02/06/2012 - 23/09/2012
Vernissage 01/06/2012 18h00

Combining documentary and subjective viewpoints, Filipa César's films are concerned with the relationship between history, memory, image and narrative. Their freedom of tone and form is reminiscent of the form of the cinematic essay, in which the image serves as a starting point for open narratives, developed like a stream of thought. In her films the artist concentrates on points of historical crystallization, on facts situated on the margins of official history but liable to reveal its mechanisms, ideologies and hidden dimensions. The exhibition 1975 involves three films exploring different aspects of a particularly important period of the recent history of her country, Portugal: the end of Salazar’s authoritarian regime, in the mid 1970s, and the decolonisation of Guinea-Bissau.

Filipa César : Le Passeur, 2008, Courtesy de l'artiste & Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon. Vue d'exposition © Photo : Aurélien Mole

The Passeur illustrates the recurrent interweaving in Filipa César's work of her personal history and that of her country. A double projection shows both the natural charm and insignificant appearance of a frontier river, near the town of Melgaço, in northern Portugal, and four friends of the artist’s family who were political adversaries of the dictatorial regime in the 1960 and early '70s, evoking this era and notably their activities as smugglers across the Portuguese-Spanish border. While the title of the film relates to the resistance activities of these smugglers (“passeurs” in french), it also transposes the reflection developed by César concerning her own role as director; indeed the title refers to the meaning attributed to this term by the French cinema critic Serge Daney in the realm of cinema: the “passeur” in this case is also he who explores grey areas and endeavours to cross frontiers.

Filipa César : Porto, 1975, 2010, Courtesy de l'artiste & Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon. Vue d'exposition © Photo : Aurélien Mole

In Porto, 1975 the subjective viewpoint of the camera takes us through another emblematic example of Portuguese history from the 1970s, thanks to a single long take lasting the whole duration of a 16 mm reel. Bouça was a social housing project initiated in 1973, just before the end of Salazar’s Estado Novo, and conceived by an architect whose renown would subsequently become international: Álvaro Siza. The project is situated on the edge of downtown Porto, on a particularly difficult site. Only a quarter of the buildings had been completed when work was halted following the putsch in November 1975. In 1999, a decision was made to undertake renovation and reconstruction. Building work resumed in 2001 and was completed in 2006. César’s camera wanders lightly around the housing development, crosses through an apartment and stops in an architecture agency installed in what should have been the nursery school.

Simultaneously we hear the recorded appeal by Alexandre Alves Costa, who is also an architect, testifying to the effect the project had on public opinion at the time. In Porto, 1975 Filipa César approaches the question of Portuguese identity and commemoration in an extremely personal way. She evokes social themes along the way, such as the phenomenon of the gentrification of this housing estate henceforth prized by a town in full boom.

Filipa César : The Embassy, 2011, Courtesy de l'artiste & Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon. Vue d'exposition © Photo : Aurélien Mole

Finally, in her film The Embassy, the artist addresses the colonization era and, indirectly, its bloody end during the colonial wars. Within the framework of a much larger project about revolutionary filmmakers in Guinea-Bissau linked to the independence activist Amílcar Cabral, Filipa César by chance discovered a photo album from the national archives, deserted after the civil war in 1999. It is this album that can be seen here being flicked through and commented on by the Guinean archivist and journalist Armando Lona. With a single fixed shot and by lingering on certain details and historical traces, the artist succeeds in transmitting a living image of the past and the present of this West African state. The title of the work pays homage to the French director Chris Marker and his work in Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to these three films, Filipa César presents a collection of documents with the text by Aimé Césaire Discours sur le colonialisme as centerpiece. This fundamental text from 1950 on the struggle against colonialism was banned during the Portuguese dictatorship but was nevertheless clandestinely published in 1971, in an edition conceived by Filipa César's father, and since then has not been reprinted in Portugal. Its reproduction within the framework of the exhibition at Mudam finally does justice to it.

Filipa César was born in 1975 in Porto. She lives and works in Berlin.

Clément Minighetti

Within the framework of: