DAVID SILVA REVÉS
ART CRITIC / INDEPENDENT CURATOR / RESEARCHER
Interview MARCH 14, 2021
Since 2015, you’ve been exploring work as a researcher and critic, contributing to several publications, as well as working as a curator. Can you tell us a bit about your background and what made you shift to the art world?
My career path is a little unusual and was a successive process of trial and error, experimenting in various subject areas. I started off studying socio-economic sciences at high school but when I entered higher education I went to do Art History. I have to admit that the course environment didn’t seem very stimulating and so I decided not to continue. I then moved to Law and on to Lisbon’s Faculty of Fine Art, ending up taking my degree in Journalism at Escola Superior de Comunicaçao de Lisboa. However, there was always a connection to the arts, as well as the need to find there both a place for thought and a means of practical activity. In 2014, right after my degree, I did a few courses at Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes and the following year I began collaborating with ArSólido, an artist-run space in Lisbon. That was when I began writing about artists and exhibitions. In the meantime, I moved to Porto to do a Master’s in Artistic Studies at the Faculty of Fine Art, which I finished in 2018. During those years I did my first curatorship at Galeria Painel, a space for which I started doing the programming the following year – up until 2018. That was a really important experience and a huge learning curve, where together with the rest of the team that accompanied me, we tried to take the greatest risks, driven by a laboratory attitude of complete creative freedom and in very close proximity to the artists. From then on, things started happening: I continued working, writing, creating and devising projects. I returned to Lisbon and I am currently doing another Master’s, in Communication Science, at FSCH, with a more philosophical and contemporary approach, which I find particularly interesting, and I believe has had a decisive input on my curating practice.
How do you see your role as a curator?
In a multiple, never hermetic way. I see the figure of the curator beyond a facilitator of presences in a certain space (exhibition). In my opinion, a curator must be someone who allows themselves to think deeply on the work of an artist, becoming involved in it and finding there, in that crossroads, new potential, new echoes of life, new productions of whatever kind that are relevant for thinking about their surrounding world – even if in a retrospective effort. So, I view curating as a practice that is always circumstantial, but ethically and aesthetically involved. In my case, I find it rather difficult to separate my activity as a curator from my practice as a critic and researcher, in other words, from a critical eye mostly brought to life within theoretical planes. In fact, I don’t think I should really do it, because it is a component of my relationship with things and the way in which my intervention can have something to add or to offer as a critical differentiating factor. Even so, and to sum up, with any project, primarily I try to establish and/or work on relations: mine with the artist and their work, those of the artist with their own work, and in the last instance, those of the works with the people engaging with them. For me, curating is always a way of putting a relational ethic in motion and making it replicate.
What is the starting point when you begin a new project?
An idea…Which comes after a certain interest, built on a certain restlessness or latency, which quite often sprung from an undefinable relationship of amazement.
Are there certain artists you like to work with as a rule and how do your relationships with certain artists grow?
My career path is still short but although there are some artists with whom I’ve worked more than once, I don’t have any rule for that to happen. If that’s happened, however, it’s because the projects in question were built in that way or enabled it. Actually, I enjoy projects and artistic-work relations that extend over time. That enables me to not only establish a deeper and more attentive relationship with the work of that artist but also allows me to explore new perspectives and ways of achieving solutions to problems or concerns that are not yet fully stabilised (although never resolved). It’s a way of maintaining certain urgencies alive.
How do you balance your time between different projects while continuing to write?
I write between projects and think on/produce projects between that writing.
Your work focuses heavily on the juxtaposition and influence of media and technology on the individual and the collective, and its shaping of political landscapes. What is your opinion on this in our current context and what will change in the future?
My interest in technology and the various media devices stems inevitably from my need to think of the contemporary world and the ways of forming the subject. In my opinion, it’s impossible to separate technology – all technique, basically – from the processes of forming the individual throughout history. That emerges as the mediator of the human being’s relationship with the real, and as an expression of a formative operative ideology that imprisons all free forces of nature to thus create a world in our image. As such, it is the cause and fruit of what is always the most aggressive feeling of anthropocentric superiority. We notice and experience the increasingly evident destructive consequences of that feeling in our daily lives. Even so, I believe that any possible future which may still contemplate us will chiefly depend on a change in ideology and not solely on the demonisation of the human technological apparatus.
In view of these dynamics and others, and with regard to art, I am mostly interested in the various frameworks for images to appear and the way that image appears – which is always aesthetic – it may reveal and/or redefine an ethical stance, in other words, an imminently political one. I think that any exhibition, whatever your theme or tentative line, is always, as a complete mechanism, a landscape ready to trigger a mode of political stance. Whether through the lines of force that it mobilises, whether through establishing specific speech places that it permits, whether through the production and distribution of precise interrelated territories. For me, that’s the power and interest of any exhibition – its ability to transform and the way art can play a part in shaping future horizons for us and for the world.
You have written for different publications over the years. Are there any essays or projects that were particularly important to you and how have they influenced your work?
Everything I have written, that I am writing and all the projects I have done and am doing are of equal importance to me; even those that I don’t identify with as much now. They are so, not only because they refer to specific times and periods in my career, but also because they all enabled me to become familiar with new spaces of thought and to establish relations that gradually defined both me as a person and my practice.
You are currently working together with Catarina Real in Thirdbase’s residency in Lisbon. How did this relationship between you begin?
Our relationship started as colleagues at ArSólido and gradually turned into a friendship and working relationship, without any particular hierarchy or distinction between those two spheres: a mutual, constant accompaniment of each other’s career, interests and what we both do. The shared movement for any project always starts with the enthusiasm for an idea and seeing the possibility of working together again. It’s about making attitudes compatible and overlapping interests and individual concerns which often start to fit together even if we set off from quite different but not completely distant places. Sometimes that process is almost instinctive, or subconscious and I like that. I like working with someone where mutual assent doesn’t need to be verbalised.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you are developing during your residency and how it’s been so far?
Broadly speaking, we’re working on human attention processes, and on the way we can perceive, experiment and trigger them, in a contemporary world characterised by chaotic flows of information and a constant need for multitasking. Until now, we have explored concentration and distraction processes in certain contexts; moments that have led to the creation of artistic works – mostly drawings – which will subsequently be part of the final related objects or exhibition devices, which we will present at the end of the residency.
We have been living through the current pandemic for almost a year now. How has this influenced your daily life, and how have you been dedicating your time besides work?
I’m very lucky, my life has not been too affected by the pandemic and all the restrictions and fractures imposed on the community. Generically, much of my work was already being done at home, so, besides the change in habits, new access constraints and the care we all took and must undertake, my routines have remained practically the same.
A lot of the cultural and art world is in limbo; a lot of events have been postponed or cancelled. How has this affected you so far?
Up to now, I have only been affected in one exhibition project which would have opened in February if the pandemic had not worsened, and the new lockdown had not been decreed. Even so, that project is still planned to take place in September, so it won’t be much of a problem but rather a change of plan due to the conditions. However, the situation being experienced by the artistic community and throughout the cultural sector is very complicated. The pandemic has heightened all the existing fragilities and exposed the years of cultural divestment as well as a political mentality that does not consider culture to be a sector of key importance for the community. The whole country, and a large portion of the socio-economic fabric is currently in crisis – which will only tend to get worse and whose devastating contours we cannot yet make out. But as far as culture and its professionals are concerned, the measures that have been decreed by this ministry have been insufficient and completely out of touch with reality. This can be seen particularly in what is done through DGARTES; it’s an absolute joke.