A conversation with José Maçãs de Carvalho


Out of Time, Out of Place

a conversation with José Maçãs de Carvalho


© José Maçãs de Carvalho, Untitled (fitas), 100 cm x 150 cm, 2016, from the series Archive and Spuren.

ARCHIVO I recently saw your exhibition where you show your work named “Archive and Spuren”. What is the role of this work on you research and on your artistic practice?

JOSÉ MAÇÃS DE CARVALHO First of all, I would say it is a consequence of my research on the last few years, both in theoretical and academic terms, as well as on the artistic practice. I started by examining my on photographic archive (which was never an organized one) and, slowly, these exhibitions started to come up, whose motivation came from the study on the archive ontology. This “Archive and Spuren” is perhaps the most ambitious one. At the Bienal de VF Xira there is only the first volume. There will be much more imagines to make. I think this work might gather one of the most disturbing problems of the very nature of the archive: what is fleeting and what most shows the texture of the time. And this is what most stimulates me on this research: the promise of time and its materialization in image.​


© José Maçãs de Carvalho, Untitled (borboletas), 100cmx150cm, 2016, from the series Archive and Spuren

A The work location and exhibition form are somewhat provocative. You show your images, scattered along the different floors in a Public Library where, in order to visualize your work, we must interact with the regular visitors, which creates a ​​certain conflict on the way both groups should behave. Could you share the reasons behind this intention to make both audiences interact?​

J.M.C. When we visited the different places the curator (David Santos) proposed, I became immediately interested on the library, also because it is one of the closest places to the archive. As Foucault said, “a place of all times out of the time”. Being a very choreographed place, I preferred not to intervene on the space design, but rather take advantage of its own choreography and make that my work is not “arrogant” or imposing. Later I thought it would be interesting to replicate a sort of flanerie which I enjoy when I go to a library or a bookshop: to lose myself watching, hoping that a book will find me.

In a way, I’m thinking of Aby Warburg library and his Bilderatlas, which requires an awareness of the displaying effect and the imaging accepting as an ability capable of seeing secret, unexpected relations between thing, between images. I basically used a Warburg idea of the “interval iconology”… To look for different images effects on presence: photos and books, photos and library goers. Huberman says about Bilderatlas that it is a “device to put the thinking, the mind back in movement”… This is what I would like it could happen there, to the visitor… Connections happen when we discover the photos, at a distance, sometimes we see them between pillars, we must get closer and, slowly, we get to see piece after piece until we arrive at the whole… This is the nature of photography… being a fragment.


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Interview published in ArchivoZine 18 / The Archive, In the Age of Visual Culture

José Maçãs de Carvalho visual artist


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