Ana Teixeira Pinto is a Portuguese video artist, curator, and art critic based in Berlin. Ana Cardoso is a Portuguese painter and writer based in New York.
Ana Cardoso: So, when I asked you to do this talk, you defined yourself as auteur, which means you moved to a slightly different arena from the one where you did different things–art, curatorial projects, art essays, and reviews–now you’re more interested in focusing on text, as an investigation, as a thesis?
Ana Teixeira Pinto: Well, “auteur” I meant as a joke, I mean using the French term, [I] just wanted to sound pretentious! But yes, I do define myself now as a writer, whenever I am asked to define myself that is. You know, writing a PhD—I am writing my dissertation at the Humboldt—is something that really takes over your life, takes the whole of your mental space, so I must admit I cannot indulge in creative activities until I deliver the thesis, [I] just don’t have the energy. It’s such a painstaking, lonely, and frustrating work that by the end of the day all you want is to watch BBC.
AC: I know, I think you told me you are less interested in art exhibitions?
ATP: Art and exhibitions are less interesting now, most often I go to galleries and all I see is fetishism. Art, if anything, should deepen the awareness of interpersonal relations, not further alienate them (and no I do not think my Marxist lexicon is outmoded.) There was a significant turn, which sought to displace all tension from the political to the psychological, in recent years, the latest Berlin Biennial was a good example of it, and I just don’t share the art world’s new found interest in the narcissistic dwellings of its subjects.
Also there was a huge boom in the distributing circuit. In Berlin now there is a frenzy of gallery openings, you know I have the feeling it is akin to the “democratizing of fashion” which took place with the opening of those chain stores like H&M and The Gap, we now see the democratizing of art where the same themes and objects seem to pile up.
AC: Can we have a hint on the theme of your PHD thesis?
ATP: I’m writing about the origin of logic as a means to access a certain mental disposition, which shaped western philosophy. Such disposition revolves around the notion of the “Mind’s Eye,” certainly our most fundamental metaphor, and it’s responsible for all kinds of beliefs we still share, like the belief [that] abstract nouns have the same properties of concrete things, namely existence, and we can therefore export “democracy” to the middle east.
I have a chapter on art though: how art was invented in the transition from Orphic ritual to Attic play, through the discerning of the audience from the performers–they were originally enmeshed–thereby endowing the audience with a “contemplative” mental state.
AC: How is Berlin functioning for you in terms of your career? In expanding or moving from Lisbon to Berlin two to three years ago there was something you were seeking…
ATP: Berlin is a fascinating city, a bit like a swamp. You feel it digs you deeper and deeper into a state of somnambulism.
AC: That’s really funny because not only do I agree, but that’s a word I’ve been working with recently… In New York there is a state of automatism…
ATP: Yes, you lived in Berlin before, I remember you saying Berlin was very “lifestylish” but you were craving [a sense of] urban rush. Now, you’re living in NY since 2004. But you still keep a relationship to Lisbon, where you’ve been showing, and where you have a gallery…
AC: Yes, I need that base a lot–I enjoy going back several times per year, keeping this close relationship–I don’t feel like separating myself from the city where I grew up–especially because I like it so much. By being here and there I can get the best of both worlds, in a slightly schizophrenic way…
ATP: When we met you worked with photos, at least that was my first striking impression on your work, a beautiful photo of a purple beetroot soup, now you seem to have specialized in painting… [I] guess the older we get, the narrower our world becomes–do you feel you need to explore painting as a full time practice? Or do you also feel pressured to define yourself as an artist?
AC: It’s funny because we met in Berlin in 2001, although it was before you moved there – I was an exchange student at HdK for half a year—and I showed you my collection of slides, that I was compulsively gathering, while drawing on notebooks. For me a still was the whole film. I’ve been painting as well as using everything else as a way to define a painting territory—using images is part of what I do. I’m focused on painting, while experimenting with film, still images, and writing… but it is truth that at some point it seems that the process narrows, meaning that you’re pinning down what’s really useful by becoming specific. There’s all this that I find useful and it is not only parallel to the daily practice of painting, like the book I just made – an artist book called Space Study, Linkages, & Sonambulism, 2007, where I gather images and text in a way nothing is identified. A way of exploring loose associations, linking processes…
ATP: And you have a show up now in Porto (at Poste-Ite Project Room, Pedro Oliveira Gallery.) I know you’re interested in bringing concepts such as coherence or image dysfunctionality into the discourse of your paintings–how does that work in this show for instance?
AC: Sonambulism is the name of this show where I display stacked paintings on the ground against the walls. I put fluorescent lamps on the floor along the walls and behind the paintings. This way you don’t at all have the white cube display to see any of them. I also did paint the walls silver – the enamel smells like an auto-mechanic shop. I’ve been experimenting with different supports like wrapping with black plastic, painting on transparencies, cutting, exploring different fabrics… This engages the viewer in an art historical interpretation where there are different types of pre-defined languages. I question their function by presenting something that is not ruled by what coherence would mean… And then I made a change in the word by writing “sonambulism”–it needed a twist.
ATP: What are your upcoming projects in NY?
AC: I am developing an editorial project–Monolog–with artist Joao Simoes, as well as participating in the definition of a new art center for Lisbon–Test, on art. Monolog is the publishing project of Test. And the fact that I’m in New York is important, close to the people that I want to invite to collaborate. I’m also starting to work with Alison Fox in an exhibition project together.
…But going back to somnambulism, I was interested in getting into that a little more… people now love Berlin, and I’m sure there’s the cheap factor, the re-building factor, the freedom in several ways, eastern promises… but somnambulism refers to an intimate world, and that is the same feeling I had when I was there… I had a monastery feeling–something easy-going, but at the same time it was illuminating… I also feel there is a big Scandinavian influence in Berlin, and the winter is so long and introspective…
ATP: Yes, price matters, and Berlin is cheap indeed, but won’t remain cheap much longer, things are a-changin’, but maybe not for the better as there is huge real-estate pressure and an extremely fast gentrification process at work. In the street where I have a studio Comme des Garçons just opened a shop in between two squatted buildings. One cannot find a shoemaker anymore, they all turned into French cafés, and that grey industrial tone which was both so oppressive, and yet so arresting has been consequently painted over in pastel shades of yellow or blue. Yet the city is still sexy, “arm, aber sexy” (poor, yet sexy,) as the mayor once said.