entry: General Conditions

The Home Planet

Catarina Simões


Catarina Simões’ work favours the margins of film and architectural production realm or the simple accident and its respective perception, to deconstruct certain processes that structure these realities and are of great significance for contemporary western culture. The use of video permits a documentary-style language, though by documenting the margins of precise contexts she reveals a fiction that extends beyond the object of production of a determined discipline, which involves its own productive processes and reveals other possibilities of reconfiguration, possibly more critical and unstable.
In the video series Tourist Observer (2003), Catarina Simões registers a number of different situations related to film-making, such as the recording and successive takes’ repetitions, almost all of situations recurring within the fictional realm of cinema. These repetitions end up making the limits of the protagonists and the specific fictitious scene indefinite in order to implicate the production and recording context itself in the fiction that they produce. In Tourist Observer the video operates at the limits of cinema, reformulating its framework and developing it into a fictional production device which is also affected by a fiction. The fiction here is not only an effect that is produced and interior to the film, or a strict projection of the exterior. The video acts as a record of the ambiguity between cinema as fiction and fiction as cinema, which produces and unfulfils its own conventions. The video as ambiguity is transformed into the movement that oscillates between this dichotomy and disseminates the semantic horizon of each assertion.
Her most recent work, still under production, is entitled S3D. It is a three-dimensional film, whose narrative shows an intelligent house which collapses because it is unlived in, thus getting stuck on a continuous loop. Produced in collaboration with the architect Carla Leitão, who designed the intelligent house, the film addresses the feedback from the disciplines involved in the reality of architecture, such as engineering, sociology, ergonomics and psychology, among others. These areas of knowledge, habitually mitigated by the architectural discourse, but participating in it, are restored in the intelligent functions provided by the house. The absence of inhabitants who can use them merely makes their possibilities implied in the architecture more obvious and simultaneously encourages awareness of the need to reverse the role of human beings in technological development, from objects to subjects. If architecture can be understood as a major source of reification, then this work can be considered a political statement.
The Home Planet (2006), premiering at this exhibition, addresses perception as narrative. Taking a simple incident as a starting point, caused by an invasion of ants into her studio, Catarina Simões filmed the ants swarming through several glasses piled like a trap and superimposed a voice which in the narrative of the conflicts and power organisations of the ants at times expands the descriptive movements of the camera and, at others, fictionalises the more objective perceptive data, producing a continuity between these different aspects. While the scenario of the stacked glasses is constructed as result of a fortuitous situation, its intentionality reveals a desire that alludes to a fiction. The perception of the whole is then crossed by the lines that desire as fiction constructs. Just like the viewpoint of the mute camera, sometimes, with the introduction of almost subliminal graphics, the viewpoints of the verbal narrative can also change and constitute monologues of the ants themselves or considerations on the device which the scenario became during the course of the narrative. Between the perceived and the fictionalised, the intentionality is haunted by the desire that animates it and by the spectre of territorial relations. The construction of a capture device becomes a metaphor for the object produced to be perceived and the devices of perception itself, and it is perhaps for that reason that Catarina Simões refers to the relationship between the representation of reality and the reality of representation as a disentangled movement animating this video.
In fact, it is the reversibility between the concepts, situations and objects that her work articulates, to the extent that the event can take place and escape the prior determinations of an order of knowledge, of habit or of history.
Pedro Lapa
Director of Museu do Chiado – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea