CATARINA REAL

ARTIST

Interview MAY 8, 2021

You were born in Barcelos,  studied Painting at the University of Porto and later completed a master’s in Communication Sciences at Lisbon’s Universidade NOVA. How did your path as an artist begin and what influence did these three cities have on your development as an artist?

There are many ways of answering that question and we could draw almost infinite conversations on it – of biographical events but also questions that I find amusing like “where do you draw the line between the person and the artist?”. I’ll be brief.
You ask me how my path began, and I start thinking… My path as an artist began with the discussions about drawing at nursery school (once I had to claim a basket of eggs, which was being taken by João Pedro’s space ship, and it’s interesting because I remember how I felt at that time), with the hours spent in the staff room waiting for my mother without anything to amuse myself except a pen and paper, with the bracelets, necklaces and all kinds of trinkets that I loved making to offer to everyone. And if you want to add another layer, my path started when I was born as the youngest daughter of three and learned to manage space and play as belonging to everyone. Cities have that, of having affected me as a person, and the person I am moulding the artist that emerges.
Just out of circumstantial curiosity, regarding Porto, and just because it was in response to David – who wrote an article for Dardo Magazine in 2019, where he revealed a young generation of artists from Porto, and posed a question to us regarding Porto, which is similar to yours, I’ll leave you with these lines that I wrote to him:
“It’s very hard for me to answer your request, and so briefly, without falling into the ordinary, into romanticism, which sounds naive, or into melodramatic nostalgia, carago.”
It’s true, and fair that territory goes from our feet to our posture; that, in some way, Posture gives intonation to Singing; and inhabiting a house means incorporating its principles and embracing its people. The body remembers. And mine, like others, carries Porto within it. And from it, some of the most solid and precious things; good artists and greater friends.
It wasn’t in Porto that I realised that the matter I find most interesting is the affective, nor that artistic production is futile – and too solitary and masturbatory – if it does not carry those affections; but because it was there that I became what could understand it. It was through fleeing from it that I realised that it was within me and I accepted it. And through it, for the understanding it gave me, my workplace began to be collaboration with people [with people like those that I brought from Porto (and who are all the places): critical and generous].
In the last instance, these collaborations are always an incessant delve into possibilities of a collective existence. The formats, the paper and the drawers where they are gradually placed, are varied; from drawings and paintings to choreographies and curating. But nothing is parallel.
Everything is inscribed in the same (somewhat incredulous) question: how?

Your work has been denoted for its multidisciplinary aspect, with particular focus on collaborative practices. What is it that attracts you to developing collective projects?

People attract me. The matter we’re made of, and how we rebound off each other is incredibly potent.
On the other hand, I’m increasingly less attracted to an individual practice, where we exercise authority/authorship as if the distinctiveness of a single voice were relevant.

In “Ensaio nu / enlace entre pensamentos” you collaborated with the dancer and choreographer Ângelo Cid Neto. How was the conception and creation of this work
developed?

When Ângelo and I met, we soon realised that we were on the same quest but using different tools. He was intersecting words with the body and I was intersecting drawing with words. We asked ourselves if we could intersect everything and if in that intersection we could sustain the movement and get to a place where it nurtures itself without us. The object “Ensaio nu / enlace entre pensamentos” ended up being the means of revealing that process of building a living organism. Very briefly, I would say that we create translation machines – of movement into drawing, of drawing into text, of text into movement – and we’ve been working on them continuously and far beyond that object. We even made a play “Palavras da relação 2 + 12” – co-created with Matilde Caetano, Leonor Ferreira, Maggie, Lucy, Chico, Joana Miguel, Sofia Charrua, Leonor M., Carolina Conceição, Filipa Gonçalves, Filipa Salvador, Joana Barbosa – a group of beautiful women aged thirteen to twenty-five with whom we shared our tools and started building together. And the organism, nurtured with new energy, went in different directions.
Now I would say that organism is already generating movement and we relate to it like in an ecosystem. We have a piece on hold which has the provisional title “Documentário a dois Corpos”.

