January 2006

António, The Builder.

“(…) the time of practising is structured through the imaginaryanticipation of the arrival of the practising at their distant practice goal(…)”**

Peter Sloterdijk


Coming in at street level to the spacious ground floor of the Interpressbuilding, we access an elevated platform that runs parallel to the façade. Suspendedin this sort of balcony, we are facing (more precisely at our feet) an old andslightly rectangular roof, in Marseille tiles with fungus, recovered from pastlives. The hipped roof is inverted: it leans down instead of up, until interruptedat the centre, making a second longitudinal and empty rectangle, in place ofwhat would be its natural meeting point (a top that is not on top…). The effectis a sinking ground before us, or something right beneath the surface that an excavationhas revealed. One of the smaller hips (the one that comes to meet us)disappears underneath the platform, while its opposite stops at the wall that facesthe entrance. To our left, the larger hips stop at the nearby wall, and to ourright, they stop at a second level of the platform where we stand, which curvesto the left in a right angle a few steps below. It is on this second level thatwe continue, then going down the staircase that extends it and takes us to the “real”floor of the ground level, where the elevated structure of rough beams, rods,and darkened wooden slats that sustain the roof reveals itself in its entirety.We can move, to a certain point, over that bleak roof, whose height diminishes drasticallythe closest it gets to the centre (where the roof tiles end and the light thatcomes from above illuminates, as if with a flash, the worn out floor).


Away from the noise of the world, contained inside a space, giving us thepossibility of looking closer, of being near enough to touch, António Bolota’sroof presents itself partly as a didactic repository of simple gestures, rudimentarymaterials, and basic procedures we associate with construction. The vertical inversionof the traditional shape of a roof, showing each of the planes, makes it immediatelyclear how each part is articulated with the whole, as if it was a model withremoval parts or a pop-up book for children. But by altering the circumstancesthat usually frame our relation (and experience) with a roof, the didacticcharacter exceeds its purposes: it dramatizes the perception of the dualities —up and down, straight and inside out, illuminated plane/sombre opposite; and itintensifies the feeling of a paradoxical meeting between materiality andimmateriality, in the multiplying of chromatic, luminous, and textural nuances.In its exaggerated proximity, the monumental structure acquires a fantasticalcharacter, as one would say of a whale at a Natural History Museum.    


If António Bolota deliberately centres his work at the most basic andtraditional levels of what we call construction, it’s because he sees in that highlypractical knowledge, the potential of what is “less than”. The procedures, gestures,and materials unchanged in themselves, move to bring to a limit this simple “language”heading towards other, more specialized subjects — architecture, engineering, archaeology,restoration, etc. —, subjects with which construction is frequently associatedwith even if as a kind of poor relative. The mason becomes the specialist ofthe “exercise”, he discovers in the repetition of century old performedgestures, with their own rhythms and with being close to the material, the “spiritual”dimension of mere execution. Suspended between origin and destiny, betweenproject and object, the time of the exercise inverts the hierarchies of knowledgerelating to construction and reconstruction, simultaneously dissolving thatsubject’s regulations. Henceforth, intuition can travel a long way and its unitis based not in similarities or in complementary actions but in “equivalent” heterogeneities.Methodologies and traditions are merged, juxtaposed, or divided; trades aremade between gestures; one jumps between perceptive models; spatial events aretransformed in temporal events (the remote sounds of the city as well as theirintervals and inaudible moments, filtered in many varied ways, function as asoundtrack that accompanies the viewer in its successive movements).  

A house within a house, a view within a view, a grave within a grave, an erawithin an era. With its hybrid language, “drawing” constantly reappears overthe thing, under the thing, releasing an infinity of authentic abstract “characters”.The time of construction gives the structure the status of “simple” roof. Seenas never before, the roof is made “as it has always been made”.


Manuel Castro Caldas

(Estoril, January 26th 2017)


* The present text, written by request of the artist, refers to an installationseen by the author in 2006, at the time of its presentation at Interpress, inLisbon.  

 ** in “You Must Change Your Life” by Peter Sloterdijk, translation by WielandHoban, Polity Press, 2013.