Petit Journal # 46: Vasco Araújo : "Eco"

The first part of the Satellite programme for the 2008–09 season might be described as a metaphor of the reflection of sound waves, the phenomenon whereby sound is reverberated, and heard again, once it has died out. But Eco, the work proposed on this occasion by the Portuguese artist Vasco Araújo, leaves the physical explanations aside and turns instead to literature in a bid to construct a personal realm of fancy where the echo is the reflection, not of sound, but of ourselves. Thus Araújo, drawing on Cesare Pavese’s Dialogues with Leucò (1947), has invented a new tale that is enacted by six enigmatical characters: a child, a woman, a young man, two men in their prime, and a mature man. In his rigorous mise en scène these six characters, who are gathered round a table, are in fact only one and that one is the reflection of our own image. In so doing Araújo creates a space for confrontation, a space where individual fears about life and destiny are expressed: “So you already know it!? (a smile) Your destiny, the limit...” Here, as in Pavese’s twenty-seven dialogues, at the heart of the conversation lie destiny and memory, solitude and Others, love, love’s passing, and death. But in Eco, unlike the Dialogues with Leucò, the discussion is no longer among gods: here we are in the world of mortals, fallen creatures who are highly sceptical of reality. Hence their admission: “Nothing is stable. Nothing is stable! Me neither, me neither!… Me neither.”

Yet these characters, who are so different from one another, have one thing in common: the voice with which they express themselves. This single voice remains unchanged as it passes from one to the other, leaving the spectator bewildered. It is up to the spectator to differentiate between them on the basis of snatches of conversation. In the artist’s view, “working on these distinctions amounts to judging traits of identity, judging the representation process and that of the construction and alteration of being and seeming”. As the discourse advances, each character can build up his or her identity and materialize. Once again, as in Araújo’s previous works, it is this voice that lends such force to the enunciation, bringing an unknown facet of the proposition to light. Like the nymph Echo deprived of her voice by Hera and permitted only to repeat the last words she heard , the characters repeat one question after the other. But they never find the answer, and never even expect to: “Perhaps! Perhaps! Perhaps!” The artist considers that, beyond whatever relationship the spectator establishes with these characters, “it is up to him or her to make the final distinction between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, which do not necessary match one another or follow in the same order”. Perhaps we are “looking for a sound that will provide the answer to happiness;” but in order to pick up that sound, we will undoubtedly need to sharpen our hearing a little.

María Inés Rodríguez,
curator of the exhibition

Vasco Araújo: Eco

Interview with the artist by María Inés Rodríguez
64 pages, 15 x 21 cm, softcover
bilingual French / English
Editions du Jeu de Paume, 14 €