Is your relationship that approaches dance and performance one you maintain or would like to continue exploring?

It’s intriguing that I approached dance through theoretical texts, because dance theory, or the reflection on danced movement got me thinking on the movement of text, specifically in the work of Maria Gabriela Llansol. I believe many of the problems-solutions that dance brings are those that I’m interested in bringing too, and so I assign myself to them and I think that will continue.

Your work shows a very close connection with the written word and language. How did that relationship start and how important is it to you and the way you develop your
practice?

That relationship has always been there. For as long as I can remember, words have enticed me. Partly, due to their pliability, partly due to their mystery. Words are docile, warm, tender, but also fierce, polluted, vile, bloody. And they can be so all at once. Which might address the multidisciplinary nature you evoked regarding my work. I see words as my work materials, even though I don’t see myself as a writer. (Not that these static images are relevant).
I can also reply with a specific moment, which was relevant for the development of my practice, and which refers to the intersection of hands with words [as books are also involved in the work in other ways and I like my dilettante readings in various fields] and with the process of intertwining them. I read Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Colour in the third year at the Fine Arts School and got obsessed with his formulations on the possibility (in our linguistic colour system) of transparent white. I needed to test the incomprehension of the transparency of white using all the tools. Especially in painting – I did endless overlays of whites! – but it gradually expanded to other possibilities. What I find most amusing, looking from afar, were the experiments with food.
For a while, I did a painting exercise by assimilation and only ate white food – seen as white or designated white. At the time I wasn’t aware of the problem that white, as a designation is, I was only interested in a pictorial problem. About surface, material and light. And so, in a simplified way, I was becoming like the canvas that absorbs the white. I wanted to transpawhite myself.
Another very relevant moment in my relationship with the use of words, which happened the same year, was when my friend Rogério, whom I went to visit in Budapest, lent me a book. It was “O Livro das Comunidades” by Maria Gabriela Llansol. [to link up to the previous answer]

In 2019 you presented the exhibition “Self Help Self Hope” at Appleton Square for which you re-contrive characteristics and issues that can be found in self-help books.
Alongside an industry associated with this kind of literature, there is a growing need for us to look for mechanisms that guide us vis-à-vis a more technologically advanced and inter-connected society, although it is more affectionately and emotionally disconnected in various aspects. In what way can answers to these issues emerge? And what other issues do you come across through this work?

What your first question is asking is what I’m interested in thinking about at the moment, and in a more integrated way, how information capitalism and our caring, loving, relational ideations interconnect (and how those connections change, for the better). It should be noted that the majority of self-help literature output is geared towards heartache. And that’s not just by chance. Love has been somewhere I have been stuck for years, still without really knowing what I want to understand about it. There is an undeniable force that it contains or that is contained by it, and perhaps I’m going round in circles with the question: could love be able? [be able to what? I don’t know either]
As for the second question, my method of working is always a kind of great continuity. For example, the central piece of the exhibition, the book “Patético”, brings together references to many other works, and makes use of certain methodological tools (or of style – I always find these words to be massively artificial) which were built in other directions. Meanwhile (as the exhibition took place at the end of 2019 and we were in lockdown at home at the beginning of 2020) only now do I feel thought returning to the place where I left it before, and so maybe only in the meantime can I reply to you about the issues that it will still bring me.

What is your opinion about the recent digitalisation processes of curatorial relationships and explorations of the art world and their relations with the audience?

During the first quarantine, Giammarco Cugusi, an Italian artist, made me think about the possibility of streets being a real alternative as a space for artistic intervention (and along with him, André Lepecki too regarding theatre programming in non-digital spaces). I found that a really strong idea. With very few exceptions – and works that really use the digital space – hyper appeal is really tiresome. I’m not against it, I participated in digital projects, and I think I will continue to do so, but if you think about potential and potentialities, I believe there are much stronger alternatives.

You took part in our seventh residency season at Thirdbase in collaboration with the curator David Silva Revés with whom you had previously worked. How did your creative relationship emerge?

