The Road

From the very beginning the non-fixation of the human and especially the impermanence of the contemporary individual has been one of the most important underlying motives in Pedro Tudela's work. It finds in the idea of leaving or in the image of road metaphors of a singular efficiency and permanently readjusted plasticity. The motorway in Frágil (Fragile) is still the same tortuous and clandestine road of popular exodus of the leaving towards an uncertain destiny of Portugal Emigrante(1). This movement of departure is the same represented by the giant target painted at the Fortress of Sagres(2), the symbolic place at the end of Portuguese land and the beginning of the 15th century's maritime adventures. The same IP5 that leaves Viseu(3), in a purposeful distance investment towards Tudela's town of birth. And the same movement towards the outside, via the hyper-receptivity of the foreign regard patent in the installation pt120772001rj(4).

It all boils down to leaving. It is always the road, the traffic or the trip. A movement that does not assume, however, any point of arrival, but ad aeternum circularity or concentricity evoked since his first works(5). We find all through Tudela's path the worried marking of very specific gravity centres animating this movement, undermining it, suction points that force the regard to a inevitable centripetal force.

This project, that aims towards the absorption of the spectators' regard, will discover at the beginning of the 90's the value of sound for the production of a tactile regard. Mute... Life(6), Tudela's first exercise in the convergence of music and visual arts, creates a surface mined by the alternance between baroque painting and empty spaces. Ever since, his path has been one of a progressive attack absorbing the observer's sensitive structures. The chairs with loudspeakers inserted in their backs and seats from Série Z(7) are a good example. The regard dilutes itself in the ensemble of stimuli to which is submitted and cannot fixate itself - it imerges without stopping circulating.

The Accident

The concentricity we talked about earlier on, and that Tudela used and still uses, alludes to a large body of possible images. The ones that come more frequently to mind are, since Stereo: Even Flowers Can Hear You(8), of the ocular retina, the loudspeaker and the target. The first and the second will be minutely explored in Phase 3 Eye Can See(9), in a de- subjectivation process that questions the regard's mechanicity, the rigor it can lend to observation and the way it relates to the biographical memory (not only visual) of the author himself.

The third perceived image, the target, con-substantiates and gets explicit in Target(10). The target (lacerated by holes similar to the ones made by bullets), transmitting the sound of a firearm's shot or the countdown to a movie in a cinema, puts face-to-face two sides of the same coin: rationality (the technique's surgical exactitude, and therefore of the images) and accident (which integrates failure, the unpredictable). José Bragança de Miranda explains, in a context similar to this one, that "there never was a real, except as a catastrophe of experience; how could we replicate or hyper-realise it? What we do is to realise images, an old movement that feeds modern metaphysics(11)." And, later on, quoting Mallarmé, states that "a throw of dice will never abolish the unexpected".

The suggested idea of accident is, therefore, introduced in Pedro Tudela's work(12) by the search of effective spaces of reality. By the drawn movement towards the catastrophic and a certain torsion of the (ab)use of image, Frágil reveals itself as a completely mature project. Tudela adopts a gesture which distillates excess and preserves primordial.

The Mise em Abíme of All Work

The construction of Frágil builds on two essential pillars that still echo the Phase 3 Eye Can See project. But they relate more directly to the corpus of questions raised by Target and, more subliminally - but then perhaps because of that more gratifyingly - to Pedro Tudela's performance Still, together with the Mute Life Department, at the Fundação de Serralves in 1998.

From Phase 3 Eye Can See we still have the interrogation around the cutting questions (coincidence, in-coincidence and multiplicity of perspectives), the mediated regard and the tooled perception, the flâneur and the distracted adhesion. But the ensemble of Frágil's 11 darkened paintings also relate to the final sequence of Still. Coming from another space, where he had "acted", limiting the viewers to follow the situation via a video projection of real time images taken by a closed circuit camera, Tudela rounds up by appearing in the "real" space, passes through the public, goes to the projection screen and, with a big brush and black paint, he covers progressively and energetically the whole area, previously white. In the end, only a minimal space at the top right corner is left blank, in such a way the word Still can be read. The blackout is not, then, a final closure, but a suspension, the crystallisation of an ensemble of doubts and wills.

Frágil's series of black paintings (subscribed by the video that repeats, looping, the image a driver sees while he crosses through a tunnel) recalls the last moment of that performance. Also in these paintings the moment of questioning is suspended, in a junction situation. That junction may be the texture of a leaf taken from the natural world (so often present in the author's painting through the 80's) or the aerial view of a road that divides itself; the black announces, as it did in Still, the end of images, leaving only their residual qualities or, on the contrary, their indicative character.

Because of all this, Frágil may be seen as a re-visitation, re-assessment and re-writing of the main chapters and structural elements of Pedro Tudela's almost 20 years of activity. But the imagetical and referential economy it is circumscribed to results in a mise en abîme of the author's whole work and, in a burst of singular lucidity, talks in the end of what might be the landmark accident of contemporary times: the accident of images.

Trad.: José Paulo Moura

(1) 1 Portugal Emigrante, individual exhibition, Galeria Roma e Pavia, Porto, 1986. (2) Sagres 89, collective exhibition, Fortaleza de Sagres, sagres, 1989. (3) Target, individual exhibition, Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra, Coimbra, 1999. (4) Amores Interpostos, exhibition with Rubens Azevedo, Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto, Rio de Janeiro (Brasil), 2000. (5) Vulcões e Vulconas, individual exhibition, Galeria Leo, Lisboa, 1986. (6) Mute... Life, individual exhibition, Galeria Atlântica, Porto, 1993. (7) Série Z, individual exhibition, Casa Triângulo, São Paulo (Brasil), 2000. (8) Stereo: Even Flowers Can Hear You, individual exhibition, Galeria Alda Cortez and Galeria Atlântica, Lisboa/Porto, 1990. (9) Phase 3 Eye Can See, individual exhibition, Canvas e Companhia, Maio 1996. (10) Target, individual exhibition, Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra, Coimbra, 1999. (11) As Ligações do Corpo, José Bragança de Miranda, in Metamorfoses do Ser, Balleteatro Edições, Porto, 1998. (12) Present intuitively in previous works, such as the a-fore mentioned installation in the Sagres' Fortress in 1989 (the rationality of navigation, namely by the first use of the astrolabe, clashing with the crimes of colonisation); or explicitly, as in Still (individual exhibition, Galeria Canvas, Porto, 1998), where cutting tools side with amputated members, in Buonevoiage (in the collective exhibition III Bienal de Arte Fundação Cupertino de Miranda, Guarda, 2000), or in the architectural images associated to the idea of dismantling, dryness and ruin of Série Z.