João Penalva

IMMA - Irish Museum of Modern Art

According to a wall text prefacing Portuguese-born, London-based installation- and video-maker João Penalva’s ten-year survey exhibition, his work reflects on “the way culture is. . . mediated.” It’s an odd formulation, since in Penalva’s work mediation itself is posited as the site of culture. Yet nothing could be further from rote deconstructionist variations on “the play of signifiers” or “the copy without an original.” Mutating narratives pervade Penalva’s works but they’re taken as a given, not a cause for amazement, and manipulated to elegant and often very moving effect.

That noted, Penalva’s tales are quite often sanctioned by the device of the fascinated quest for the nonexistent true form of a fable or recollection. Take, for instance, 336 PEK (336 Rivers), 1999. This consists of a single, hour-long video shot of a park with trees, grassy lawns, and paths crisscrossed by walkers

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