Mente-me (Lie to Me)
Until March 19 it will be on display at Filomena Soares Gallery the exhibition entitled “Mente-me” (Lie To Me) by artist Vasco Araújo that includes new works of sculpture, video and photography. The show once again demonstrates the artist’s mastery of a wide range of languages and media which he uses to artistically convey an idea most often by linking images to literary texts and anonymous correspondence.
“Mente-me” (Lie To Me) features tragic narratives and references to love and loss to allegorically represent lying and the dichotomy between the real and the unreal. He attempts to deceive and coax his spectators into believing what they are seeing or – in the end – what they do not see.
Lying is immoral and by broaching this theme Vasco Araújo is again dealing with a topic that cuts across his whole body of work: the human condition. Lying is the outcome of social pressure, since society espouses customs and conventions that are incompatible with the human condition. People lie because they cannot stand the unbearable, unrelenting conflict generated when their desires clash with realty’s frustrations. So they lie to stave off the disillusionment.
The main gallery features a set of works with fictional events experienced and recounted by people who openly share their dreams, impulses and fears.
In “Amneris” a woman claims to have been the best Amneris in Moscavide, with a voice so powerful that not even the best international opera singers – with roles such as Aida under their belts – could equal her. “I even had a neighbor who said her chandeliers shook every time I sang,” she asserts. The work harks back to “La Stupenda” (2001) and we find ourselves conjecturing whether the woman is an erstwhile diva reminiscing about her past triumphs or a misguided nobody living in a dream world. In any case, the sadness and displeasure she displays toward her hapless condition are undeniable.
“Maria Helena” tells the story of unrequited love a man feels toward a woman he sees every day in an outdoor garden café. He doesn’t know the woman he sincerely believes he loves; they have never spoken. But he is firm in the belief that the love he feels is preordained. In his imagination he seeks to fulfill his love and the solution to his life by living a lie. “I know what I want and who I am, a creation of my own will,” he tells us. “And now I am embarking on something that, since I first saw her, I could only accomplish in dreams. I am finally making it come true and – every single minute – I possess what I have always longed to have – Maria Helena!”
In “O meu criado” (“My Servant”) and “Dos Sapatos” (“On Shoes”) we meet a woman and a man who have both offset the shortcomings that torment them: the man by placing his trust in a servant, and the woman by pinning her expectations on a collection of high-heeled shoes. Thus, they both achieve their hearts’ desires: the old man believes he has regained his lost youth through the servant while the short-statured woman has gained a few more inches of self-esteem through her collection of footwear.
“Homem com duas cabeças” (“The Man with Two Heads”) figuratively embodies the inner conflict brought about by the truth-sublimation/ lie-fiction duality that all people harbor. The desire and supposed need to lie are both overshadowed by the conscience, another “Me” that disapproves and is the voice of reason reminding us that truth is a virtue: “Every time the sterility of my conversation would force me to embellish with innocent fictions, I was reminded that I had behaved badly”.
The idea of duality and the existence of two necessary but opposed principles are also found in “Uníssono” (“Unison”) which shows us two men at odds with each other who happen to share the same body.
“Catástrofe” (”Catastrophe”) and “Sem Qualidades” (“Without Qualities”) take us to places of existential refuge and the desire to escape reality while “Telefonemas” (“Phone Calls”) includes a set of photographs and unconnected, indecipherable dialogues between people who are alone and are living in ambiguous, obscure circumstances. These phone calls are flights of delirium, illusions, wrong numbers where the artist uses his own image as an instrument and vehicle to portray the characters in the stories. This alter-ego artistic device is recurrent in the artist’s work.
“Telos,” located in the second room of the Gallery, is Araújo’s latest video creation. In it people casually encounter each other, generating an examination of what truth means and how people can be truthful and live virtuously, ethically and in good faith.
The truth and lie dichotomy is also present in the way the artist has appropriated documentary language to construct his fictional environments. It is perhaps for this reason that the spectator finds his own life reflected in these stories that portray human beings without guile, laying bare their weaknesses and disclosing their humanity.
Yet there is so much more left to explain: are lies merely half-truths? Do lies conceal truths and truths lies? Do those who tell the truth deserve punishment? Does a lie often repeated become reality? Does the truth deceive? Is a lie told to spare someone’s feelings not better than the painful truth? Does the truth really set one free or does it bind one in chains?