Galeria Filomena Soares
01.Mar.2021 | 29.May.2021
A hermit crab, is a crustacean without its own shell, condemned to spend its life as a nomad, always changing the shell as it grows. It is quite common for a hermit crab to find a shell that looks like a nice dwelling, but in which it does not fully fit, so the crab will stay close, guarding it, until another hermit crab that will fit, finds it and wants to keep that one for itself. This is the moment when the exchange happens, the first hermit crab occupies the other one’s old shelter, while the second takes the new guarded shell. This all happens in an infinite cycle of exchange, protection and comradeship.
Departing from an invitation from one artist to the other, Shell Game is a two-person exhibition that brings together for the first time the works of Andreia Santana (Lisbon, 1991) and Anna-Sophie Berger (Vienna, 1989) at Galeria Filomena Soares in Lisbon. The exhibition unfolds a perhaps unpredicted intimacy through the exchange of ideas and dialogue between their practices. The exhibition sets out with already existing artworks that were thoughtfully chosen and placed in the space, performing a multiplicity of new possibilities from either subtle or overwrought dialogues between the two artists’ practices.
Andreia Santana shows sculptures from her Soul House Series. These works are inspired by Egyptian funerary rituals, making allusions to life passage and its rites. In this context, the so-called Soul Houses functioned as a place of preparation for these life-course-customs that were prepared by the families of the deceased over the years. Santana’s striking iron sculptural compositions, house small fragile glass "containers" of souls – which hold each other in a combination that alternates between feelings of sturdiness and a sense of extreme brittleness. Self-reference, intimacy and an immense awareness of the familiar are mind-sets that run throughout the exhibition. For Anna-Sophie Berger’s it is also a given. In the four works chosen to be shown in the exhibition, there is, in spite of them all being from different moments, a straightforward relationship between them, especially when read in the light of the self-portrait. "What the Turtleneck Is to The Shirt" (2019) is a sensual narrative-poem that describes in detail the act of undressing slowly revealing the characteristics of the person under the clothes; the photograph "Portrait" (2019) depicts a face in two, revealing the eeriness of perfect symmetry, making us yearn for the true nature of the asymmetrical reality. Another ‘Portrait’, this time from 2018, shares the title with the previous work, but externalizes a more intimate side of the artist, one that is often in disguise, carrying a deeper animal essence within. Finally, the fourth work is a used, creased poster edition, it is an adaptation for another work titled ‘A Sign in Decline’, which openly alludes to the relations between the signifier and the signified. An image of a red street sign with a face is shown in different arrangements, as it changes expression it smoothly disappears, a strong portrait of the days we live in and our relationship with feelings and the passage of time.
The relations between both practices and the works chosen for this exhibition also allows us to see how projects are outspread (like a sketch or a drawing) in contemporary times.
Conceived as “mutant elements”, the sculptures by Santana reflect on their inherent fluid status and living qualities to linger other types of existence in the future. They are ethereal and unfathomable, like strange animals or maybe even strange humans, as each of them carries the name of a person - Luís, Pedro, João, Henrique, Pia, Hugo – no other information is given other than this identification, perhaps souls in transit. These works, which embody a sense of the celestial, take in this exhibition a completely new breadth, compared to when they were shown previously, in "The Skull of the Haunted Snail" (Hangar, Lisbon, 2020). The sculptures attempt to open a space for a counter-discursive control allowing for new historiographies, counter-mythologies, and utopias to unfold. Being displayed in relation to Anna-Sophie Berger’s uncanny and stealthy exploration of portraiture, they are disrupted somehow and manage to capture something which was imperceptible, other forms of life, and even concepts of the afterlife. This happens in part due to the meticulousness found in Berger’s practice and the way in which concepts are directly conversed and interpreted. Her portraits act as imaginary conceptions of space for our imagination.
This quasi-natural relationship seen in the exhibition works a little bit in the same way as the hermit crab shells. An infinite succession of inert bodies waiting to be taken and inhabited by a passing soul with the appropriate size, using it to then be left to another soul when outgrown, leaving the cycle to take its course, the exhibition is kept alive, just like the hermit crab, as a vibrant product of a world of associations.
Dating back to Ancient Greece, the Shell Game, also known as Thimblerig is one of the oldest forms of hand tricks. In this simple entertainment game designed to fool the person watching - that needs to guess in which of the three nutshells the one performing the game has hidden the pea - a duplicitous bogus, in times been considered a gambling game is played, reveling nothing more than a confidence trick. Shell Game has thus become a popular term for ‘trick’. This title came about after many exchanges between both artists, which went so far as to include Pythagoras and fava beans. If thought in its very primal and literal significance, the Shell Game is a game of homes, of protection, of self-assurances.
Humanity goes a short way from these provisions and so does this exhibition – from prowling in Andreia Santana’s systematized homes of the soul to being faced, as if looking into a mirror, with Anna-Sophie Berger’s probes into the self, this exhibition is nothing less than one big identity check. Buoyancy is mandatory.
Luiza Teixeira de Freitas
(1991, Lisbon) lives and works in New York. Santana studied Visual Arts at ESAD - Caldas da Rainha, was a participant in the Independent Study Program of Maumaus in Lisbon and is currently a fellow on the Studio Art Program of CUNY, New York. She has participated in several residencies namely, Residency Unlimited (New York), with a fellowship from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; Panal 360 (Buenos Aires), and Gasworks - Triangle Network at Hangar (Lisbon). Santana won the NOVO BANCO Prize, was shortlisted for Ducato Prize (Italy), and has been awarded grants including Fulbright/Carmona e Costa Foundation, Criatório - CMP, Amadeo Souza Cardoso, and Fundation Calouste Gulbenkian - Délégation en France. Her work has been shown in Portugal and internationally, highlighting the exhibitions: ‘The Skull of the Haunted Snail’, Hangar, Lisbon; ’Hollow Hands' at Generali Milano; ‘The Outcast Manufacturers’ at Filomena Soares Gallery; 10000 years between Venus and Mars, Galeria Municipal do Porto; ‘Cultivated Memory’ Peninsula Gallery. New York; 'Leaves of Absence’ at Serralves Contemporary Art Museum; ‘Vanishing Point’ Cordoaria Nacional; ‘Ghost of Chance’ La Nave, Madrid; ’10 Years, 10 artists, 10 commissions’, Chiado 8, Lisbon; ‘Now It Is Light’ Boavista Gallery, Lisbon; ‘The Lobster Loop’, MONITOR Gallery, Lisbon.
(1989, Vienna) studied fashion and transmedia art at the University of Applied Arts, Viena. She has held solo exhibitions at Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (2020); Cell Project Space, London (2019); mumok, Vienna; Kunsthaus Bregenz (2016); Ludlow 38, New York (2015).
Her work has been presented at Kunsthalle Wien (2019,2017); S.M.A.K, Ghent (2018); Kunstverein München; Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2017), Salzburger Kunstverein (2016) and at the 9th Berlin Biennale (2016). Upcoming is an exhibition at MACRO, Rome in the fall of 2021. She was the recipient of Art Viva Prize (2018) and Kapsch Contemporary Art Prize, mumok - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna. Berger lives in New York and Vienna.