Follow Us on Twitter

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaio - Camden Arts Centre

oão Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaio

Exhibition preview

THIS January, celebrated Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva will present a magical, immersive film installation at Camden Arts Centre – their first major show in London.

The kaleidoscopic world created by 27 16mm films and two camera obscura installations, takes viewers on an imaginative journey into science, philosophy and religion. Each film examines a particular subject – a treatise on material, animal or human behaviour that probes at the nature of truth and perception.

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaio runs from January 30 until March 29, 2015.

Gusmão and Paiva’s work draws attention to the paradoxes in the appearance of reality. Most of their films are shot with a high-speed camera then projected in slow motion, revealing ordinarily imperceptible detail with ghostly effect.

There are few contextual cues that would enable the enigmatic scenarios to be located in a specific time or place. Starting from journeys, stories, anecdotes or cinematic allegories, the veracity of each scenario is ambiguous.

The exhibition is titled Papagaio [Portuguese for Parrot] and the first work encountered, Glossolalia (“Good Morning”), 2014, is a portrait of a magnificent Macaw in flight, beckoning visitors into the mosaic of visual delights inside the galleries.

The first of the films, Falling trees, 2014, plays repetitively, acting as a consistent reference point to the other films which play in sequence. It shows the dissection of a pumpwood tree from which wooden canoes are traditionally made.

The whirring mechanics of the projectors create a soundscape that draws attention to the absence of sound in the films themselves. Concerned with ‘analogue’ approaches and technologies, any editing is done ‘in camera’ and several films contain multiple exposures within the same frame.

The two camera obscura installations directly investigate and display the behaviour of vision and light, and the aperture motif which is reiterated in other works, connects representations of the eye to the camera.

A major new 16mm film work Papagaio (Djambi) 2014, shot in São Tomé and Príncipe (a Portuguese speaking Island nation off the western coast of Central Africa), bears witness to a West African voodoo ritual, known locally as D’Jambi.

Whilst intoxicated, the participants dance and enter a state of trance in which they channel the spirits of the dead. At times the footage is shot by the artists, and at other moments the camera becomes an alibi, held and manoeuvred by one of the participants.

Co-curated with Vicente Todoli and organised in association with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, the exhibition is accompanied by a new artists’ book, assembling meditations on philosophical subjects including Taoism, Buddhism, Decartes and Wittgenstein.

Admission: Free.

Opening Times: Tuesday to Sunday; 10am to 6pm; Wednesdays late, 10am to 9pm; Closed Mondays.


Tel: +44 (0)20 7472 5500

Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London, NW3 6DG