Gabriel Pessoto and the dialectic of images
(Exhibition “Virtual Reality”, 2022. Temporada de Projetos at Paço das Artes - São Paulo, SP)
The environment is domestic, there is no doubt about that. However, there is little or no comfort left. There are cloths, wool embroideries, quilts and pillows, everything that makes up the repertoire of whims with the surfaces of the house. If we are able to recognize such objects, they also appear as distant and pixelated echoes of their original items, devoid of their functions; they are mere project representations. In the current Season of Projects, Gabriel Pessoto transformed a room at Paço das Artes into a kitnet similar to different virtual simulation resources - from the architectural model to the house play, from The Sims to the classic Sketchup. The installation proposes delicate negotiations between image and power, public and private, desire and body, home and subversion, especially through the coexistence of media of distinct and conflicting natures: the handmade embroidery and the digital image.
Beyond the explicit link with craft techniques, the artist is interested in how embroidery approaches the pixelated visuality of precarious digital images, of low resolution. Both stand up from an agglutination of codes organized on a surface; they organize themselves from a specific grammar, oriented by recipes and more or less autonomous scores. In the condition of a whole constituted by several parts, they draw attention to a certain architecture of the image, revealing its structuring fictional condition. In embroidery and pixel, we see not only something represented, but also the presence of a technique that does not want to hide, showing us the paths of image construction and flirting with the limits between figuration and abstraction.
Contrary to moralizing perspectives that seek to dichotomize and binarize the relations between the analog and the digital, the artisanal and the virtual (the classic conceptual opposition between “virtual” and “real” - a real, physical or embodied world and another, virtual, digital and deterritorialized), Pessoto opts for a path that does not separate them, before seeks to explore the borderline and adjacent potency between one and the other, that is, the territory of propositional conflict that keeps them in tension, at the same time questioning them and affirming their potentialities.
Still regarding the technique, it is worth recognizing that, as part of contemporary artistic production, when approaching the issues that orbit “technology”, it tends to have an approach fascinated by the potential virtuosity of tools, seeking increasingly satisfying simulation experiences, Pessoto bets on a contrary strategy, interested in procedures that do not seek to deceive the viewer, but give him the opportunity to investigate how things are made, suspending any relationship of alienating or anesthetizing passivity. This not only expresses itself in the condition of “precarious technological” work, which distrusts itself, but also in the way the technique allows to reconfigure notions of temporality and duration of images. His wool embroideries reproduce frames of videos and fragments of images and emojis that circulate in contexts of rapid apprehension of consumption and disposal, such as porn sites and social media in general. They integrate a new culture of participation, essentially guided by the dispute of attention. In the feed, a photo is doomed to be immediately replaced by another, and another and another, so that it is difficult to fix anything. If photographs could be allies of the production of memory, they prove more and more the opposite: we record to forget. Increasingly, we do not take photos to consult them later, but mainly to produce information, deal with anxiety and attest to the present. With thousands of pieces of information offered to us at all times, amidst a large number of banalities, what holds us back is what surprises us. It is the logic of reward: we scroll our finger on the infinite feed until some trace of identification, excitement or flattery appears. For content to be actually seen, it needs to capture us quickly and, preferably, produce emotional reactions. In addition, at a collective level, we live this need for confirmation of our online existence, an existence guided by overexposure. But it is a compulsive practice, and even what captures us tends to last a few seconds. By transposing the smoothness of the digital image to embroidery, a slow and procedural act, Pessoto makes the representation last, stretches it and ensures its survival, as if he redefined it. To some extent, embroidery not only shifts the time of these images, but also gives them body and thickness, which means that they cease to be a mere tool of signification to also figure as a resource of presentification. Perhaps it is the desire to embody the image until it is possible to fit into it the singularity of our own lives and vulnerabilities; a fundamental meeting point between reality and fantasy.
This process of redefinition occurs not only in relation to the circulation and reception of this material on the internet, but also with regard to the themes and subjects portrayed, generally focused on the links between affection and sexuality, innocence and erotic intimacy. Perfect loves, for example, is a work composed of two wool embroideries that represent pillows extracted from a frame of a porn film. They express aspects often overlooked in the consumption of sexual images, such as affection and care (and, perhaps, the condition of the subject of those who stage the objects of our desires) scrambling the role expected for this type of content. In addition, as they are mostly homemade films, they tend to blur the boundaries between inside and outside, home and public space. The imperative presence of production and consumption of digital images in the domestic space, through the cell phone-prosthesis, requires that we reconfigure notions of intimacy and domesticity as instances of protection, security, shelter and nest - the world has never been so much inside the house, with its conflicts and threats; and, on the other hand, it has never been so easy to produce intimacy with things and people so distant, but who inhabit our room from a single click. If the house is the space that creates the roots of man, the first place of construction of subjectivity, "our corner in the world", as Gaston Bachelard wanted, it is also the territory of the first disputes and conflicts contained in the moral project of family and citizenship; the house as an invitation to know the corners and edges of desire, the skin of furniture and walls; political terrain par excellence.
Something of the order of intimacy is also present in Pessoto's color palette. The predominance of pinks and lilacs reminds us of the mucous membranes that line the internal cavities of the body and that are open to the outside, especially the urogenital ones, with textures and secretions that make up the erotic imaginary. On the other hand, they are tones that suggest innocence and cuteness, sometimes from an infantilist bias, which places the work in a territory of perversion and ambiguity. There are those who approach these embroideries touched by the affections contained in the materiality of the wool (memories of a nest-house) and, little by little, realize that the images contained there profane the fantasies of the home. And, on the contrary, there are those who are interested above all in its erotic aspect, although they find, along the way, traces of docility and softness. It is not about affirming one thing to the detriment of the other, but about producing a meeting between such imaginaries.
It is also necessary to consider the way Pessoto explores, along with the more figurative images, abstract patterns of decorative pattern. The repertoire (sometimes of idyllic taste) present in the dishcloths and all other surfaces susceptible to decorative investment in a house reflects the effort for care and the construction of certain clichés of home and femininity (the flowery and welcoming house, without conflicts, unshakeable and tender institution). When the artist brings such exercises closer to intimate images of a more explicit political contour, he ends up drawing our attention to the fact that, contrary to harmless, the "decorative" is also immersed in subjective investment, endowed with the construction of values.
This is a work in construction that addresses some of the non-postponable issues of our time. Virtual Reality is a manifest example of this and, however, there is a refusal to deal with subjects from caricatures and literal thematizations. Its power is structurally dialectical, that is, it bets on the power of opposition and contradiction between symbolic senses, technical dimensions and socio-cultural discussions. Overlaid and contaminated, the categories managed by Gabriel Pessoto whisper to us, in their particular choreography, that there is no harmless image.
Pollyana Quintella, 2022
Pollyana Quintella is a researcher, writer and curator at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. Graduated in Art History from UFRJ, has a master's degree from UERJ with research on the critic Mário Pedrosa and is a doctoral student at the same institution. She collaborated with the Rio Art Museum (MAR) in the area of research and curation between 2018 and 2021. She writes for several cultural periodicals.