A common element in Alexandre Estrela’s exhibition history is that the titles are not what they seem. Acordado, one of the words in the title, has a twofold meaning, as the Portuguese know. It means both to be awake and something agreed upon, so the title can be understood as a month awake or a one month agreement. But why do these two ideas come together in Portuguese: is awakening itself an agreement with reality? Is sleep a breach of contract with the real?
Um Mês Acordado uncovers the cognitive capacities of the insomniac viewer, interrogates the perception of reality and, in a way, reflects the gaze of someone permanently trapped in a state of wakefulness. The exhibition tells the stories of an insomniac, through simple experimental film techniques, which set perceptual traps that trigger entoptic lights and undesirable tinnitus, in short, an hallucinatory outer-body experience close to the so-called prisoner’s cinema.
The exhibition is anchored in two fundamental ideas: that chronic restless nights can bring clairvoyance and that there is a universal score embedded in most contemporary music. It was proven that those individuals deprived of the comforts of sleep, in their reverie, are some of the select few who crack the cross-cutting secret narratives between the pieces featured in the exhibition. Hence, as in the first iteration of this behaviourist experiment at INDIPENDENZA, Rome, it has been agreed that Zé dos Bois will remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a month, presenting insomniac art pieces to a restless public. Images and sounds that will haunt the viewer to the point where illusions become concrete.
Um Mês Acordado, 2018
Video projection on prepared aluminium screen
Video: 4:3 HD MOV, colour, one month, stereo sound
Screen: 4cm casted aluminum screen/sculpture, 37.5 × 48.5 cm
Já não dormia, passava 24 horas acordado e estava assim, tipo há um mês, que não dormia. [I didn’t sleep anymore, I was 24 hours awake, for… like a month, that I didn’t sleep]
Um Mês Acordado is a video installation that was conceived whilst imparting a practical account of how experimental films were made: simultaneously projecting and recording a still image through a rotating plexiglass. During the event a chronic insomniac made some remarks on the similarities between the images created and the hallucinations he experienced when he was unable to sleep for a month. Later, an aluminium screen was moulded and casted, shaped after the video. All in all, the installation simulates what might have been an entoptic experience with phosphenes: inner vivid lights that occur in the eye’s cortex when there is no external input for a long period of time.
Universal Score, 2019
Video projection on prepared screen
Video: 4:3 HD MOV, colour, endless duration, stereo sound
Screen: Plaster, Wood 30 × 40 cm
Sound: programmed by Borja Caro Montes
The starting point of Universal Score is the theory that there might be a fundamental structure behind contemporary music done in the sixties and seventies. This pattern was explored by drawing lines that could be read as a universal music score. The image of a drawing pasted on top of an illustration of a woodpress printing plate found in an old book, is the unit of a flicker video that is projected over a screen shaped as the printing plate itself. The soundtrack is composed of a selection of themes from accomplished contemporary musicians, forced to go under a staccato effect. The tempo of the music vibrato and the flickering of the image is different, yet the brain’s need of synchronicity deceives us into thinking both are in unison.
Van Allen Belt, 2019
Video projection on prepared metal screen
Video: 4:3 HD MOV (PAL), colour, endless loop, silent
Screen: aluminium , 30 × 40 × 1 cm
The Van Allen belt is a barrier with a lethal level of radiation that prevents any living creature from leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. In this video installation, two images of a rising Sun flicker on opposite corners of a metal screen. The light of the projection-beam travels through the metal barrier through randomly located perforations.