"A new objectivism
Joana Vasconcelos’s art, in its post-modernist configuration, is the appropriation of objects from daily life, which are then diverted into variously connoted fluxes. It proposes, thus, a, new objectivism — multifarious plotting, quotation, miscellany, dazzling invention of objects designed by the logic of absurd thought, full of pregnant chromatism.
Through creative instinct and objectivist theory itself, it is not the object that becomes a work of art as in (tiresome, globalising) pop art; it is rather the work of art that becomes an (unique, particular) object.
Iconographic works fabricated in imagination, in technical conjecture, constructed with unsophisticated, private wisdom; cultural noise, ostentation, something of sublime defunctionalising; objects gain a life of their own, with a thousand irradiating facets of interpretation.
The world of the transformed object presents itself as res facta, oneiric machine, self-mutating icon of light, being an introduction to deformity or, dialectically, to the perfect design-techno- -artistic execution in humanistic terms.
As the iconography of a new objectivism we may classify, in most of her works and in a statistical evaluation, several kinds of icons, all depending on the viewer’s singular interpretation, on his overflowing fruition of objectivist signs, and divide them into two essential types:
Static iconography — looks for the indelible, for the hidden, inanimate world, pure threedimensional accomplishment; its references are installation, sculpture, and industrial sobriety.
Its paraphernalia could be endlessly inventoried (e.g. light bulbs in pop luz; canoes affixed to the wall in 12K-1; brushes in brush me; nappa leather lining in the booth of strangers in the night; plastic strips in trianon; pill blister packs for sofá aspirina and cama valium; lights and plastic globes in o mundo a seus pés; iron and feather dusters for the labyrinth corner of flores do meu desejo; plastic containers, rubber and various hors-d’oeuvre for the table of picnic party; the cupboard of spot me is lined with make-up mirrors; glass fibre is used in artifícios; PVC funnels in tolerância zero.
Kinetic iconography – moving objects, animated by simplistic mechanic systems, low-tech bricolage, exaltation of automatism – machines, simply machines of desire.
Its praxis is technologically discreet.
A low rotation motor activates the dolls’ disc in fashion victims; old washing-machine motors rotate the two cylinders of colourfully gesturing tights in wash and go; roller conveyors and rotors for small world; in spin the dryers are activated by a pressure switch that propels the cold air; the globes of o mundo a seus pés intermittently flash through a sequencer; in strangers in the night the car lights are controlled by three sets of relays; the jet of water in fontanela is activated by a gardening irrigation motor; a computer fan determines the programmed action of air flow; rolls of toilet paper in bundex-car’s trolley; a smoke apparatus in aladino.
Project of cognitive sciences that presupposes the opening and interaction of perceptive categories, anthropology that tries to define and observe, analytical engendering of plastic structures, of signs of industrial design and symbols of mechanic and electronic with which she indicates her devices (e.g. the iron chair merry-go-round of ponto de encontro and its centrifugal movement); objects sometimes incite the viewer’s participation (e.g. pulling up the blinds will reveal the inner view (vista interior) of a Portuguese house’s objects).
Each object presupposes a scenario, a glorious mythicising of both handmade and industrial productions — kinetic and kitsch, charismatic and delirious. Its rhythm is abstract, determined only by obscure laws of mechanics and electronics or by the inconstancy of human action.
We may establish mythopoeic connections for some of these objects: air flow, a cupboard fronted by a panel of restless multicoloured neckties, suggests the emanation of something invisible, like the wind or a profane entity hiding inside the tabernacle; a pricey touch of chic: the neckties are sheer silk, created by Gucci or Hermès. Wash and go: two carwash rolls, a kinetic morphology of tights — the viewer is the vehicle taken to the self-regulating carwash machine. An altar for cups, in oiro sobre azul, is an award for the sportive gesture, turning it into a transcendental parable of the trophy.
In fashion victims, a delirious loom wraps up the dolls, progressively covering them in coloured threads — the playful movements of these models take an anti-war stance, as an anamnesis of puberty innocence. In small world, toys and gadgets perpetually move around, like a replica of the kindergarten’s encapsulated world.
Cama valium symbolises the TV viewer. It is a redeeming piece, which leads to the immaculate quiet of dreams; it is an isomorphy of the repose after the energetic activity of karate, leading to peacefulness, mental discipline and delicate tenderness, as when we look at a marvellous toy or when our soul rises to the complexities of a mantra.
The monochromatic tennis-referee chairs of supino, when placed on an open-air lawn, are arbitrary and refer to an arbitrary game that takes place in a void; when placed indoors, together with a so-called panel of crosswords, inscribed both on the floor and on the ceiling, they denote a new playful aesthetics of the objects.
In spin, a mirror framed in hair-dryers, we find the parable of air-conditioning at the moment of Narcissus’ last gaze.
Sofá aspirina is a pharmaceutical throne, evoking the silent voice of someone sitting upon transparent glass, only intimately heard, soothing the pains of the world and keeping it awake and happy. In strangers in the night, the car-lights-lined booth protects, with its meta-language of light and signs, the alcove of most shameful secrets.
The transatlantic-sized chandelier in noiva, made up of tampons, is in itself the menstrual blood crystallised in a thousand sparkles — the artistic sumptuousness of hygiene.
The technologic list is a poly-sensitive one:
The olfactory element of naphthalene is the basic material of brise, the new scented attribute of synthetic roses. The acoustic concept of Joana’s works can be summarised as a kind of self- -sufficient music that emanates from their mechanisms. The sound, while not pointing towards any given musical stance, indicates specific sound zones — purely auditory attributes (e.g. Callas gives a thunderously expansive rendition of Bizet in Carmen, a three-metre tall chandelier, adorned with strips of black velvet and plastic earrings); a recording of gym sounds echoes from the oiro sobre azul sculpture. Sinatra’s voice is another sound object that is recovered, via CD, in strangers in the night, a night traffic alarm. The sound of machines takes the forefront in spin and small world, in a musique concrète approach.
The tactile element is subliminally seductive in pieces like mise, a wig, or openly tempting in the luxurious mimesis of flores do meu desejo’s ostrich feathers. Smooth, grainy or flowering textures, in the plurality of their synthetic materials, entice touching.
The plurality of Joana Vasconcelos’ work has to do with the technical procedures used in a specific and original treatment of materials that demand mastery in their rational engendering and free themselves in the schizophrenic euphoria of representations; it challenges the artistic mind to unravel its means of production, its modus faciendi, a kind of irony regarding neo-realism that invites the audience’s commitment — a feast of colour.
Joana Vasconcelos’s art is not so much about saying as it is about the way of saying."
Jorge Lima Barreto. Lisbon, November 1st, 2001