QUE VÃO QUE VEM
pedro frança & Victor Gerhard
QUE VÃO QUE VEM
pedro frança & Victor Gerhard
A Virtual Gallery Doesn’t Need a Door
By Giampaolo Bianconi
Virtual space has certain advantages over our physical world. Some fantastical achievements--spontaneous levitation, for example--are currently impossible to achieve in reality without expensive stagecraft. Others, like a freely burning fire in an enclosed space, are hazardous and require such complex bureaucracy as to become logistically impossible unless presented as guerilla actions. A mysterious levitating object and an indoor bonfire both appear in pedro frança and Victor Gerhard’s two-person exhibition, which occupies a virtual rendering that closely mimics the physical blueprint of Galeria Jaqueline Martins. The gallery space has been replicated using a video game engine. While some inessential skeuomorphisms have been strategically disregarded in order to enhance the sensation of gaming produced by wandering the space, the result is a navegable virtual gallery full of art.
In frança and Gerhard’s exhibition, the style of realism that has become commonplace on other online viewing platforms has been discarded. The exhibition is unencumbered with the typical over-reliance on uncanny details like hanging hardware and framing, or the blandly neutral domestic setting meant to stimulate the consumer's imagination. The works have been injected into a virtual space that revels in its virtuality. Entering the gallery, one immediately notices that there is no door to the outside: in virtual space, there’s no need to enter and exit through a physical threshold. One can just appear.
All but one of the works in the gallery are physical objects that have been inserted into virtual space: frança’s video Thanos futebol mortes e emprego (2020). Online, the video appears to float in a dimly-lit back room. Its vertical orientation belies its original functionality: to be shared among friends and viewed via cell phone. Thanos futebol mortes e emprego is a rhythmic agglomeration of images and clips mostly from across the internet, many of which are also visible subjects in França’s paintings and drawings. Made up of shareable things, the video is likewise meant to be easily shared. But its fascination goes further: it is a video made to be seen at a small scale, on a backlit screen, now presented in the space of a virtual gallery--but still a small scale, backlit screen. Thanos futebol mortes e emprego isn’t necessarily a work that has been translated into virtual space, like the paintings, sculptures, and drawings that make up the rest of the exhibition. Perhaps it is the fate of all online objects: to shuffle around while always recurring right where they belong.
Recursion is one of the structuring logics of the exhibition. Victor Gerhard, one of the first artists in Brazil to work with neon, provides an important precedent for frança’s work. Gerhard’s neon is a light source, visible in the surviving photographs and films of his sculptural assemblages featuring neon lighting and mannequins, eggs, and tinfoil. It also provides the palette for his drawings of fragmented, modern interiors. The neon that emerges as a light object in Gerhard’s art recurs in the tones of color in frança’s paintings. frança’s large canvases emit a putrid glow--vivid greens, pinks, and blues that have the toxic quality of highlighters, too-bright artificial foods, and backlit computer screens. The paintings are also arenas of images and texts found online. Every color, image, and letter has been collected and redeployed. When the paintings reappear in the virtual exhibition, they have somehow come closer to their original inspiration. That same degree of inorganic accumulation might describe the sculptural clothing in the exhibition, originally designed as costumes for theatrical performances. The garments have been overworked in painterly ways, they are canvases for bodies inhabiting an overwhelming mise en scène.
The most recognizable costume in the exhibition, though, is also virtual. In the video Faz tempo quente, não vejo (It’s Hot, I Can’t See), frança wanders the empty spaces of the real Galeria Jaqueline Martins as a crude ghost, a figure covered in a white sheet. The video was recorded through the deserted gallery’s security cameras. Looking closely, one can see that the sheet has been painted onto the artist’s body in post-production, making him a kind of digital animation. He is a figment, an intruder, a virtual possibility. He is a technological rendering, like the ghosts that once populated popular spirit photographs of the 19th century. An apparition.
With recursion, apparition is the other logic driving this exhibition. Demonic characters from Gerhard’s series of collages Drama Carioca (1965) reappear as fresh ghosts in some of França’s own works. Recursion and apparition, after all, are twin logics. That which appears may be a recursion of which we are unaware. This simple possibility affirms the poignancy of the exhibition. Are we looking at new works, or old works that have been injected into virtual space? Are we witnessing the apparition of new techniques, or the recursion of old ones? Are we living through unprecedented times, or reliving histories that have been forgotten? In this exhibition, frança and Gerhard have created a virtual space that reveals what we already know yet find so difficult to admit: both are true.