EDITION: (Catalogue) Centro Cultural Vila Flor     DATE: January 2018 

The artistic work of Pedro Cabral Santo is difficult to define due to its versatility and to the multiplicity of
resources and processes used by the artists and which confer to its work an unusual aura of freedom and
authenticity, dimensioned in a human scale. By organizing itself on a specific creative disposition, contrary to the
logics of capitalism, Cabral Santo seems to avoid the hasty practices of evaluation, acquisition and selling of art.
While positioning himself outside the economic system of contemporary art, the artist establishes connections
with different sorts of objects and materials which correspond to an irreducibly personal vision; he privileges
emotions and creates the conditions for emotions to thrive within powerfully intimate and humane

The exhibition of Pedro Cabral Santo in the Vila Flor Cultural Centre constitutes a meditation about the function
art and about the artist’s responsibility toward the public.

Nowadays, a kind of identity crisis hovers above art, since the market and the expectancy of business subvert art’s
original meaning. In a consumer society, money is able to buy everything and controls everything that happens in
the world; the more developed and differentiated in techno-scientific terms the communities are, the less willing
they seem to cooperate and to enjoy contemplation. The symbolic, the mysterious, the inaccessible, the obscure
and the unpredicted have lost their revolutionary energy, and societies show worrisome symptoms of
trivialization, vulgarity, exhaustion and saturation of the artistic manifestations…

Art should be impermeable to economic and technological fluctuations; however, the various crisis, associated to
the insecurity and uncertainty of the markets, interfere, distort and eventually destroy the creative ecosystem in
which art is capable of evolving. The recent effects of lack of confidence are the consequence of the stock markets’
deregulation; submitted to the artificialism and the uncertainty of the financial activity, which force us to
reconfigure the logics of power, and exposed to climate changes, art attracts investors and business men who are,
by definition, uninterested in the interior dimension of art; these people act as if they were mere factors of
influence and have the power of changing the coordinates and the parameters of art’s circulation and critical

In such circumstances, Cabral Santo’s ethical positioning assumes major relevance. Firstly, his artistic practice is
achieved by means of unusual honesty and integrity. Secondly, in a time when artists are perceived both as
targets as well as references understood by buyers/consumers, Cabral Santo interacts autonomously and
independently with the art system, exploring the complexities and the dilemmas of the author in its relation with
the markets.

The markets were supposed to respect the existential space of the artists, allowing them to preserve their
independence. However, the timelines and the agenda of the economic agents, who are mainly interest in
stimulating a search for the new, frame the contemporary author within a compressed space-time matrix where
conscious silence is impossible. Knowledge, dedication, talent, courage and humbleness, concentrated in an
imaginative and creative ability, are incapable of freeing the artists from the hostile arena of the media, where
facts, non-events, exquisite informations, sensationalism, erroneous explanations, absurd opinions, gratuitous
points of view, faits divers and artificially fabricated news coexist and prevail. Everything is too noisy, and most
of the information is devoid of any content, even if it is widely propagated through the digital communication
channels. In a society of free information, the social, political, economic and cultural discourses only add
confusion, distortions, biased evaluations, uninteresting and repetitive critics, which reproduce a perception of
art based on pragmatism and on the division between light culture and business agitation.

Pedro Cabral Santo’s work refuses to obey the markets’ logics and to submit to the necessity of justifying and
distinguishing himself from other artists. Facts and arguments are two sides of the same coin; the art market,
eager to persuade the consumer, is contaminated by irregular criteria of evaluation.

Thus, in this strange era of proliferating discourses, Cabral Santo’s work wanders silently through the system’s
interstices, followed by a highly personal imaginary which functions as a parallel circuit of information. Without
ever announcing himself as alternative, autonomous or independent, the artist chooses to work anonymously,
counterbalancing ostensible public relation schemes full of evaluating narratives and built upon redundant

The contemporary critical discourses are characterized by an excess of information and words, multiform
narratives with the objective of judging the artistic work. Cabral Santo withdraws himself from those
overexposed places and chooses silence instead. Therefore, he refuses to compromise, avoiding explanations,
depictions, allusions, metaphors, allegories - in short, avoiding the necessity of defending his work. His speech is
articulated through fragile, disperse and sensible imaginary constructions inscribed in his sculptures.

There is no such thing as a guarantee of the artist’s authenticity; what is affirmed is the preparatory message of
the art’s competitive race; what makes the difference in the markets’ game is apologetic discourses, defined by
complex mechanisms of evaluative quantification that nobody understands.

In this zero sum system, the successful artist is the artist who sells; his success renders everything irrelevant and
devalues everything that is not immediately convertible in money. Everything that is important is relegated to a
secondary level; the dignity of a work well done; the charm of the artist’s skills; the wisdom and the knowledge
that are the natural consequence of handcraft intelligence; the spontaneity of a non-pre-programmed work,
because there are no mandatory rules in art.

