Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tempo Perdido no Porto #4 - Daragh Reeves

Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo - Daragh Reeves
Video projection on drawing, variable dimensions, 2004, VHS transferred to digital MOV, colour, sound, 122’

According to the Greek legend, the Sphinx was a merciless female creature, half human, half lioness; a guardian of temples that devoured anyone who failed to answer her riddle, until one day Oedipus took the beast's life with the correct answer: HUMAN.
During the winter of 2001, in a skyscraping bar in Tokyo, the artist Daragh Reeves received a tipoff from a friend of a friend about a rare and unmissable Italian film. This would turn out to be the first in a chain of events along a mythical path that would lead to the resurrection of the Sphinx. 
Two years later, now in Milan, Reeves stumbled upon a street vendor offering a single item for sale on his rug, a worn out copy of the now legendary Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo. Sourcing the last surviving VHS player in Berlin, Reeves watched, laughed and cried at the tragicomic misadventures of public servant Giovanni Vivaldi. But let down by his pidgin Italian, he mailed the tape to England to his Roman grandmother, Mara Russell-Pavier (Nonna) for a full translation.
Back in Amsterdam, returning to his residency at de Ateliers, Reeves telephoned his grandmother to request a strictly impromptu translation and recorded her voice over the phone lines while she watched the film for the first time. Nonna’s narration of the film is an outstanding performance as it unveils the dark plot with great detail and elegant humour at a merciless rate. 
Unwittingly, the artist was only halfway through a trail of cues. During an exhibition installation, while projecting the film in a trance induced by his grandmother’s voice, he started tracing in black paint momentary forms appearing within its scenes. His doodling on top of Vivaldi’s mundane bureaucratic world slowly roused a cine-archeological being. As if rubbing a magic lantern, an unexpected critter began to emerge from the shapes he made: a chin coming from an elbow, a tail from a parking car, a cigar from a dropped ballpoint pen… “a shesepankh" as ancient Egyptians would call it ( “a living image” ). Thus the Sphinx found its way back into existence again – lying on the screen, simultaneously predicting and remembering the film and its own totality from its timeless standpoint.
Oporto has recreated, for the first time on canvas, the original 2004 mural, which will be reunited with the film on Saturday. A movie poster was also developed with the artist which doubles as a screen to summon the sphinx in the comfort of one’s own home.
Oporto’s first screening in 2007, presented The Fountains of New York,  recalling the intrepid daily life of the young artist in a portrait of a city that no longer exists. Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo could be considered the follow up to this saga as within the film-based doodle, the sphinx retains all the bittersweet struggles of the artist during his Amsterdam period.
A self-fulfilling prophecy. Æ 
Saturday December 8, 10.30pm
This presentation is part of Reeves’ current one month residency “Tempo Perdido no Porto” hosted by Oporto that also includes the show Toucan Watch, on view at Galeria Madragoa
Calçada Salvador Correia de Sá, 42, 2ºF Lisboa

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