. Destruction brings forth construction. Along with chaos it allows things that would otherwise become static institutions to be reformulated or completely changed. This has to do with entropy as well.

©Micael Nussbaumer

©Micael Nussbaumer

The last piece in the exhibit is an installation of weaving cones I found while visiting the destructed Fábrica da Fiação de Tomar (Tomar’s Weaving Factory) when I was working on it for the first time – the Registrar project which became my final photography project – you can check it here: The Registrar . They’re installed in an original shelf of the building this time in a very different configuration. Not only do they become very aesthetic objects once decontextualised they’re also material proofs.

@ Buildings&Remnants - Guimarães European Capital of Culture 2012

@ Buildings&Remnants – Guimarães European Capital of Culture 2012 (this installation had also the contribution of Inês Moreira and Paulo Mendes)

And so this finishes the part about that exhibit. If you want to see it, take a trip to Tomar on the opening and use the remaining time to see the city itself. It was the last residence of the Templar Knights. After the persecutions started in France they had to change their name to Order of Christ and they settled in Tomar, at the Convent of Christ, which is a beautiful complex, with monastic and militar objectives. The age of discoveries was in great part precipitated by the Templars so we due them the start of globalisation, the connection of the planet through sea, the encounter with different cultures and the settling of the new world. There are other interesting things to see there, churches with pentagrams, relics, nature, a small but enjoyable city center and some fun due to the students living there along with some museums and collections.

Hope everything’s great! See you soon!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s