The term “economy”, having absorbed fashion and art, interferes with every human activities; etymologically,
economy means everything that is outside politics; nowadays,politics is so implicated in economy that one could
say that politics has disappeared from economy. Economy holds a status of impunity and domain in a profoundly
impersonal context. The global citizen is an inveterate and cosmopolitan consumer, and uses the creative factors
of art in order to reinforce, extend and render explicit its power.

Everything that requires years of effort, persistence, courage, transcendence and resistance toward difficult
obstacles, is reduced to a merely numeric value which function as a stimulus to consumerism. The knowledge
based on a slowly-learned manual practice supported on natural skills is replaced by cynicism and the anxiety
resulting from the need to make profit.  Artist were transformed in mere pawns at the service of the system,
constantly under the pressure of countless demands. Frequently, success is just a matter of being on the right
place at the right time. The system forces artist to produce to the rhythm of information, and that requires speed.

The learning of a craft, which in the old days was considered important and a groundwork of legitimation and
moral authority, is now completely irrelevant. Nobody is motivated to expose the simple joy of practicing a slowly
acquired practice. There is no time to experiment, to transmit knowledge, to take risks, to fail. The dedication to
the artisan’s craft, sometimes perilous and insecure but which granted the artisan’s survival, is negotiated and
determined by economic agendas.

In the point of view of the market, the velocity of pleasant sensations is only relevant because those sensations are
exteriorized in a positive dimension; we must response quickly and positively in order to highlight its pragmatic
and utilitarian content; institutional recognition, at the service of competition, is part of a struggle for success; in
a small market such as the Portuguese, few artists survive; the ones who do, force all the others to retreat to the
fringes of the system, joining an army of candidates to the position of power, substitutes ready to get into action.

The evaluation of the work of art is structured according to the dimension of search, which in itself subverts the
basic principles of a work - an ethic that, according to Bauman, is the equivalent to ”hard and constant labour,
considered to be the secret of a meritorious and merciful life, and one of the fundamental rules of any social
order”. When the positive valuation is based upon volatile, pragmatic, materialistic, cynic and measurable
declarations in favour of any given work, the ethical grounds of that same evaluation are distorted.

Nowadays, art is perceived as a price and not as a product of labour; when the price is high, it becomes a
sensationalist and spectacular object. The value is the basis of the hierarchy and a strategy of affirmation of
power, both of the artist as well as of the buyer; by becoming an unusual fact, it feeds the media’s superficiality;
its value works as a guarantee of exclusivity and added value. If the artist is famous, he makes profit and his fame
increases, and he is then transfigured into a star; at that moment, artists become part of a global media circus in
which art is absorbed as a product and as a way of satisfying the need to acquire unique, and therefore valuable,
objects. The distinction between useful and worthless objects determines the conditions of its existence: the ones
who have more purchasing power buy the most expensive works, and that is what makes them special. The things
that in the past were the elements of respect for the artists and their patrons were replaced by ephemeral
moments of public glorification: institutional recognition of careers and collections, anthological or retrospective
celebrations, manifestations of self-esteem taking place within an intricate web of mundane and ordinary events,
parties and rites of intensive socialization.

Pedro Cabral Santo’s work is based on the simplicity of materials and processes, which are, in many cases,
perishable; he refuses a system that is almost completely focused on art’s life expectancy, preferring to remain
indifferent and to pursue a solitary path. He reaffirms his belief in the possibility of achieving a moderate
“subjective happiness” that is dependant of non-negotiable values. Therefore, his work is not submitted to
evaluations and quantifications or, in other words, impossible of being traded from a consumerist perspective.

The people of deal with contemporary art put themselves at risk of facing some difficult and contradictory
moments; it is hard to be on the margins of the system while at the same time wanting to be part of it. Art’s
commodification is followed by an highly intrusive process, with the objective of controlling the artistic creation
through relations of dependence and mutual compromise; artists often subjugate to these conditions in order to
survive; such an attitude represents a functional condition of existence, and only the most self-conscious artists
are capable of understanding that, in fact, they do not have the power of choice; it is difficult to escape the
markets’ pressure without effectively rejecting it; the ones who want to survive with a minimum of independence
will be forced to partially deny their interventionist intents. When artists are submit to the markets’ coercive
strategies, they accept to live in an eternal present, a constantly updated time-regime always asking for more. The
environment is ruthless and unpredictable: now an artist is praised and promoted, the next day he is disqualified;
now the system is authoritarian, the next day it is subtle and neglectful. The system is based on a game of
ascension and fall, competition, quick decisions, lack of time and space to critical thinking. The ones unable to
question its values and standardized assumptions have no alternative but to disappear; on the other hand, to go
with the flow of formulaic artistic behaviours, considered to be the “right” ones, is also devoid of any fertile
future. To cope with the inevitability of consummate facts and with the model that was euphemistically imposed
upon language, with its excessive tendency to divide and compartmentalize, will have no relevant effect on the
artists’ lives. Giving up will always mean submission to the positivity of facts towards the lack of rigour of the

