João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva: 53. International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

(Sandra Vieira Jürgens, «João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva», Empiricisms. New documental languages in Spain and Portugal, LisboaPhoto, 2005, pp. 94-95).

(Sandra Vieira Jürgens, «João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva», Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air., 53. International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, DGArtes, Lisboa, 2009, p. lvii).


João Maria Gusmão (born Lisbon, 1979) and Pedro Paiva (born Lisbon, 1977) both graduated with a degree in Visual Arts – Painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon, and began displaying their work in partnership at an exhibition entitled InMemory, at Lisbon’s Zé dos Bois Gallery, in 2001. Their careers have since remained connected to this institution. In the following three years, highlights of the exhibitions staged by the duo included projects such as DeParamnésia (parts 1, 2 and 3, in 2001 and 2002), Air Liquide (2002), O Ouro dos Idiotas (2003), Matéria Imparticulada (2004) and Eflúvio Magnético: O Nome do Fenómeno (2004). In 2005, the two artists were awarded the 5th annual EDP New Artists Prize and exhibited a set of works entitled Intrusão: The Red Square at the National Museum of Contemporary Art – Chiado Museum. In the following year, they presented Eflúvio Magnético (2ª Parte) at the Zé dos Bois Gallery and Eflúvio Magnético (Síntese) at the Guarda City Theatre. In 2007, their first individual international exhibition took place with the exhibition Crevasse, at the Castilla y León Museum of Contemporary Art (Spain), leading to various other individual exhibitions throughout 2008, such as Horizonte de Acontecimientos at the Madrid Matadero venue (Spain), Hydraulics of Solids at the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and Passengers: 1.7 at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (United States). That same year also saw Meteorítica at the Graça Brandão Gallery in Lisbon and the Fortes Vilaça Gallery in São Paulo, Abissologia at the Cordoaria Nacional / Zé dos Bois Gallery in addition to Articulações in the Minas de Salgema, Loulé. In 2009, they presented their work About The Presence of Things at the Kunstverein Hannover (Germany). Their work has also been widely included in collective exhibitions as from 2001, with the following among the higher profile examples, in 2006, at the 27th São Paulo Biennial (Brazil), in 2007 at the Luanda Triennial (Angola) and at the 6th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre (Brazil) and, in 2008, at Manifesta 7 – European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Rovereto (Italy).

Gusmão and Paiva undertake their artistic projects within the fields of photography and 16 mm film as well as that of installation. Their work is partially dominated by themes within the ambit of experimental research, technique, invention, the process of discovery with risk factors portrayed in a highly characteristic style. The materials that they use are simple with the technology incorporated handled without excessive sophistication. The effects and phenomenon transposed into the artistic field are carried out in such a way that they promote a sense of uncertainty regarding the authenticity of that seen, while furthermore also carrying an additional note of irony and the absurd, which also represents another of the hallmarks of their joint work.

A fundamental aspect to their intervention also relates to the writing produced to accompany the output of the two artists. In this area, mention must be made as to the theoretical reflection developed around the subjects that they seek to approach and the approximation made not only to the field of literature but also the various branches of philosophy, aesthetics and physics. They also incorporate literary material and, in much of their thinking, a preponderant role is attributed to questions that take us back to the work of authors such as Bergson, Nietzsche and Heidegger. Alfred Jarry, inventor of “‘pataphysics”, defined as “the science of imaginary solutions”, also features as a landmark among the omnipresent interests running throughout the work of João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva: experimentation, the relationship between science, fiction and poetry.


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