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from 26 MAY 2016 to 25 SEP 2016
Silvestre Pestana (1949, Funchal, Madeira) is one of the most radical and least known figures in Portuguese contemporary art. A poet, artist, and performer, Pestana has created a singular body of work in a variety of media since the late 1960s. The first major presentation of his work, this exhibition brings together over 100 rarely seen works with documentation and archival materials to highlight the artist’s pioneering use of drawing, collage, photography, sculpture, installation, video and performance to confront the relation between society, art and technology.
Emerging from a group of experimental poets in the 1960s, Pestana combined the visual arts with poetry as a form of resistance against censorship in early drawings, collages, and sculptures. Between 1969 and 1974, as a political exile in Sweden, he created public interventions in the form of gardens and performance-based actions that suggested the fragile ecological and social conditions of contemporary life. Returning to Portugal after the 1974 Revolution, Pestana developed a unique visual grammar using light, language, and visual forms that conceived of the human body as a social, ideological, and technological circuit. The politicized actions, collages, and photographs from 1970s and 1980s use his body to activate linguistic and non-linguistic codes, while attempting to expand poetry into a spatial and choreographic practice. 
The artist’s polemical performances of the 1970s and 1980s — documented in a few remaining images — presciently addressed how technologies of the third industrial revolution could elicit both horror and fascination, offering both forms of entertainment and control. Biometrics, militarization, and the extension of the human into a vast information network mark his photography, video, and installation work of the 1980s. Using the moving image as a tool for performative and poetic action, Pestana became one of the pioneering figures of video art in Portugal. Always an early adopter of novel technologies, he has utilized computing, gaming software, and drones in recent decades to develop new expressions of artistic resistance, continuing his decades-long engagement with various political and technological systems that permeate contemporary life. 

To accompany the exhibition, Serralves will publish a fully illustrated catalogue with new commissioned essays. António Preto offers a crucial insight on the influence of experimental poetry in Pestana’s work, Verónica Metello gives an overview of the artist’s career and Adam Kleinman adds a fresh perception around Pestana’s works in relation to today’s technologies and their social effects. The book also features a conversation with the artist conducted by curator João Ribas and artist Mauro Cerqueira that sheds light on Pestana’s influences and processes.

‘Silvestre Pestana: Techno-form’ is curated by João Ribas, Deputy Director and Senior Curator of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, assisted by curator Paula Fernandes. 

Image: Silvestre Pestana, Biovirtual, 1984. Colour photograph. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Related Activities

With the presence of the artist.

11 JUN (Sat), 17h00
With Silvestre Pestana and João Ribas, Deputy Director and curator of the exhibition

12 JUN (Sun), 12h00
By Melissa Rodrigues, Museum Educator

14 JUN (Tue), 19h30
By Paula Fernandes, Museum curator

07 JUL (Thu), 18h30
By Rita Castro Neves, Artist and researcher

10 JUL (Sun), 12h00
By Joana Mendonça, Museum Educator

16 JUL (Sat), 17h00
By Maria Teresa Cruz, Researcher

16 JUL (Sat), 15h30
By Laredo, Associação Cultural

10 SEP (Sat), 17h00
By Verónica Metello, Curator and researcher


4 JUN (SAT), 17h00
Zangões, by Silvestre Pestana

16 JUL (SAT) , 18h30 
Zangões, by Silvestre Pestana
Exclusive Sponsor of The Museum
  • Days 26 MAY 2016 - 25 SEP 2016



Exhibition views

Silvestre Pestana concluded his studies in Graphic Arts and Design at the School of Fine Arts of Porto, in 1980 and a Master's degree in Art Education and Design from the De Montfort University, Leicester, in 1998. Between 1969 and 1974 he lived in Stockholm. He directed the first video art films in Portugal, where he was one of the main promoters of this art form. He was also the first artist to write poetry for Spectrum personal computers, in 1982-84. He has recently concentrated on the world of visual art on the internet, producing projects for the platform ‘Second Life’. His most recent exhibitions include ‘VERTIGEM04: sociedade aberta’ in the 3rd part of the Maia Biennial (2015); ‘Sufoco’, Galeria Múrias Centeno, Lisboa (2015); ‘Sufoco ? Intermundos ? Drones V, 2014’, Espaço Mira, Porto (2014); ‘Povo Novo Virtual. Silvestre Pestana nas Escritas Po.Ex’, Casa da Escrita, Coimbra (2013); ‘Anos 70: Atravessar fronteiras’, Centre of Modern Art, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (2010) and ‘FÉNIX acção: socialmente reprovado por envelhecimento prematuro’, Uma Certa Falta de Coerência, Porto (2009). 

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Rua D. João de Castro, 210
4150-417 Porto Portugal
41º 9'35.40"N