The art of Pedro Cabral Santo may be perceived as a gift, something which offers itself unrestrictedly to the
world; it expresses the hope for change and a search for a better world where, according to the modernist project,
art would be considered one of the most important dimensions of life. The modernists believed in the notion of
culture as vehicle of freedom, autonomy, independence and critical thinking. This kind of art, in the sense of a
genuine gift, requires sacrifices, both of the people who donate it as well as of the ones who receive it; the
awareness of that sacrifice is revealed long after, through a diffuse feeling of pleasure and peacefulness; such
appeasement presupposes contemplation and contains a moment of distance in which, by looking back and
forward, we catch a glimpse of a solid and coherent path. After overcoming all the obstacles, we feel secure
because we become aware of our journey through time; creative experiences require time, space, effort and
sacrifice; if something is easy, it is simply worthless, in the sense that it does not imply refusing predictable
choices; commercial art is devoid of attrition, roughness, negativity, friction, therefore being unable to cause
discomfort… Without its negative content, art becomes a simple form of alienation that easily degenerates into
something artificial and dishonest.

In our era, when it is the overtly erratic and unpredictable markets who make the rules, it seems advisable to
make an effort to understand art, instead of just talking about it. Things are not quite what they seem to be; to
meditate on the work of Pedro Cabral Santo requires adopting a different point of view. Let us imagine a cube, a
well-known geometric figure; when we look at it, we discover that it is impossible to see more than three of its
facets at the same time, although the figure is composed of six facets. Therefore, we may extract the following
conclusion: there is no such thing as omniscience or absolute knowledge. In this sense, art must be perceived and
interpreted beyond the obvious, and each observer may add his own ideas and counter-ideas to it. When we take
this experience to the level of human reality, we become aware of the fact that presence presupposes absence,
and that immanence presupposes transcendence. While being observed, the artistic object exposes something
which has been extracted from it and is transformed by observation. The understanding and the scope of the
hidden dimension of the work is always differed; only then we realize that the visible world is supported and
complemented by the invisible world, and that the invisible in nothing more than a way of discovering and
reformulating the visible.

The use of ordinary images is the best example of the ethical and ironic distancing of the artist toward the
technological power and the invisibility of the markets; the decoding of Cabral Santo’s work functions on many
levels, according to the materials and its associations, and only this form of understanding allows us to discern
the juxtapositions present in an heterogeneous, experimental, joyful and simple work, which are not always
detectable at first sight. Refusing easy or pleasant solutions, the artist creates, with almost scientific precision,
ironic and idiosyncratic visions of a world submitted to a global techno-scientific government. Cabral Santo
rejects a normative perspective of art and, using his personal freedom, he makes an apology of the spirit of the
artisan, perceived as an inalienable right to experiment without concessions. His work manifests a subtle refusal
by means of courageous approaches to a cultural context that privileges compromises and relations of

