Other times and other spaces

“The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment. I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.”
— M. Foucault, Of Other Spaces

The excerpt from M. Foucault summarizes two of the ideas that I believe are essential in the analysis of the installation paintings in this exhibition at the Museum of Wine and that Mário Vitória named “Raising the Blood of the Earth”: the importance of occupied place/s (space) and the notion of time.

These two concepts seem to me to establish an interesting starting point for my reading. In 2006 when I wrote about the “SMVSEVM” exhibition, I began from the drawing as the generator for the artist’s imaginary. The political and social satire conveyed by the caricature, supported on fable and making frequent use of metaphors and allegories, then considered the tools of pictorial discourse, are still present in this exhibition’s drawings and installation paintings: the man being indistinguishable from the animal being. Animals that express themselves in emotions, greed, and human gestures. The game of false naïvetés, of pretense, of frailty, of benevolence, of rustic cunning, of cruelty or humanism were, this time, adapted in light of the Dionysian myth which, in the current exhibition, plays a pivotal role.

What I would like to emphasize at this stage is that the artist continues to use the same type of figurative speech and the same grammatical strategy. The micro-narratives held by each drawing or paintings keep the juxtaposition and simultaneity of space and time. Each image conveys an effort of affiliation that determines a configuration that is not governed by “pre-established” rules of chronology, of social hierarchies… everything has been reinvented and re-enacted. In the text referred above, M. Foucault recalls how in the medieval period the sacred and the profane, urban and rural, the supra-heaven, the heavenly and the earthly places were distinguished and how this individualization has been questioned with Galileo, creator of the concept of infinity and hence the notion of infinitely open space. The notion of something’s place lost its meaning and movement replaced the notion of place. According to Foucault, movement suppresses location and it is the concept of extension that gains emphasis. The relations of proximity between specific points and elements now define space.

It is this notion of space that I identify in the drawings and installation paintings of Mário Vitória. However, the factual character of that notion gives way to the symbolic by creating a super-space, which is, unlike contemporary space, completely secularized, because, as Foucault himself points out, there are dichotomies that have not yet been overcome: public/private, familiar/social, cultural/practical, leisure/work. Mário Vitória goes further in his pictorial universe. Spatial dichotomies cease to exist. And in this sense, it becomes closer to the concept of dreamlike space as defined by Bachelard: prime space of perception, dreams and passions. Referring to this concept, Foucault speaks of a “light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below of mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or space that is fixed(…).”

In a conversation held in 2006, quoting “The Hour of the Devil” by Fernando Pessoa, Mário Vitória told me about the space of his painting as a “vacuum inside a vacuum” of “nothings that turn into satellites in a useless orbit of nothing.” That “everything here (…) is only a lying nook in the unattainable truth” and that “these things happen on earth, because men are animals.” The discourse remains current. Only now, I no longer consider acceptable the idea of a vacuum which then seemed valid. The system of relations established between the characters determine places that do not overlap but are juxtaposed. A palimpsest on which all discourses are legible. It is this idea that allows me to classify the spaces created by the artist as counter-spaces in the meaning attributed to it by M. Foucault. The counter-spaces are utopias held true in which society’s real places can be found and where they are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. M. Foucault refers to these places as “heterotopias,” “different spaces”, “other places”.

In the philosopher’s text, the pictorial space is not referred to as a possible heterotopic achievement. However, it seems to me a hypothesis to consider, since the artist can superimpose on a single space several spaces that alone would be incompatible. The fact that Foucault considers the garden, theater and movies as examples is indicative of this possibility. The example given of the Persian Garden is quite interesting. A sacred space that reiterated in its four corners the four corners of the world, with a super-sacred space in the center, the navel of the world occupied by the water fountain. All vegetation should be gathered together to form a microcosm. The garden was the smallest portion of the world while it was its entirety.

The analogies we can establish between this conception of the world and Mário Vitória’s Intentional Drawings seems to me obvious; the pivotal concern of the composition, the apparent dispersion of the characters taken from different contexts that seem to harmonize in an exalted dance that converges to the center, which is both a return to itself and its annulment.

Structuring in most nuclei of this exhibition is, as I said earlier in this text, the Dionysian myth. Dionysus is the god of wine, of ecstasy, of music that takes possession of the body. It is the divinity of metamorphosis, the ability to show what one is not, of transformation, and the improvement of oneself, the idea of becoming, of what is to come, not of permanence but of an unceasing force play, of excesses, of drunkenness that eliminates barriers and leads to the dissolution of the individual in pursuit of otherness, of elevation and of release.

Another notion I saw as dominant in Mário Vitória’s project is the conception of time, the notion of time or times, its overlapping, or rather, juxtaposition. In short, a finding of simultaneity of different temporal concepts in the same pictorial space. Apart from the spatial overlap, the pictorial heterotopias of Mario Victoria also reveal temporal accumulations: from the Greco-Roman mythology with the Dionysian cult, to the contemporary socio-economic of Portugal’s central region with Portuguese wine production of the Bairrada region; from the Florentine Renaissance of the 14th Century with the essential compositional reference to the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo Da Vinci, to the baroque Tiepolian ceilings whose feigned architectural compositions, centrifugal and upward motion are well referenced in the drawings of Mário Vitória

Ana Luísa Barão, January 2011