ERMIDA DE BELÉM
Some years ago, I wrote a brief note about a sculptural piece that is very singular in António Bolota’s body of work as well as in contemporary sculpture. I transcribe it here:
In 2008, the building known in Lisbon’s art scene as “Avenida 211” presented a group show of artists that hadstudios there. The exhibition occupied the 4th floor in its entirety.Amongst the several pieces located in each specific room, one for each author, anotherwork ran through every room on that floor, intersecting and piercing it, butgiving it an unity that even though it didn’t overlap the existing architecture,made it into a different exhibition space that included a sculptural construction.That work, by António Bolota, is one of the most challenging moments ofcontemporary sculpture. The ceiling where the sculpture was installed became asequence of galleries that repositioned the gaze and the inherent geography ofthe bodies that viewed it.
The sculpture with no title that Bolotaconceived for the space of the Ermida de Belém [in Lisbon, Portugal] goes backto some of the topics that I referred to in that note, like the intersection ofthe space, the repositioning of the gaze of the viewer, a certain parity withthe original architecture (in other words, pre-existent), and a path. In the textthat accompanied the exhibition, the author states his name, the title of thework (“no title”), its date, and a small descriptive text where he enumerates everymaterial of different sources used in the construction of the prismaticconnections that make the sculpture, as well as, several elements belonging tothe exhibition space, for example, amongst the more visible asthree-dimensional volumes, the “wood door and window with iron hardware andoxidized brass handles, painted wood staircase and light projectors”. Here westand at this point before a question proposed by the artist, in which there isalso a play with the language and meaning of the terms used to technically definea work of art, in a dual movement of installation/intersection in the space,and appropriation of that same space attached to what we assume is the vocabularyof materials. The question that António Bolota is asking us goes beyond a levelof physical and visual perception, residing in the interpretation of the workof art as a whole, affirming this sculptural act in space and time. The spaceis transformed and extended through diagonal prismatic connections coated in venetianplaster (a natural material soft to the touch, used in home interiors) and bythe space’s historical character. But an action occurs, the thinking andreflecting about the history of representation, that doesn’t separate the manufacturedobject from the only possibility of giving it a context, and bestows upon it a condition,sometimes contradictory, in the system of built artifacts, independently of thechronology that assembles them.
Let’s go back to another question, asked by José Marmeleira in a textpublished in Contemporânea magazine about Bolota’s exhibition at QuadrumGallery, titled “Assentamento”: “In contemporary art exhibitions, there is aquestion we can hear without anyone actually saying it out loud: where is the sculpture?Before the vanishing (that occurs due to a condition of ontological invisibility)is declared, explanations, answers, or provisional thesis will come up. It sitssomewhere between installation and environment, between produced orappropriated objects and the space of architecture.”
This work is a moment of reflection about the nature of sculpture that goesbeyond the space’s characteristics because it integrates them within its creativeprocess. The Ermida space has always been like this, and it will remain sowhile this project that produces a temporal suspension is occurring. Any daynow our memory will be occupied with a path that took on that complex space,diagonal, historical, geometrical, and so close to us as if it was a house, plastered,painted white, and marked by stonework and shutters. With no title, a place as sculpture.