EDITION: (Catalogue) Centro Cultural Vila Flor     DATE: September 2010 

After all the video/cinematographic works in this exhibition have been seen, one may ask what is, in abstract
terms, the best approach for one to draw up a critical essay upon the art in the hypercultural world in which we
live. These films project a sort of revenge against everything that has modified the weight and significance of art,
suggesting a great many responses to this questioning. We still do not know exactly what the sequence of events
was: whether it was the many confrontations within the field of art, which is increasingly given greater value and
turned into a fundamental part of the market, that led to the extraordinary development of its economic aspect
or whether, on the contrary, it was, due to it being more and more politicized, that it voluntarily joined the
established mercantile order, becoming a nuclear element in a veritable transnational cultural economy.
However, the solution to this doubt turns out to be inconsequential, given that the factors in the setup are not
organized chronologically, and because capitalism has always been able to neutralise the symbolic frontiers that
provide hierarchies between high and low cultures, art and commerce, the spirit and enjoyment.

Gabriel Abrantes’ works appear at a moment when we may feel tempted to acritically accept non-conformist
discourse as being worn out and out of step, absorbed by the governing logics of the system in exact proportion to
its radical nature. Abrantes’ discourse possesses enormous mobility and disengagement on all levels, forming an
incessant attempt to seek identity among particularities and shows a demand, almost an urgency, to survive in a
global world that has necessarily and with neither defined nor constant direction altered the relationships
between culture and politics. The disorientation one feels when faced with the dizzying speed of the changes in
the world places us before a threat of the collapse of our defining references. Given that it is not impermeable to
these phenomena, art stops having a subordinate role in regard to the social relationships of production and
consumption. There is a strong politicization of the economy and a minimum degree of commitment in its
relationships with the State. Today, thanks to the pressures provoked by the increase of particularist claims, as
well as by the Dynamics associated to individualism, culture has become a central cause of conflict and a new
factor of division. The affronts can be seen not only in the cultural and economic spheres, confirming an
extensive mechanism of social fragmentation accompanied by the imperative to acknowledge diversity in the
public space and by problematic as to collective morality. The affirmation of the identity rights of minorities, new
types of sociability, new civilisational discontent, destructuring of personalities, fragilisation and intrapsychic
conflicts are drawing out new fractures and making new points of thermodynamic tension that go far beyond the
religious and have to do with the cultural domain as a whole, although they are characterized by the intrinsically
partial and fragmentary nature of their creations, thus hindering a comprehensive world view of the
contemporary condition.

In a period defined by the absence of counter-models - all the models are parallel and not competitive - the
question appears as to how one can produce a critique of the constant redefining, restructuring and invasions by
the logic of contesting and competing that determines the obtaining of results and which has been imposed as the
exclusive standard for our social universe. According to the romantic ideal, artists were admired because of their
talents and capacity for making, being considered to be the opposite of any established regime. Now they are seen
as individuals who do not have any reservations about their activities being included in the ruling economic
The images contained in Gabriel Abrantes’ videos condense a clash between the banal nature of the discourse and
the gravity of the gesture and of behaviour - reflections of a desire for ascending and transcending, betrayed at
the end by a failure of principles and morality. Anyone who observes them becomes part of a game of apologetic
representations of redemption, coming close to a sacred and subliminal idealisation of what is to come in art,
reinitiating a search for values and learning that reality seems to wish to deny. One senses an announced
catastrophe - an imminent event, a beginning/end that will lead people to feel close to a moment that is
impossible to control in its future consequences.

The dialogues support and guide the characters who, not definitively belonging to the place in which they are,
appear as stripped of meaning, and the words do not individually compromise the person who utters them. Each
character makes use of a universal text, thus surviving within a situation of imminent disaster. For this reason the
word takes on a prophetic and sacred charge in its significations - as if, through the development of the
particular, any creation could achieve a universalist dimension.

The happiness that everyone aims at supposes a wonderful trust in Man’s perfection, in his eagerness to free
himself from the eternal repetition of unhappiness, in his quest for a new, better world. This state of apparent
hope is based on a dual rejection of salvation and of the sublime, and chooses an idea of happiness - we prefer to
be happy to being sublime or saved. In the arguments used there is a semantic imponderability resulting from the
fragmentation and superimposition of the discourses into loose, ambivalent parts, expressed in a calculated
structure of foreseeing and anticipating the disaster thought of as the other tumultuous and almost sacrificial
side of progress. We detect these movements of detachment and of the triumph of comfort in the transfiguration
of the narratives, in a body transformed into our faithful receptacle on earth, which needs to be treated, wrapped
up and looked after when its salvation forces submission to the divine, to its scorn and to oblivion. Bodily pains
are not consolations for the beyond, but rather a condition in the improving of the world. The idea of progress
overcomes eternity, and the future cannot be the ultimate refuge of hope - the era of reconciliation among men.
Since the Renaissance the way we perceive existence has changed, and despite material and technical
development the world continues to not have a place - a fertile garden in which we may feel a kindly gaze and
allow the rehabilitation of instinct as a conquest of the pleasant. In losing the objective relationship of the point
from which they started, the characters and those observed appear crude and clean, and the setting seem to be
proposals in which just action will always be associated to pleasure and unjust action to suffering. The actors,
who come from all over the planet, are images with no theatrical preparation in an instant time and space, full of
events and historical references, which leads us to wonder about the global encounter or lack of encounter in
which all the present stories take place. This ambiguity results in the sensation that we find ourselves in an open
or closed space, without our being subjected to concerns and rationalisations about our socio- geographical
relationship and in confrontation with our cultural origins and roots. The landscapes are an important link to a
geography about to be contaminated by a consumer and stateless desire that stands out in the degraded forms of
construction, alien to the work of Man. The set of actions that make up these works points towards a persistent
and unsolvable discrepancy, shown in the most unusual of our acts and in the insidious strength of peripheral
poverty. We are going through a time of existential impotence, imprisoned in an overpopulated territory and
subjected to the impossibility of escaping from the happiness of well-being without choice determined by an
overpowering and runaway capitalist system based on development and progress. Thus one makes a cinema that
reveals a world in extinction/ alteration, about which one glimpses at a ritualistic human life in the preparation
of a final and founding event that for this very reason will always be a tragic/sacred moment.

This exhibition by Gabriel Abrantes ends a cycle of five years of activity in the field of contemporary art at the
Vila Flor Cultural Centre. In choosing this artist we wished to emphasise artistic creativity through the
presentation of supports possessing a high degree of non-material nature, such as video, accompanied by studies
and plans of the works exhibited. This aim may be considered to be the culmination of a course, which was from
the outset concerned about diversifying the approaches to and contexts of creation. In considering the strong
representative charge inherent to the idea of the end of a cycle, out of which several different interpretations may
emerge; it was also our intention to show the work of an artist who is precisely in a counter-cycle due to the fact
that he is at the beginning of his career. His work is largely defined by primordial pulsating and energy in which
we clearly acknowledge an initiatory character and a will to present himself to the world - a stance with which we
can identify and which, despite the symbolism of the date, we do not wish to end here.