BESTIARIUM

“Truly, man was always a receptacle. Of gods, spirits, shamanic words, illusions and expectations, imagined shapes.
Only during that brief Attican moment when Polykleitos and Lysippos set proportions and harmonies in sculpture and Aristotle wrote down the laws for the congruence of the bodies and the verisimilitude in narratives, an identical will seemed to confirm the plan of the visible.
The shape of the angel was the last attempt to find in the body of man a measure meant to be universal.
Later, the shadow of what had been repressed invaded every interstice, sprouted from the unsaid, from the cracks of occult, and the idea of multiple and metamorphosis again dominated the shapes.
Saint George and the Dragon symbolize nothing but the fight to contain within each of us the threat of polymorphism. But the monster is uncontrollable in our desire of being another, of melting into a foreign body, and emerges as a symptom of the pathology of infinity. And the universe is infinite because it must encompass everything possibly conceived, as all that is conceivable is necessary.
In this reflexivity, man is quick to pay his “occult debts”, accommodating inside himself his monsters, what “furnishes” him and is moveable in him.
Classicism still tried to oppose again those arcane energies. But romanticism reinforced them and one century later the discovery of the unconscious, as psychic continent, coated the inside of the polymorphic expressions whose outside painting had designed: the bestiaries of imaginary beings become a mirror of man, who, since then, is Pi sharing the boat with the beast.
Photography, two hundred years after Joseph Nièpce, also seems to have used up the Aristotelian mission by which it returned to the real what seemed hidden in it. Realism just followed the principle of art that Elias Canetti defined like few: to find more that was lost.
Coming across Filipe Branquinho’s new line of work we find something art had already probed, but now in a new format and revealing a latent inquietude, that stimulates with clarity the tension between the observer and the work.
What stands out in these portraits is the fact of not looking “set”, staged. There is an organic unity – without seams or discontinuities – among the bodies, the head and its gestuality.
It is not so much the memory of other body writings that instigates us (and remember the monster was, by definition, the creature resulting from the anamorphic merger between two different kinds of creatures) as the suspicion that these forms constitute the “new normal”.
The crudeness, the primitivist character of these photo, is magnificently contradicted by the biomorphic unity, as in the three-faced creature, where a seamless accord of textures is very clear.
As Valéry warned: «The ‘new’ is the perishable element of things. The danger with the new is that it automatically ceases to be new and this cessation is a dead loss. It is the same with youth and life». (Tel Quel, page 150). Perishable must, therefore, be read as: what is contingent and most easily extinguishes.
The inquietude these photos alert us for, in times of pandemic (and we must consider that no image is innocent, in the sense that it always reveals an indicial force), is that maybe human – anthropomorphic – may be, unlike our desire, the “périssable” part of the things, what is transient in the world. Hence, in another magnificent photograph from this series, the existence of a monster hiding its face as a sign of shame, we guess, for what there may still be human in itself.
Filipe Branquinho introduces us to the creatures of a New Eden, those who foreshow themselves before the words and the emotional betrayal used by reason to silence them. If we keep in mind that “tranquility is a non-human state because it is a form of accommodation in a time when it is attributed all powers, without feelings of loss, damage or revolt» (Manuel Maria Carrilho), then we can only thank him for parting with the enclosure of symmetries.”

Maputo, 1 de Setembro, 2021

António Cabrita

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