Forgotten Sounds of Tomorrow

Nothing, like something, happens anywhere [1].

It is to the image of a magnetic vortex, which simultaneously attracts and repels us, that Alexandre Estrela’s first exhibition at the gallery begins (and precipitates) – from the second room to the first, from the twilight to the luminous score, from silence to the intermittent noise of collisions and computerised arithmetic astonishments. The exhibition presents a set of works inserted in a time arch that begins in the early 2000s, in New York, and ends in the present day, in Lisbon.

The drawings developed over these twenty years, are now activated by the video projection, describing a work methodology woven in two parts expanded in time, catapulting them into the present.  Despite their static quality, there are in the marker or brush strokes vectors of movement, ghosts that assume mechanical functions, inducing pre-established choreographies – that both predestinate the gesture and recall its memory.

If the poem works as a machine in function of prose [2], drawing can also work as a device in function of flux. In this exhibition, its presence sometimes functions as a structure that receives undulating animations – an arena for the organic behaviour of animated elements that compete with each other – and sometimes it collaborates in the execution of tasks that are beyond us. It may also, however, be the visor that directs the gaze towards the distortion of messages, contributing to the revelation of a competition between media (drawing, photography, video, and sound) in the exercise of representation. The evidence of these mechanisms is mostly translated into concrete nuclei, conceptualized a posteriori, being discovered within the very choice of the medium, instigating the duality of perception – often inadequate in relation to its function. Each work summons the spectator, gripping them to the present or relegating them to a place of an observer facing a drama they can identify with but whose conclusion transcends them. The climax we expect is thus given to us not as a final result, but as a causal, electric consequence.


Lanterna is the first work of the exhibition. It receives us as an illuminated painting, composed of geometric elements and an arabesque – a tag – replicating in the raw canvas a composition found on a commercial billboard. We then observe that the composition is slowly altered by the luminous incidence of a video projection. Three points map the lines – two controlling the color of the projection (RGB) and altering the pigment of the canvas, and the third controlling the general light, revealing the painting. In this over-projection [3] technique, an infinity of chromatic nuances is created and chases incessantly after the graffiter hand, as if looking for the ideal signature.

Forgotten Sounds of Tomorrow presents an advertisement for a harmon/kardon loudspeaker, an object whose transparency and design reveal an unquestionable quality in sound reproduction. In the year 2000, Estrela wrote over the picture the phrase Forgotten Sounds of Tomorrow, coining such innovation as a museum artifact [4]. A reflection of light/video projection on loop moves over the glass that protects it, introducing a living rhythm to it, resurrecting it and summoning it into the present. This almost funereal act triggers the activation of its temporal dimension, belonging both to a past time and to a future time – in a limbo.

In the third work of the exhibition, Throat Clearing, the image of a small rod oscillates under the commands of a computer. Its irregular and pendular movement interacts with two vertically painted lines, and the variation of the plane’s inclination consequently releases guttural and harmonic sounds. The vocal cords (which we can associate with the two static black lines) produce a melodic echo of natural resonances, as if in a continuous voice exercise. The action is occasionally interrupted by the interpreter’s cough, destabilizing the polyphonic system and forcing a new start. Once again, it is the active dialogue between drawing and video that invokes the sound.

Three anthropomorphic objects fall onto the walls of the gallery in Motion Seekness. Enlarged photocopies of parachutists’ helmets are positioned into a free fall through drawing. Each helmet has a camera and a photographic camera attached to it, which captures the moment of the fall [5]. The black trail, drawn from the helmets, determines the quality of the fall – if straight, faster, if sinuous, slower.

Magnetic Field Prepared for Video presents a drawing, also from the year 2000, activated by several moving dots – small video cells that move along routes which are preconditioned by the drawing. Each cell wandering through this magnetised arena reacts at a different speed, interfering with neighbouring behaviours and culminating in a series of random collisions. Each internal collision triggers a sound reaction, and energy is released and dispersed onto the remaining bodies, which gain or lose speed. The drawing as a structure for this narrative of light – as the skeleton of the action – is successively excited by the travelling particles that, at the limit, initiate a process of disappearance over it – aging it, oxidising it.


We do not fully exit the vortex first enunciated, being left with the sensation that somehow it has invaded our brain/body, masses that are also machines. It is as if each object was an exterior approximation to our internal mechanisms, where the rules we dictate follow predetermined reactions, even if with the possibility of startle. The hypothetical surprise, uncertain as to the moment it happens to us, travels through the temporal vectors of the past and the future that intersect us – in turn projecting in one the reflection of the other, and vice-versa.

From Sound to Speed is that travelling element in the exhibition, hidden in the nook of the gallery. This drawing is a diagram of a short fade out of sound, more precisely the sound of a line quickly scratched on paper – materialised as an archaeological sound hypothesis. We sense the rhythm of the pen falling into silence.

The certainty of the future that we create in the image of reflections may always be false, often unexpected. In that case, is it possible to escape the voracity of chance?


A Quiet Poem [6]

When music is far enough away
the eyelid does not often move

and objects are still as lavender
without breath or distant rejoinder.

The cloud is then so subtly dragged
away by the silver flying machine

that the thought of it alone echoes
unbelievably; the sound of the motor falls

like a coin toward the ocean’s floor
and the eye does not flicker

as it does when in the loud sun a coin
rises and nicks the near air. Now,

slowly, the heart breathes to music
while the coins lie in wet yellow sand.

Eva Mendes


[1] Larkin, Philip. Last verse of the poem I remember, I remember, in Philip Larkin Collected Poems, Faber Poetry, 1988.
[2] In the sense established by William Carlos Williams, in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams, New Directions, 1969.
[3] Colour projection on top of another coloured surface.
[4] In fact, the object is being exhibited at the MoMA, in New York, USA.
[5] Common in the 2000s, these helmets were discontinued after video and photography were merged into the same device.
[6] O’Hara, Frank, in The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, University of California Press, 1995.


  • Alexandre Estrela