Subtitles without an image, on a cinema screen

The image is out there. The cinema screen is white.
Fernanda Fragateiro´s intervention at the building of the Garducho Biological Station, an architectural project by João Trindade, turns contemplation into a non-passive activity, observation into a walk and the viewer into an inhabitant of the space. The artist selected sentences by various authors (Bernardo Soares, Maria Gabriela Llansol, Gonçalo M. Tavares, W. J. T. Mitchell and Ian Burn, the latter quoted by Narelle Jubelin), which she then inscribed in ink on strategic spots of the architectural volume, opening in it a semantic space for the viewer to experience. Her visual intervention explores the hiatus in meaning generated by the combination of architecture, verbal language and natural surroundings, operating in this hiatus without closing it.

In fact, no pictures can exist on the white wall, João Trindade's cinema screen. The architectural complex does not establish itself as a support for the image, being instead the structure from which the image is generated. Thus, artistic intervention and architectural complex are both sources for the image. Fernanda Fragateiro reminds us of that, using a statement by Ian Burn, as quoted by Narelle Jubelin: A landscape is not something you look at but something you look through(1).

The architecture acts as an optical device, a device for framing space that is not only for the eye but for the whole body. The architectural openings operate as lenses or membranes through which it is possible to connect reality with its representation as an image, that is to say, to perceive that the landscape is a cultural construction. Verbal language, within the context of the visual arts, shares that same principle: it triggers associations and the configuration of images. A subtitle asks for an image, and an image condenses a space-temporal unit of its own.

To corroborate the proximity of art and architecture as ways of constructing spatiality, it would suffice to mention that, in terms of the architectural lexicon, doors, windows, corridors and stairs all offer channels for the body to pass through. While separating, these elements are also links between what is here and what is there, between something inside and something outside. Through her artistic intervention, Fernanda Fragateiro activates movement in architecture. Architecture, then, possesses a haptic nature, which demands a spatial body and experience. This analogy between body and building, between building and perception device, which often turns the viewer into a film director, is remarkably conveyed by Corbusier's concept of 'architectural promenade'. To him, architecture was something experienced in motion, on one's feet, while moving across space. Fernanda Fragateiro's interventions across the building also ask us to walk through it, feeling the masses that are part of its structure, establishing an interaction between what the words suggest, memory invokes and imagination overlays on both of them.

Taking into consideration that images cannot exist on this projection screen, because they stand precisely on the hiatus between the world and representation, Fragateiro creates the only possible image for this film: a featureless image, an image in motion and an architectural tour. A space that comes between the world and representation, suspended by a 'here and now' moment that is nowhere at the same time. It is that space that makes it possible to delve into what the image has silenced, the hollows it has created, the voids it has left unfilled. In this interstice, Fernanda Fragateiro places the space's inhabitant. Her verbal inscriptions invoke and reinvest the inside of representation, while suffusing the surrounding natural context with language. And then the landscapes appear: inner landscapes. The verbal insertions on the walls draw the viewer's attention, demanding from that person the structuring of a representation that may no longer belong to the immediate surroundings, coming instead from a more global narration, in which the I and the Other, the I and the World become aggregated.

Her intervention may remind a scientist that, in the field of exact research, aesthetics can offer some input, a contribution that may eventually evade the skills of logic, and it is perhaps that fraction that allows aesthetics to be recognised as a form of knowledge. It is also important to make clear that Fernanda Fragateiro helped conceive the complex's exhibitive project, defined as an archive under construction. Thus, the whole made up of the architectural project, the artistic intervention and the scientific research carried out by CEAI (Centro de Estudos da Avifauna Ibérica [Iberian Avifauna Study Centre]) finds its living correlate in a program that has been defined, since its beginning, by a laboratorial premise. Life, inexorably sliding between images and what they cannot capture, sliding between the flight of birds and the traces left by their mortal remains in the Station's archives.

This project is inhabited by the brevity of a shadow, caught and immobilised by the artist, as if, for an instant, the sunlight had cast on João Trindade's screen the route of a Golden Eagle, a Black-Winged Kite, an Eagle-Owl, a Hare or a Common Gecko. It can be said, then, that when we reach the end of our itinerary, the core of the building and the interstitial words we should say: I have reached the beginning – the place where the screen again becomes white, empty of image, full of potential. A unique place, out of which we can see again.

1- Ian Burn, quoted by Narelle Jubelin in Paisaje ungramatical [Ungrammatical Landscape], Centro José Guerrero, Granada, 2006, pp. 049-051.

- Sara Antónia Matos

Outubro de 2007