Press Release of the Exhibition
JOÃO PAULO FELICIANO
Feb 28th > Mar 29th 2008
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art is pleased to present MUSIC LESSONS (Lições de Música), a selection of hitherto unseen works by Lisbon-based artist João Paulo Feliciano.
The title of the exhibition derives, at a first glance, from a series of photographs framed side by side with “original documents” (magazine covers, book pages or record sleeves). The principle of the “music exercise”, where an example is formulated by the teacher for the student to follow and emulate, is taken beyond its literal practice and turn into a conceptual and witty comment on culture as an uninterrupted chain of knowledge that passes from one generation to the next. The exhibition as a whole encapsulates not only João Paulo Feliciano’s sense of humour and use of dadaesque mischief, but his questioning of certain romantic ideals.
João Paulo Feliciano (Caldas da Rainha, 1963) began working as an artist in the mid 1980s. After a relatively short tenure as an abstract painter and a short but decisive period in Brussels where he began to incorporate recycled and found materials, Feliciano moved on to a more conceptual attitude towards his artistic practice. Soon after, his work was invigorated by the explosive force and sheer intensity of rock music, which he embraced in the 1990s with the band Tina & the Top Ten and the experimental and electronic adventure he shared with Rafael Toral, No Noise Reduction. It was at this point that references and elements of music in general and rock in particular began to permeate his work and fuel his already restless
attitude. Rather than commit to categories and disciplines, Felicano has since chosen to push boundaries with his experimental frame of mind and adoption of outright playful procedures that introduce chance, indeterminacy and unpredictability to a body of work that has proven itself to be idiosyncratic and discontinuous.
With this body of new works, Feliciano critically focuses on process more than product. This is not by chance, nor does it derive from any strategic option towards the development of his work, it is rather the result of a truly personal experience: over the past two years approximately, Feliciano has submitted himself to the lengthy trials and tribulations of training according to the conventional regime and practice of classical music, based on theory, eartraining, solfeggio, sight-reading, hand control, posture, discipline, repetition and emulation.
All that he avoided as a child growing up but takes on as an adult with a straight face and determination. To undermine the Romantic ideal, the fetischized artist, Feliciano not only surrenders to the ups and downs of being a student, but additionally takes on the role of trickster, copycat and appropriator, reminding us that the way to become a master, inventor or creator always starts as a mimicking process. We all learn by imitation.
For instance in the work From Right to Left: Playing the Rhodes Electric Piano and the Farfisa Organ. Feliciano takes the cover of Bill Evans’ From Left to Right: Playing the Fender-Rhodes Electric Piano and the Steinway Piano and recreates the cover photo with a sleight difference, that is, he not only uses his own instruments (shifting away from Evans’), but reverses the Left-Right set-up resulting in a face-to-face composition of “student” and “master”.
In Conducting Patterns, an open-ended suite of pencil drawings on paper, Feliciano takes the graphical patterns from a book on conducting techniques and enlarges them to life-size. Afterwards, Feliciano himself practices the beating of bars and measures in front of the sheets of paper, not holding a conductor’s baton but a pencil. The resulting drawings register all of his gestures, with the uncertainties, hesitations, failures and achievements inherent to the process of learning music.
In another piece, the video Mimic Gimmick, Feliciano plays air guitar to the improvisations of legend avant-garde guitarist Derek Bailey. Here, the artist could not be more literal about the process of mimicking, exploring the absurdist aspect of mimicking what, by it’s very nature, cannot be mimicked.
Through this heightening of theatrics, viewers are presented with caricatures and doubles of the Romantic ideal of the artist, someone who evolves into a solitary, suffering genius with an explosive temperament and an unwavering intensity. Feliciano’s copies have the added effect of bringing renewed attention to the patina and intrinsic qualities of the originals he has chosen to emulate. Through these works, João Paulo Feliciano produces deferral. He places himself in the absurd position of the novice but does this to remind us that music is a social event where authors (and listeners) past and present meet. This too can be extended to the work of art which becomes a kind of arena where art-world but also everyday references coalesce and are opened to interrogation.
Press Release of the Exhibition
JOÃO PAULO FELICIANO
'The Blues Quartet'
Mar 30th > Apr 29th 2006
new and recent work featuring objects, video, light, sound and music.
