Pedro Barateiro

Domingo (Sunday) (all works 2008), the title work in Pedro Barateiro’s latest exhibition, encapsulates the artist’s larger project. The installation, laid out like a living room, comprises a video shown on a television set, four replicas of Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s Barcelona chair, and nine black-and-white photographs depicting, among other things, various perspectives of one of Lisbon’s iconic midcentury buildings, the Palácio Nacional da Justiça. Yet Barateiro had scraped away certain areas of the photographic images; and the video footage showed works being installed at the Neue Nationalgalerie for last year’s Berlin Biennale, but in an uncanny presentation resulting from the artist’s manipulation of the footage.

The scene created by Barateiro with this work eerily echoes the characteristics of the gallery that the museum uses for contemporary exhibitions, a two-story pavilion with glass walls surrounded by a park. The connection between private and public space established by the artist echoes the underlying references, of Domingo, namely Mies’s Museum for a Small City, 1941–43, and Le Corbusier’s Museum for Unlimited Growth, 1939. As in the exhibition, these unbuilt edifices proposed the museum as an extension of the house. The same logic also emerges in Barateiro’s Plateia (Orchestra Seats), a work composed of sixteen office chairs standing on a slab of brick and concrete: A site of culture becomes the place of everyday life.

Both architecture and cinema as historical constructs inspire other works. In Esquema para “A Construção da Poesia,” a Partir de um Desenho de Le Corbusier (Schematic for “The Construction of Poetry,” Based on a Drawing by Le Corbusier), light from a slide projector frames a photocopy of a Le Corbusier sketch from 1929, Les techniques sont l’assiette même du lyrisme (Techniques are the very basis of lyricism), in which the architect considers the relationship between materials, technique, and aesthetics. O Cinema Proibido (Ou a Forma de Manipular Memória Através de um Processo de Ausência) (The Forbidden Cinema [Or the Form of Manipulating Memory Through a Process of Absence]) is similar, but in this case Barateiro makes use of a 16-mm film projector that does not play a film but simply lights a structure on which he has engraved a list of movies censored by the conservative Portuguese regime between the 1930s and the ’70s.

The heritage of modernism further manifests itself in another work, Pôr no Sítio (Cómoda de Corredor para Escultura Africana e Outros Objectos) (To Put in Place [Hallway Stand for African Sculpture and Other Objects]). Here Barateiro brings together a fertility goddess from the Nalu people of Guinea-Bissau, part of the holdings of the Museu da Cidade, and two copies of magazines that he has altered. From one, Panorama, he removed the pages and painted the inside cover black, an allusion to the propagandistic nature of that publication, which was published by the Portuguese dictatorship; in the other, L’Oeil, he replaced the pages with multiple articles from other issues of the same publication, including ones that feature the New York Armory Show or the Helena Rubinstein collection. By combining the politics of display with the formation of ideologies such as primitivism, Barateiro examines the grand narrative constituted by modernism, the foundation of his production in general and of this exhibition in particular.

Miguel Amado

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.