What to Show Now

What to Show Now

Experimenta Design’09, Palácio Braamcamp, Pátio do Tijolo 25, September 9th to November 8th, 2009.
CEMES in partnership with ESAD Matosinhos.

Nine Portuguese designers were invited to this project, curated by José Manuel Bartolo, questioning them about the motivations that inform their work, the concerns that motivate them, the messages they feel urgency to communicate. The challenge was to choose a poster from Ernesto de Sousa's extraordinary poster collection and through that choice affirm what is urgent to show now.

Participating designers:
Aurelindo Jaime Ceia
Barbara Says…
Braço de Ferro
Diogo Vilar
Mário Moura
Paulo T. Silva

What to Show Now
José Manuel Bártolo

“Is criticism an option or a necessity? In Portugal it is a necessity!”
Almeida Garrett quoted by Ernesto de Sousa

The works of Ernesto de Sousa include a collection of more than 600 posters documenting a fundamental period in contemporary artistic creation as well as the social and political transformation processes that occurred in Portugal and around the world between 1960 and 1980.  However, this is not a mere gathering of posters – on politics, art, theatre or tourism – produced at a certain historical period, but rather a vast yet critical preservation, of a certain collective memory undertaken by the restless, innovative and transgressing spirit that characterized the plastic artist, cinematographer, writer, art curator, critic and professor Ernesto de Sousa.

O Que é Urgente Mostrar (What to Show Now) is an exhibition of posters involving nine Portuguese designers who were faced with the challenge of expressing their urgent message by picking a poster among Ernesto de Sousas’ works to which they then had to associate a poster of their own creation. Through a process of dialogue, identification or confrontation between two forms of contemporariness, it is the poster’s own class, its function and place in the present time that is questioned, through the reflection on the letterings and the messages, continuities and ruptures, promoted by designers of different generations.

The posters in this exhibition let us approach two cultural contexts – the one of Ernesto de Sousa and that of the nine designers now active – whose affinities and differences may, from this moment on, be put under perspective, giving clues (they will always be clues, only) for a reflection on processes, languages e positioning that stand out in the productive activity of a designer. Likewise, clues, that may become ways, will be launched over a group of moments, movements and
events – from New Realism to Fluxus – fundamental in order to understand the proposals of an art engaged with life, which emerged in the 50’s, and which embody a tradition that, in the name of critic lucidity, deserves to be rediscovered as adventure, in contemporariness.

If Ernesto de Sousa actively engaged in the pursuit of “the desire to make the international art triangle explode: atelier-gallery-museum” (to use the expression of Harald Szeeman, one of the founders, with Ernesto de Sousa, of contemporary independent curator ship), bringing a group of posters into a closed room, framing them and giving them an aura of museum piece which they didn’t originally have, may feel somewhat contradictory. However, on the other hand, because the richness of a poster is not material but rather communicational and relational, it seems to us that the most authentic way of enjoying those posters, of allowing them to release, in the present time, their vital force, may be achieved by relating with them naturally, not defining a priori the conditions of their communication or significance, believing that their sense and message will let itself be known, in an open game, between the spectator and the work.

To the spectator is, after all, given the fundamental role of, in face of the posters in exhibition, learning to see and in this process building an experimenting look which, in this way, makes them acting and current. May we, before them, be able to see as if it were the first time, as “the first steps of a child are experimental and therefore initiate something completely new”.