Texts about Fernando José Pereira works, published in Initiare – Colecção de Arte Contemporânea IAC/CCB - Aquisições 1997-1999 (pp. 89-93). Lisboa: Instituto de Arte Contemporânea, Instituto de Arte Contemporânea, 2000.
The cooling effect of wind and temperature, 1995/97
In the text which accompanies his work, Fernando José Pereira touches upon the question of the sublime from a Kantian perspective. It is through reference to the artist/mountain climber, that, besides the emotion of having reached the peak of the mountain, he underlines the frustration, the effort and pain of not being able to «make present» or register the experience of the sublime itself in any artistic form. In order to formulate these considerations visually, Fernando José Pereira displays in showcases different kinds of sports equipment connected with mountain climbing, along with editorial material, extractor fans and a computer database. In analysing the elements that form part of the installation, it is possible to verify that all are presented deprived of distinguishing features, or even any aura that would affirm their singularity. Apparently, they are everyday objects, brought together in an exercise of appropriation evading) the area of representational action. Their presentation as unaltered artefacts represents an objection to another fundamental premise of Western art. It privileges «the primacy of imagistic absence, along with the use of the object as a paradigm of the simulacrum» to the detriment of expressive and representational possibilities.
This same idea is reinforced in a text entitled «On Art, recyling and electronic chips in the age of time compression» (1998), where Fernando José Pereira designates, on the basis of their correspondence with the recycling process, a new category of objects, the «already used/for use». This quality of objects, according to the author, can constitute an alternative to the uncontrolled creation of art works in the world, that simultaneously aims to go beyond instances of symbolic transposition and representation.
Thus, as these objects are destituted of any new meaning, inscription or even the enunciative weight carried by the author’s signature, the characteristics which would place them definitively in the realm of artistic existence, they enjoy a transitory condition which allows them to pass from one universe to another. In other words, they are allowed to remain, as unchanged objects, within the art system and, therefore, enjoy a closer relationship with the outside world of everyday objects. Moreover, as the term “use” indicates, the question of their future use is always left open.
The Utopia of Exile, 1997
Belonging to the same community, sharing a cultural, ethnic or religious identity, are factors which induce collectivities to fight each other as an expression of their autonomy, and to demand possession of certain land. However, it would be equivocal if the legitimacy of this right were not counterbalanced by the affirmation of another logic, which too often emerges associated with it, and which, throughout history and even nowadays, continues to be defended in the name of the values of nation and race, aiming to exclude, and to marginalize all those who do not conform to the same identifying characteristics.
Basing himself on analysis of some of these phenomena, Fernando José Pereira illustrates, in this installation, the negative reflexes of any normalizing factor or instance, by placing us before what is defined as a «controlled existence». This work also refers, in a symbolic image, to the givens of an existence which is limited within a precise space and time, thus suggesting, through the conditions of captivity of the eel, the reductive nature of a concentrated existence.
It is within this reflective context that the reality of exile emerges, viewed here in its liberating form. Reinvented as an utopian universe of intervention, it represents, ideally, not only the ability to transform uncrossable frontiers into places through which one may pass, but also the possibility of establishing ways of life and, through journeys undertaken, attaining privileged observation points on life. As the artist states in the text which accompanies his work, «The most stimulating feature of the existence of the exile is the possibility of looking from the outside in», because it is through this game of otherness, in the «looking inside oneself as if one were looking at the other», that critical responsibility becomes possible. Thus, it is through the visual and conceptual exploration of a network of metaphorical correspondences that Fernando José Pereira questions the conformity to which contemporary events continually submit. His research is even more relevant as he envisages, in a critical strategy, an alternative to the dynamics of mass production and consumption which are imposed on individual and collective lives at the end of this century. In declaring within his project the rehabilitation of a progressively dehumanized interiority, in affirming through the intermediary of interior exile the turning back into oneself, Fernando José Pereira sustains a culture of reflection in a world where transnationality, the global and the figure of the cosmopolitan citizen are the more media-friendly models.
36º43`N; 2º30`W, 1998
Throughout his artistic career, Fernando José Pereira has extended his research into vast areas of everyday experience and contemporary modern culture, seeking intimate contact with the real world and the multiplicity of approaches to which it gives rise. Attentive to transformations occurring in society at each moment, he tackles the question of the use of new technology in contemporary art with this sense of the present, and from an informed perspective. It is the reflexive vein in his work that is highlighted once more in 36º43` N; 2º30` W (1998). In this installation, which was presented for the first time in the exhibition Cyber 98 – creation in the digital era (Belém Cultural Centre, 1998), the artist dismisses the spectacular possibilities suggested by the media landscape and explores an enigmatic environment, which, nonetheless, has a strong perceptive impact. In an intervention marked by controversy over artistic form, he questions the mechanisms of coercion and closure characteristic of new technology. The door registered on this video, rather than being an invitation to enter, emerges as a blockading, threatening presence. Having already dealt with questions relating to traditional artistic forms, namely painting, which have provided a critical insight into his current practice (Painting as a post-mortem activity, 1995), Fernando José Pereira now widens his research to include the multimedia universe, and glimpses the real possibilities for artistic intervention in this field. Having referred to the dangers of choosing to work in the field of technology, and demonstrated the pressures it brings to bear on individual consciences in terms of increased passivity and resignation resulting from the phenomenon of the «socialization of sensibility», the problem remains of what meaning should guide its use. The reiteration of the communicative potential of these new aids makes it necesary to define their role in present day art, as well as what contribution they can make to the creation of new discursive territories. The answer is clear: the interest in the technological cannot be limited to its innovativeness and merely formalist appropriation. It should base itself on the affirmation and transmission of content with a highly reflexive reach. Alienated by trends and formal superficial choices, Fernando José Pereira reaffirms his eminently ethical concerns and position, which sees in artistic endeavour a practice that should have no mercy on the manipulation of easy consensuses.
Translated from the Portuguese by Francesca Rayner