The work of Portuguese artist Nuno Sousa Vieira draws an analogy between architecture and lived experience. His own studio, a vast, defunct plastics factory is crucial as a place of origin and as a separate temporal entity. In fact, the studio occupies a central position in his entire oeuvre and has served as his material repository for over a decade. It is an inexhaustible store of architectural elements, furniture, and objects, while serving as a melancholic reminder of the demise of manufacture.
The act of assembling a new work elsewhere is indexical to the factory’s gradual dereliction, as elements are removed from its fabric. These walls, doors, window frames, chairs, heaters, lights and so on – outline the most prosaic functions of the urban environment layered with physical use. Built space attests to human existence, presenting a theatre or backdrop against which our stories unfold. The body is the end-user, seeking shelter, opening doors and windows, flicking switches, loitering and sitting down. These perfunctory actions have been undertaken countless times, but they are important in specifying space as they are identified with the memory of our habitat. Though when a building is divested of its everyday function its purpose becomes less distinct and perception must define its new role as experience. Sousa Vieira states:
I was not interested in the representation of architecture, but in architecture as a physical experience. I was interested in the physicality, the presence, the approach, and the distance that the viewer has in relation to objects and works in the space, and how they articulate with each other within the exhibition.
The series All Colours will agree in the Dark, features seven monochrome paintings on paper, torn simultaneously and collated together in new colour configurations, each hue corresponding to that of a particular room in his factory; the edges of the paintings, torn as a stack in a single gesture, never fit perfectly back together again when aligned with a new segment. Indeed, the act of taking an object apart means that its reconstitution can never quite produce the same object.
The sculpture Double/Double features a pair of identical structures, one made from hardwood, the other from particleboard. Each construction, a doubled, interlocking latticework of linear elements is based on the measurements of the artist’s body: one is displayed in the gallery space, while the other is shown in the external yard open to the elements. By the end of the exhibition their different material qualities and weather exposure will result in substantially altered works.
The game of duplication is completed by ShutterMyDarkBrownEyes, a model of the gallery based on photographs taken by the artist and encased in a Perspex box. The frontal view presents a series of slim openings in the form of a door standing ajar, and a series of partially open shutters through which the interior of the space can be glimpsed, while lateral views into the box reveal a reconstructed space in which the spectator is faced with an impossible view: to be inside the space looking out, whilst simultaneously looking in.
A map has a familial relationship with a building or geographical location. The document shadows its real counterpart – it chronicles, abstracts and fictionalizes. In the work Provisório the artist conceives of a simple drawing machine that allows the floorplan of the exhibition space in the original factory to be duplicated in a single gesture, while the second drawing superimposes various iterations of the actual gallery plan in London. Writer Jorge Luis Borges’s fragment On Exactitude in Science proposes that scale and rigour are finite in their application to the map. After all, maps are miniature renditions of topographies that should be carried from place to place. Once the subject and its representation are equal in size, the image collapses under its material and conceptual weight.
This text is an excerpt from Like the Turn of a Kaleidoscope by Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley from their publication Double/Double that accompanies the exhibition.