This spring Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art presents new work by Portuguese artist João Paulo Feliciano. Drawing on themes of encoding and breakdown, this exhibition explores the artist’s instrumentalization of objects, colour, light, sound and music. Feliciano’s light-sculptures use sound – melody and the spoken work - and its breakdown, often into kaleidoscopic, sensuous, giddy, colourful products.
João Paulo Feliciano is interested in random systems that open up the possibility for infinite combinations. His multi-disciplinary installations can be seen as starting points, triggers to a series of variations. The structure of the 4 works on display in this show marry high and low tech; designer objects and found, discarded, everyday pieces; sculpture, light and sound in mesmerizing performative compositions.
In his approach to techonology Feliciano eschews modernity’s child, the productive mechanism, awakening it from monotony to a dream of creativity and wonder.
Feliciano’s current exhibition not only reveals the artist as an engineer, but a musician in absence.
THE BLUES QUARTET, 2005
Wood, plexiglas, aluminium, various types of bulbs, tripods, sound-to-light modulators
190 x 190 x 220 cm
The Blues Quartet, a sound and light sculpture-installation and centerpiece of this exhibition, explores the crossover between aural and visual art. Four different lamps stand upright on the corners of a table-stage. On top of the table-stage, two planes of dark blue transparent perspex intersect to divide the space in four. The four lights blink in response to the sound of music playing, creating reflections, transparencies and juxtapositions; a bewildering choreography of light, colour and sound.
Designed to evolve in directions the artist may not have anticipated, Feliciano’s Quartet is a spellbinding experience.
In 2007, THE BLUES QUARTET will tour the US on a co-production between
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art & the Contemporary Art Center, Cincinatti
DA DISCUSSÃO NASCE A LUZ (Discussion Brings Enlightenment), 2005
CD audio, stereo, 10 min., in loop.
2 table lamps, 2 sound-to-light modulators, table
variable dimensions (according to table size)
edition of 3 - the table and one of the lamps (B) are different in each of the copies.
soundtrack: Rafael Toral; text: Octávio Nunes; voices: Bruno Nogueira, Manuel Marques.
Quite often Feliciano make use of simple technology to shape sound and light into sensuous, funny happenings, such as the nonsensical, jabbering lamps in ‘Da Discussão Nasce a Luz’ (discussion brings enlightenment), where the artist anthropomorphizes these otherwise unthinking, unresponsive table lamps. Staging them on opposite sides of a table, Feliciano sets up a conversing pair: a Modernist and a Romantic, who engage in a dialogue of common-places expressions with their modified voices loosely representing the paradigms. Two idiots who offhandedly beat about the bush.
PEQUENO POEMA ELÉCTRICO, 2005
Wood (plywood), plexiglas, electrolitic condensers, copper wire
40 x 30 x 40 cm
Edition of 3
The sculpture Pequeno Poema Eléctrico is one of the show’s most discrete pieces. A small optical trick is performed by two electrolytic condensers positioned on each side of a sheet of dark blue transparent perspex. Connected by a pair of electrical wires, the poles seem to cross the perspex sheet. According to Brazilian-based art critic Claudia Laudanno, “Feliciano introduces us to a field of aesthetic chemistry where transgression and desire enhance the shifted order”. The sculpture also harks back to the work of Portuguese artist Noronha da Costa and his explorations of reality and illusion, light and shadow, presence and absence.
NO SOUND IS INNOCENT, 2006
MPEG-4 video file, i-Pod player. foam, pencil on wall
80 x 60 x 5 cm
‘No Sound is Innocent’ was designed by the artist as an affective sculptural-piece evoking the power of music and its ability to remove us from presence, taking us back to important moments in our lives and preventing us from loosing their season, their atmosphere, their taste. This rapport is also simultaneously associated and prompted by the technology we use to play our favourite songs: for more than a century, advances in technology have shaped our intimacy with music. Whereas the physical size of LPs and record players was best suited for the experience of communal listening at home, the I-Pod gives us individuality, portability and unpredictability, providing us with a more pervasive and immersive relationship with music. The imagery associated with music has evolved accordingly: if the colourful printed cover of the LP was static yet large enough to imprint an affective image, the MPEG video file gives us a much smaller and less glamorous picture, yet it allows us to easily record and playback moments of our own lives, opening new dimensions to how we deal with our memories.
credits: all images © 2006 João Paulo Feliciano
courtesy: Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art