The invitation to work together in the context of Sonic Geometry suggested the following questions: how might one set of ideas be triangulated off another? How do two logic systems interrelate, and might these relationships become both productive and transparent? Our conversations about geometry turned to the question of containment – how objects, artefacts and ideas might be put in relation to one another whilst maintaining a looseness in the framework that bound them together: a porous form of architecture. We found that we had a fascination in common – a partially-transparent partition wall designed by architect Marcel Breuer for a house in Connecticut (New Canaan II, 1951). In the available photographs of the house, and one particular image that we both shared, a Paul Klee painting can be seen hanging on this diaphanous, veil-like ‘separation’ between living and dining room. What had struck us both was the suggestion that at all times the artwork, the labour required to build the screen wall and the daily life of the house would always be revealed as interrelated – each sphere of influence projected onto the other.
As we started to research in the archive of RTP, we came to focus on recordings of labour processes – in particular on those recordings that displayed a degree of local innovation. We found that the type of mixed registers we were looking for could be found encapsulated in the wonderful films made by the ethnomusicologist Michel Giacometti between 1971-74, a series titled People Who Sing (Povo Que Canta). In his recordings of labour songs, filmed with the minimum of intervention alongside the work they traditionally accompanied, one can clearly see the co-functioning of creative invention and the structuring logic they provide for a series of manual processes. The creative act provides both the syncopation for mutual work and the affirmation of solidarity: a productive model for working together. One further shared resource would strongly influence our approach to structuring our collaboration: the work of Italian / Brazilian architect and curator Lina Bo Bardi. Her innovative display systems for culturally-specific material production (particularly a series of exhibitions focused on the Brazilian Nordeste) are notable not least for their insistence on the use of locally-sourced production methods and materials in their manufacture.
The nature of an exhibition is the temporary grouping of a number of materials in relation to each other – a proposal for a system of relationships temporarily fixed before they move on – marked, one hopes, in the mind of the viewer as a productive proposition. This relationship (and its attributes of the provisional and the experimental) is particularly true of a collaboration, where each of us continue afterwards to work independently but inflected by the conversations both about and through work that find some degree of performance in the exhibition you see. This migratory aspect of thought is reflected through both local representations of flight and transit: of materials, lava, fruit; of flying devices that measure the material that moves them, to birds blown to the island through parallel meteorological turbulence – temporary visitors just as ourselves. The exhibition architecture again recognises this transitory state, providing a temporary vessel (and logic) for an otherwise disparate collection of artefacts.
The locally-sourced scaffolding that provides the exhibition framework mirrors this box-kite methodology – and like the concrete poetry it contains, it performs a desire for creative innovation within and beyond rigid systems. This transposition of ideas follows the logic of the work of George Hartung whose 1860 work on the Azores (represented in the Museu Carlos Machado) Charles Darwin took as substantiation of the theory of icebergs (or islands that move) as a form of transport for biological colonisation and the spread of natural species. This concurrent state of containment and propagation, embodied both by the island itself and the temporary combinations such an environment sustains, echoes the transitory but structuring nature of materials and ideas. Just as the bias of a fabric suggests how it should be cut, or the gestural twist of a handrail encourages a specific physical reciprocation, the works in the exhibition are both a record of what has gone before and a proposition for that which follows after.
The exhibition draws on and includes work by Isamu Noguchi, Lina Bo Bardi, Michel Giacometti, Sigurd Lewerentz and the typesetters for ‘Lord’ Timothy Dexter; loans from the Museu Carlos Machado (São Miguel) and RTP / RTP Açores; draws influence from architectural works by Marcel Breuer, display structures designed by Lygia Clark, Achille Castiglioni, Franco Albini, Ken Isaacs and Lina Bo Bardi; works and exhibition design by Tomás Cunha Ferreira and Mike Cooter, aided by the production and technical team of Arquipélago.
Tomás Cunha Ferreira