Even if not creative, all good relationships are always creators.
I met David on the Ar Sólido project – from António Bolota and Marco Pires – where we made our contribution for a while, and our relationship began growing from then on, at every level. It’s been good to closely observe David’s growth as a thinker and to be present during the questioning that he puts himself through. We disagree with each other so many times, and we have a quite different stance, but I think what creates our common ground is what we simultaneously reject. Occasionally our names appear together in projects, but in some way we’re always working together.

Your work “Exposição Concentrados” is shown as part of an ongoing project about human attention and inattention processes and the ways in which our perception, and our ability to absorb and process information condition us or influence us.
What was the process that led you to reflect on these mechanisms and what ramifications have been created around the development of this work?
Our project is a rhizome!
I’ll try to simplify and systematise.
The basis for the project, specially focused on drawing, is broken down into three phases or processes: Inattentive Drawings; Concentrated Drawings and Cumulative Drawings. What David and I were working on in this residency was mostly Concentrated Drawings, which are drawings made when you pay attention (in the sense of reverence) to something which you’re hearing – the input of the drawing is auditory and informative. What’s being concentrated is information. And the results, as a drawing, end up being kind of visual summaries. As a practice, other things are what remain, because the hand goes into a state of particular and dedicated activity and dances those players. “Exposição Concentrados” is a ramification of the Concentrated Drawings applied to a space. Doing an exhibition isn’t the same as doing a drawing, there’s another series of layers of concern, with the space, with the understanding of the bodies that show up. “Exposição Concentrados” is a painting that uses this attention and drawing practice, and which is attentive to André Lepecki in the studio space, to which we added cut-outs of an exchange of ideas between us, and choreographic suggestions of a reading pathway, which connects with the ideas I was concentrated on, which the walls are screaming.
“Exposições Endereçadas” is another ramification (ramification of a ramification) of Concentrated Drawings and is a series of drawings that we are addressing to players in the artistic world, so that they can build an exhibition with us (if they so wish, they can choose to ignore us, in a certain way). States of attention vary here, and the possibility of answers will be a surprise. The proposal is for each of the participants evoked by this address to give their answer in curatorial/attention and composition terms. *The basic ramification is the proposal to build pieces to be present in the hotel, which is the underlying assumption of this residency. Here we think on an intimate structure linking our process and thought side-tracking, using the possibility of creating small exhibition spaces. The pieces, which we are now finalising, are cases that contain space structures to be slotted together and a series of works (mostly cumulative drawings, but a couple of items that we think are important to activate the small spaces) to be arranged in those spaces. The infinite creation possibilities of a same and yet always different exhibition appeals to us and interests us on many levels. And that’s where the ramifications of this project come in again.
We’ll soon begin actively developing the Cumulative Drawings.. But that’s another whole interview!
What brought us here was my inability to continue lines of thought when the first quarantine began, and to have created a drawing strategy to lighten that anguishing feeling. When the first lockdown began, I started to manage to process thought again and those drawings disappeared. That’s how the Inattentive Drawings began.

In what way do you feel that your work during the residency adapted to or was influenced by the current state of the pandemic we’re all experiencing?

In some way, the work of this residency only happened because of this pandemic. In other words, not that it is a direct response, but if it hadn’t happened, the Inattentive Drawings wouldn’t have emerged and so on.

What would you like to highlight from your experience during the residency and what’s coming next?

2021 continues to be strange. I’ve got a few things scheduled, but my ideas are very disorganised to answer with certainty about what is going to happen. The clearest and most specific things; I’ll go ahead, in conjunction with David, with the Cumulative Drawings which, I hope, we’ll present soon in Finland. I’m going to launch a story with silk screen drawings with the publisher Edições da Ruína, from Gonçalo Duarte, which is about to begin. And in October in Rua do Sol, in Porto, I’m showing an exhibition in collaboration with Lorraine Druon, a French artist, which involves very special work timings. We’ve been building a block of questions since 2017, which are now taking shape.
My takeaway from this residency is the contact and discussions between the four of us, which although sparse, due to the pandemic, were intriguing and enthusiastic. Thanks Nicolai!