Drawings and text-based and collages, spatial interventions, performances and publishing are some of the media and approaches deployed by Carla Filipe (1973, Vila Nova da Barquinha, Portugal) to create a singular type of social portrait and self-portrait. Carla Filipe uses methodologies that are akin to anthropology as she observes, collects, interviews and documents traces of individual and collective narratives that belong both to the visual culture of the recent past and to the present. Travels, dislocations and in situ work (such as building and planting vegetable gardens) are also processual elements of research and contributors to artistic creation.
Inspired by autobiographical events and personal experience growing up in Portugal in a community of railway workers Carla Filipe’s highly subjective process of ‘field work’ serves as a lens through which to consider ways of life marginalized by history and the social and political systems that drive it. Filipe’s use of found objects, visual appropriation, the use of language as physical object, and her low-fi, punk-like aesthetic associated with street signage, graffiti and political advertising of a pre-digital age, constitute a rich subjective archive. Her work draws from criticalmemory to value narratives that have been forgotten or omitted by conventionaldiscursivity; it follows a process that highlights the political, economic andsocial transformations that shape the present in its different geographies andcontexts for direct intervention.
With the exhibition hóspede, Carla Filipe continues to pursue a creative process that engages the current social, political and historical context. Here, the artist returns to her work on the iconographies from posters linked to political, unionist or cooperative causes to reshape their graphism and design in 28 flags – one for each of the EU’s member states until the year 2019. The flags represent the weight of economic factors in their relation to that entity, as well as historical references from each country, to illustrate how they come together under this common identity according to what Jacques Derrida called a ‘double memory’.
‘Hóspede’ [guest] is a word whose etymology also points to someone who occupies a certain place or space by somehow paying for it. Within the debate about hospitality that has taken place in the universe of philosophy and contemporary artistic practices, Carla Filipe’s proposal compares each member state to an entity whose permanence is fragile (as recently demonstrated by Brexit) and whose relationship with the union is equivocal given the delicate balance between common goals and nationalistic interests that are subject to constant, circumstantial political mutations.
The deviant iconographies in Carla Filipe’s works do not offer solutions. Instead, they question the present with its tensions and contradictions. The departure from basic values associated with international solidarity, which can be observed in contemporary societies (including European society), is the background for this proposal, which covers the arc that goes from hostility to hospitality.
Unfortunately, the frailty of the idea of Europe has been exposed by current events. These are moments in which territorial and ideological conflicts shake the foundations of the so-called European construction and question the collective defence of values that have been taken for granted.
Carla Filipe’s hóspede was conceived for the Square Gallery in Villa Arson in 2021/ 2022.
The exhibition is organized by Villa Arson in collaboration with Fundação de Serralves - Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto, Portugal, and is curated by Marta Moreira de Almeida.