AUTHOR: IVO MARTINS
EDITION: (Catalogue) Fundação de Serralves/ Centro Cultural Vila Flor DATE: September 2006
Rather than measuring the independence of the acts or informalities of various conflicting interests, it is more
advantageous to try to understand some of the characteristics that a venue - e.g. a café’s games room with a
strong public component - was capable of assuming as an exhibition venue and, at the same time, understand
some of its effects in the context in which it developed its activity.
We all know how difficult it is to conciliate expectations in relation to chosen strategies. Few people share a
common perspective in any micro-community, as a result of which any relations that are achieved, in a minimal
area of artistic activity, tend to resemble friendships rather than broad concurrent visions. The value of random
occurrences, as the consequence of exhibitions held, in contrast to attempts to explain them, reveal specific
moments from an experience forged by a rupture between instituted habits and the target aimed to be overcome.
From the outset this situation has incalculable conclusions, constituting necessary situations that foster the
acquisition of history.
The Olympic Salon presents a rationale for survival underpinned by the apparent marginal status of the works
exhibited there, intertwined with the precarious context in which they survive. Moving in a terrain formed by
uncertainties and opportunities that have been won and lost, and which have determined many of its most visible
results as a collective, the Olympic Salon has succeeded in fostering a firm and unconditioned state of becoming,
that is resolved via an enigma, covering both the decision to produce art and the responsibility to exhibit it. This
specific moment in time facilitated the implementation of projects that went far beyond that which at the outset
might have been expected, thus arousing a wide array of interpretations and speculation.
It is sometimes preferable to adopt a somewhat naïve view of life, even when this proves to be incomplete, rather
than lock ourselves into our own conversations and our capacity to think about observations of surprise-effects,
whose importance is almost always relativised by anyone who has never accepted other ways of seeing, or who
does not admit any principles other than absolute principles. The strategy, according to Derrida, contains an
implicit commitment - “a certain manner of trusting a state of not-knowing and the incalculable: one makes
calculations because the incalculable also exists, one calculates wherever one doesn’t know, when one is unable
to foresee”, “the strategic commitment always consists in taking a decision, or yet more paradoxically, in
surrendering to a decision, in taking decisions that cannot be completely justified”, “there is a strategic
commitment because the context cannot be fully determined: it exists, but it cannot be analysed exhaustively, it
is open because it anticipates other matters, because there is yet more to come.” (1)
Creative acts derive from human efforts - and partly constitute an affirmation, and partly an identification. They
are always accompanied by an ephemeral idea of freedom; an attainable state, in a general stability of
recognition and safety that we all aim to achieve.
We can attempt to investigate indirect commitments and detect more or less tacit agreements with institutions or
people. We can attempt to find equilibriums that are revealed or altered via different states of humour, jealousies
or opportunities, but aspects related to this type of situation of agreement, disperses our attention regarding the
immediate and direct impact of the quality of the works. Art cannot be evaluated on the basis of public realities,
relations and influences, which will only be discovered in some of their least significant acts, making art
absolutely incapable of expressing the importance of implementation manoeuvres.
Within the context of the various connections that may be established under the framework of the Olympic
Salon, there is nothing like daring, performing and testing the pertinence of strategies that one already knew
existed: the influences of the framework in which they are found in a permanent state of mutation. In the
condition of survival in which the nucleus of interests gyrates alongside a wide array of financial goals, it is highly
complicated to depend upon relationships determined by power and money - which are very hard to avoid if one
aims to guarantee general quality of life and which tend to cause greater harm than help. Each process of action
generates a certain uniform coherence, and a specific heterogeneous disconformity. There are discordant zones
of acceptability and places of concordant renunciation. The isolation of the smallest conformity within the
framework of majority and minority forces, in order to be able to survive at the margin of the mainstream,
requires one to learn how to break free from interests and work around the most obvious stimuli of everything
that we already know. Well-informed and capable observers are those who succeed in attaining a direct vision of
the work, i.e., when they definitively abandon the explanations that are structured by emphasising the most
predictable gestures. Perhaps the Olympic Salon pursued some of these trajectories, that may be considered to be
of accessory significance by some people, thus distancing them from a careful attention of the Olympic Salon’s
One day, a counter-current will end up by dictating the canons, as if determining domestic reception of the status
quo as being primarily correct. The idea of “non-pertaining”, as identified by Derrida, suggests a relationship
“with the other, wherein I neither say “yes” nor “no”, I simply say «I want to have the freedom to go beyond,
without having to rebel, to revolt or refuse, and simply not have to respond, identifying statements that neither
affirm “yes” nor “no”, a “nes” that is neither a “yes” nor a “no”, that is not simply a double negation or a
dialectic»”; “«I don’t belong to the family» generally means: «I don’t define myself on the basis of the fact that I
pertain to the family», to civil society, to the State. I don’t define myself via elementary forms of consanguinity.
But it also means, in a more figured manner, that I don’t form part of a group, that I don’t recognise myself as
forming part of any linguistic community or national community, or any party, group or parish, regardless of
whether it constitutes a philosophical or literary school.” (2) Exploration of room for manoeuvre on the basis of
this concept, may legitimate the attributes of the Olympic Salon, and reaffirm everything that has been
constructed on the foundation of “non-pertaining”, as a form of resistance to the system
This goal of being “apparently against” mobilises and diverts our gaze in relation to the noises, words and
discourses that are multiplied and reorganised via propaganda and patronage. The spectacle of the market is
replaced by the renitent publicity of the powerful man - a new state of exacerbation of consumption, based on the
ostentatious exhibition of possessions, structured in an amalgam of propagandistic initiatives, that annul the
truth and natural meaning of works. Silence is assumed as one of the most effective methods in order to control
this formidable noise, this incessant flow of words/news, sustained by the productive cycles of urban and
industrial civilisation, that subsists in all parts of the system of bourgeois values, in decisive exponential growth,
and that results from insignificant facts that compete, on an overlapping basis, with all its events.
Silences invoke instants of the ineffable. They are a small luxury of our disorientated sensibility, which require
the greatest degree of dedication in order to be able to attain comprehensive tidings therein. If there is any idea of
art that may be transmitted via an attitude of distance - in the place where the artist is entitled to exist before the
information overload recreated by the media every day - the value of intimacy will touch us as a whole in relation
to that which is not seen in any part of the withdrawn space.
The public that has been uniformised by official and mass taste is a hunting prey. While some people justify their
criticism and attempt to impose self-saving rationalisation without continuity, the words that delude and deviate
our societies from values and imagination, prevail. In the place where everyone else continues to proliferate, the
heroes, who are protected in order to ensure that they will never subvert anything, dedicate themselves to tasks in
order to become acceptable, which is unbearable. We should prepare for the glorification of a state where
everyone who wants to, and makes the effort, can win, and may continue to kill time with distractions, instead of
extracting the greatest advantages from their time, or apply time to their own use, in order that all the narrations
recounted herein are not visited more quickly than the exhibitions which they concern.
A libertine sentiment encourages us to ignore discourses with which people represent themselves, increasingly
larger and flatter, within the miniscule contemporary art system, verging dangerously close to recreational and
popular populism. “A transgression should always be aware of that which it is transgressing, thus rendering the
transgression always impure, and preventively binding it to that which is transgressed.” (3)
(1) Jacques Derrida, Maurizio Ferraris, O Gosto do Segredo, Fim de Século, Lisboa, 2006, p. 28.
(2) Ibid, pp. 43-44.
(3) Ibid, p. 62.
TRANSLATION: MARTIN DALE