shana moulton,   photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES - Fundação Manuel António da Mota

shana moulton, photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES – Fundação Manuel António da Mota

a polyphonic wave of concrete materials flowing through the air was a series of encounters held at Artes, in Porto, on December 13th, in which the exhibition has been explored as a performative event.

The show was curated by João Laia, with artworks and interventions by Meris Angioletti, Von Calhau!, Henning Lundkvist, Nuno da Luz, Raimundas Malašauskas, Mattin, Jacopo Miliani, Shana Moulton and Laure Prouvost.

Questioning the central role the body has had in the history of performance, the program presented works where the centrality of the performer’s body is fragmented and transferred to intangible elements such as sound, text, or image. The immersive environment emerging out of the dialogue between the pieces created a network of echoes between the space of presentation and the bodies of the audience, where the fragmented materiality of the works returned to a concrete state and designed a porous scenario where the represented and the real were blurred.

We asked some questions to João Laia.

ATP: How did you get the idea for “a polyphonic…”? From where does the title come from?

João Laia: “a polyphonic wave…” has developed from a previous project named while we are asleep here, we are awake somewhere else and thus every men is two men both analysing form or representation as a concrete reality. In “while we are asleep here…” I investigated the friction between mental and physical space and how the actual environment of an exhibition could be transformed though psychological processes. Three artists actually participated in both events: Meris Angioletti, Henning Lundkvist and Raimundas Malašauskas.

In “a polyphonic wave…” I continued exploring the exhibition as a temporal construct which blurs virtual and actual living experiences. I was aiming to create a context where our contemporary condition of fragmented attention could be counteracted by emphasising the physical encounter taking place, the coming together. I explored these interests by choreographing an intensive succession of presentations that activated this gathering as well as the space in which it was taking place.

“a polyphonic wave…” was/is a group show that lasted four hours. There was a mix of installed and performative pieces but in general the public was only able to engage with one work at the time. I was hoping this format would intensify the whole experience. Looking back, maybe there is also an influence of the screening format, considering how a moving image programme differs from an exhibition, developing around the ordering of difference works together in time to form a collection, an experience.

The title tries to signal the main ideas explored in the project without illustrating them.

ATP: Performance uses as primary medium the body, and the objective of this project is to create an immersive environment for the audience’s bodies. How do you manage to physically do that? How did you conceive the display for this particular project?

JL: I had to do very little to create an immersive environment, the works did this themselves. Once I had selected the pieces, my concern was more geared towards the succession of works and their spaces for their presentation; how each presentation would be introduced and followed and where they would happen. In this sense my role was more about the way the exhibition would be staged, how I could create a frame around the works that took into account their specificities and spatial setting but also and more importantly their appearance and disappearance in time, and in which way all these features would interact with the proposed dialogues between the works.

ATP: How did you choose the artists and the artworks? Is there a link between them?

JL: My intent was to have a wide array of propositions rather than creating an enclosed world. All the works explored ideas such as physicality or materiality but their representational strategies and methods employed to enact them were also quite different.

The use of sound and particularly text (mostly spoken but also visually represented) were probably the strongest links between the works, together with a common interest in exploring the circulation/fragmentation of the elements of each work and their materialisation in the contact with the audience.

I also wanted to explore the performative possibilities of situations which are usually not thought about as performances, for example a video screening.

ATP: My impression about your role in this exhibition is that you’re acting more like an orchestra conductor than a curator, an impression that I also had from the title you chose for this project. To what extent do you agree with me about that?

JL: In a sense you are right, sound was key to this event so there was something similar to the work of a conductor. But I was really more interested on how I would choreograph the space and the succession of presentations. If I had to chose, I guess I would go more towards something like a choreographer rather than a conductor because of my interest in materiality, spatiality, and time/motion/movement. There were not simultaneous presentations that I was directing, rather it was a succession of different works and in this way choreographer seems more fit in this context.

Interview by Matteo Mottin

artes.fmam.pt/en/info

meris angioletti,   photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES - Fundação Manuel António da Mota

meris angioletti, photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES – Fundação Manuel António da Mota

nuno da luz,   photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES - Fundação Manuel António da Mota

nuno da luz, photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES – Fundação Manuel António da Mota

laure prouvost - monologue,   photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES - Fundação Manuel António da Mota

laure prouvost – monologue, photos by Nuno Gonçalves courtesy of the artists and ARTES – Fundação Manuel António da Mota