Landscape for the Vanished

This exhibition starts in 1991. At age twenty, Rui Calçada Bastos (Lisbon, 1971) goes on an initiatory trip to Tibet. Walking 140km in nine days, he crosses the Indian Himalaya into a new life. Out of this episode emerged some of the pieces (Landscape for The Vanished II) shown today, which have come together with others so that different times and chronologies compose a landscape. And if the exhibition was conceived for today, it is because today condenses an entire time that evaporates as it moves along at its own cadence, while acquiring a mysterious density. Landscape for the Vanished is about absence.

Before everything, or even after everything, absence is what is there. But absence also expands the memory of experience, the certainty of transience, the poetry inherent to that once-inhabited void. The exhibition unfolds according to three absences – perhaps more – with different origins, scopes and meanings: a network is created, a landscape. More specifically, the pieces are in themselves empty places capable of hosting, more or less indirectly, more or less obviously, the human presence. The Tibet photographs deal with the absence of the author himself, given the temporal difference separating him now, at age forty-seven, from the trip; but they also depict a natural context, which could very well be a representation of the world before – or after – (a) man, or even any far-flung place we might suppose exists – and it certainly does –, repeatedly, somewhere on the planet, awaiting the traveller. Experience (particularly under the light of the trip’s initiatory dimension) is a deeply human, deeply personal thing, and, therefore, it is absolutely silent. The understanding of experience is much closer to observation than to imposition. For that reason, memory is highly plastic, projecting, at the artist’s hands, so simply and in such few gestures. Indeed, such is the case of Landscape for the Vanished I.  In the piece, the absence of accessory, added matter, growing over the objects, as it were, affords a reading that goes straight to the point, exposing, precisely and absolutely, what is not there. This becomes even more extreme in Landscape for the Vanished III, in which a sort of obsessional un-concealment exposes the same evidence: ashes. Or poetry: life as a concoction of fate and salvation, and the beauty of it: the encounters it offers.

Rui Calçada Bastos’ relationship with travelling is very particular, and the same is valid for the all traces of transit. In a symbolic sense, he conceived this exhibition has a suspension, as if we were granted the privilege of floating in between memories without being dragged in by the infallible course of time, even while understanding the impossibility of such circumstances. To draw a parallel with his trip, this could be a mystical experience, as we are confronted simultaneously with fate and poetry.


Maria Joana Vilela