Why is it so difficult to detect the artisan’s spirit in contemporary landscape? How can we resist in such a hostile
environment? Within a modernity devoid of territory or project, ideas ceased to appear as imaginative
constructions proposing alternative models of society; what we see around us are merely traces of failure. The
politics that divided the world in compartmentalized blocks gave birth, despite its frailties, to a totally coherent
and intelligible image. With globalization and the emergence of virtual realities, the world was shattered in
infinite particles, and mankind created a hyper-productive system focused on consumerism, where humans are
nothing more than constantly in motion dissatisfied and avid consumers. What in the past was perceived as a
whole and single entity, is now disperse; nothing in this fractioned society is susceptible of refraining the
compulsive need of acquisition of commodities. Markets promote consumerism within a field dominated by
shattered forces and stimulated by volatile interests; individuals are facing a dialectical void that is not fully
satisfying - people are always eager for more. Gathered in shapeless crowds or organized in marginalized ghettos,
people live in between crises of growth or recession. Under such unstable circumstances,and in a time when
events seem increasingly hard to predict and control, art preserves, in a sense, some stability. Concepts such as
civilization, development, convergence, balance and consensus, key-notions of modern thought, have lost their
fundamental sense, and modern individuals lack the hope and the objectives in order to seek for a better world.
Toward such a change of paradigm, art is a stable economic zone. Despite the markets’ randomness, art still
preserves an ethical and moral value, as well as a monetary value: morality and ethics are a consequence of art’s
disagreement with the utilitarian nature of commodities. The new economic order has managed to connect
culture with economy, and imposed economic rules to art; the dispersion of interests and the games of power
focus their attention on the acquisition phenomena, perceived as an egocentric process of personal affirmation;
the accumulation and the exhibition of wealth are mere “effects” representative of a new global elite composed of
a few millionaires who control the majority of the world’s economy; art was always used as a sign of social,
economic, political or cultural status, and with globalization that became even more explicit. The markets’
distortions and volatility, associated to the proliferation of the digital network, compelled democratic societiesto
abandon the responsibility of defending the most talented artists and the real entrepreneurs, because profit is the
most important objective; therefore, insecurity, uncertainty, randomness and ephemerality, alongside with the
possibility of intensive circulation throughout the world, are the factors that promote business; our choice for
what is precarious, for economic liberalism, for privatization and for dismissal of the state’s socio-cultural
function, discourages those who think for themselves and act in favour of others. In that sense, the world is run
by anonymous and unpredictable forces operating in a no-man’s land, devoid of intelligible or objectives. Within
the “automated and robotic jungle” of virtual reality is formed an impersonal and ignorant field of relations at
the service of the dominating powers. The world is then transformed into a pre-domesticated version of nature,
the same nature that in the past the modernists were trying to dominate; in such a cognitive context, crisis and
social experiences occur in an almost laboratorial environment; reality ceased to produce knowledge.

People are alone with their weaknesses, constantly exposed to feelings of impotency and withdrawal, because the
entities of power are no longer capable of defining stable and constant rules; contingency and exception were
transformed in contradiction and routine; towards such a autotelic model of cultural and social disintegration,
the spirit of the artisan was replaced by that of the specialist and producer of statistics.

Nobody is no longer interested in learning and acquiring knowledge, because everybody is always busy with their
countless tasks and obligations; the majority of people is confined to a territory from which they cannot escape;
the space and time compression which characterizes globalization exempts deep connections between
individuals, since nothing lasts too long. Insecurity discourages people to find their own freedom, a freedom
which, being built upon the recognition of the Other, suffers the consequences of a world full of poor people with
no rights.

Imagination, which was historically a crucial stimulus at the service of art, is assaulted by an avalanche of small
nothings; events, minor facts and daily occurrences proliferate; entertainment and television are a way of
relaxing and escaping the world, even if for just a few moments of exhausting, depressing and claustrophobic
immobility. To be able of finding an independent and non-commercial way out of a world devoid of tangible
territory and made of gated communities, which separate “adapted” people from those who are excluded by
society, is increasingly harder; the notions of space and time differ according to people’s social status; the one
outside the gates are allowed to circulate unrestrictedly, the ones inside are confined to a walled territory. The
new cosmopolitan elites move freely around the world, while the others, the poorest, are stuck in ghettos and
suburbs. To resist means to criticize alienation, manipulation, limitation, confinement and isolation.

Every act has a consequence, and when we go against the flow of events, the pain is almost unbearable. To be
authentic means to be transparent; the artist must refuse exposing himself to the power of media, the promoters
of obedience; only then will art be capable of surviving and defending truth against the lies, smoke curtains, fog
and opacity of the tabloids. The relation between art and the public is disturbed by media strategies, with the
intention of deflecting the observer’s focus of attention.

Art was reconfigured, first by the massification of the cultural industries and, later, by the dispersion of global
discourses. People, no matter how well-intentioned they are, find it hard to discover new ways of acquiring
independent and creative knowledge; the most difficult task is to ignore the influence of fashion and of economy.
The unconscious denial of the interests at stake and of indifference does not necessarily mean resistance, because
the artistic object was distorted by an excess of information that has the effect of transforming it into an ordinary
and utilitarian commodity; the digital networks neutralize the effects of revelation, exemption, curiosity and
commitment. The people who lose the critical ability to argue against the environment’s impositions, artificial
connection, games of power and social dependency, tend to disconnect themselves from the world and, finally, to
give up; the system creates uniform and homogeneous patterns, and distorts, precludes and destroys creativity;
the few people who have interior strength to follow their intuitions and to deal with the infinite possibilities of
creation have a tendency to develop natural antidotes against fear and corruption.

The art of Pedro Cabral Santo allows the observer the access to a disquiet and peculiar spirit in conflict with
himself and the world, committed to an expeditionary, sensible and inquisitive research about his own intimate
and in-depth experiences. His work reasserts the importance of trying to make sense within a process of self-
discovery which privileges personal qualities and refuses the limits imposed upon free-will by an increasingly
monothematic world.