A work of architecture is a shift around the world and the urban cause.
In addition to the intelligent knowledge of the functions, it is a standard
axis of mental and physical crossroads – a space where mankind meets. It is
repulsive of mental disorder and, at the same time, an icon of the present – it
is concept and matter, provocation, urban mutation and transformation. It goes
beyond concepts and dematerialises limits, breaks with censorship and petty
limits. It is also an area of well-being.
To build in relation to the present, for a future unattainable utopian
reality.I recall that in 1968, I published, at a difficult time for national
life, the “Disturbing Art” manifest, which noted that “immortal art will always
be disruptive” – disturbing, especially, to small spirits and in all
disciplines. Architecture in its balance – eternity, is unbalancing,
intensifies the real, disturbs, integrates by disintegrating – interacts and is
of programmatic and prophetic relevance, like a chiaroscuro.
I am talking about disturbing architecture!
All that I have said, I see and identify in this excellent work of architecture
which happens to be called the “José de Guimarães International Arts Centre”, designed
by the “Pitágoras” architects office.
I met the architect Raúl Roque, one of the “Pitágoras” collaborators, at the
time when the Guimarães Municipal Council entrusted him with preparing the
preliminary architecture project. Now that it has been built, I have been asked
to say a few words about the building, to which I contributed in a merely
literary, conceptual and metaphorical form.
But let’s see. This building was made to house a set of works of art covering a
historical “range-atlas” going from Neolithic to contemporary times, about 7000
years. From China to Mesoamerica and to Africa.
So we began a series of meetings and conversations where I explained my idea of
time, of the world, and of art, of concept and matter. I explained that my
project has an immutable spiritual, but is not unmovable – adaptable to
changing thoughts. We spoke of everything that seemed best suited to display
the art of all ages in agreement and in confrontation – art from past history
and art that will make future history. We talk about the intimacy of the
artistic object – its concept, delicacy and veneration. The way you see – the
We spoke of objects and artefacts used in festivities and rituals – the
sacralisation that remains after use, and its visualisation in other latitudes
We spoke of the silence of the everyday world, of non-dialogue, hypocrisy,
envy, of the mystery of magic and of wrong turns. Of wars and of hatred, of
Of the need for provocative architecture!
We spoke of several museums that we both knew, of Quai Branly and the Temple
concept that Jean Nouvel defended. Of the Beyeler Piano Foundation,
extraordinary for its harmony and scale, where all of the arts are mixed
together, the new Pompidou Centre by Metz or the fabulous Chichu Art Museum by
Tadao Ando, in Naoshima, where I have several sculptures, or of the extension
to the Moma in NY by Taniguchi.
Anyway, we talked of the museum world which Clezio recently presented in an
exhibition at the Louvre, and the current functions of the new centres and
cultural institutions, non-differentiated, scattered everywhere. We spoke of
the failure of the majority. We discussed the need for a new and different
design, both in context and in content. And we continued to talk about everything
– even things that, at first sight, are insignificant.
And so things were happening and the work was germinating, first in the project
and then in reality. We spoke of the challenge of an intervention in the urban
space and the democratization of the public space and of the access to the work
of art, integrated into the urban space.
We spoke of urbanism and the transformation of the cities. We spoke of
anthropology, and the capacity to discern the goal and the “inter-subjectivity”
Husserl speaks of. We spoke of the images spoken of by Didier Huberman, “the
lying image” and the image he wants to appear to survive.
We spoke of the noise of the cities and what our children will be like, they
belong to the world of tomorrow, making history, and of our ancestors who
belong to the world that is no longer visible, looked at like shadows, from the
perspective of history. Only their artefacts will be the ideas, testimonies to
We spoke of the importance of archaeology for understanding the present in the
light of the past and of how an atlas of the culture shown in an enclosed space
is neither permanent nor temporary.
And we talked of museology, and of light and of flat and three-dimensional
objects, in wood and ceramics and fabrics. And of paintings on canvas and on
paper and of their fragility and of taking care when handling and transporting
pieces, and of keeping them in “storage”, and of air conditioning, of
temperature and of the moisture and light filters. Of the influence of the
human factor in the deterioration of objects.
We spoke of urban interventions and the close collaboration between artists and
design architects and urban planners. I spoke of my urban intervention – the
most extensive – in Kushiro, Japan, where my collaboration with city planners
began in the preliminary stages and even in the design stage and how we would
overcome all the difficulties inherent toa harsh climate, where fog was
“chronic”. It was an unprecedented urban intervention, where more than 80 works
of art were used to relieve an inhospitable port area of Japan that kept the
youth away, decreasing the population of that city.
Pierre Restany, great knower of things and of thought, immensely great heart,
who invented the “New Figuration”, says in the book he dedicated to me (1):
“you can ask to infinity about why a contemporary artist would adopt the name
of his home town. The most obvious reason seems to be the desire to assert a
connection to a specific territory – but to do this, the geographic location
must serve him. His memory of the mediaeval walls that surrounded the city
before the expansion of the seventies and the building of the University. The
Martins Sarmento archaeological society, that almost adopted him, curious as he
was about history, the ruins that abounded and the granite rocks, “boulders” of
Penha mountain, the linen and handicrafts, the cutlery, the hides and their
acrid smell, theremains of Roman pottery in the old castles in the area ... “
These were the factors that would subliminally be the creative humus of a
plural universe, which would unite and give meaning to anthropological
archetypes. So insistently “Guimarães” and its “Civitas” are unarguably the
chosen “Territory”. And, twenty years ago the idea came up of establishing an
anthropological area or multidisciplinary field where we could gather and study
“art” from heterogeneous sources.
The CIAJG, is nothing more than the accumulation of a set of ideas developed
previously with the Pitágoras architects office.
A temple was the sense given to this magnificent architectural project, which
would house magical objects that were loved and feared. Objects that are mostly
linked to the daily life of the people, serving them in their rituals.
A building would be raised that would be marked by its interiorness, i.e.
without the normal distractions of windows or perspectives that take away
contemplative power, accumulating architecture within architecture. We would
have to be careful, as Ramon Sarró says, with the purification of the artistic
object, separating it from its context and original use. The concept of
converting these types of objects into works of art is to undermine their
A building, itself a programmer, on an articulation that allows discursive
reading while at the same time safeguarding the autonomy of the specificity of
the materials and the techniques, subject to museum requirements, with regard
to its differentiated classification: woods, textiles, paintings, papers,
terracotta, bronzes, jades, gouaches, watercolours, graphic work, organic
The object itself should be safeguarded from the artists, its producers. This
job belongs to anthropologists.
On the other hand, the same space of discussion should have the anthropological
and artistic together without them being anthropophagously consumed. And,
spaces should also be created where non-Western civilizations would dwell
alongside the so-called “writing” civilizations.
So this building, as well as its artistic objects, is a receptacle of
metaphors, of syncretic harmony and reciprocal dialogue where history and
contemporaneity meet, thus gaining historical consciousness of art.
Restany, “José de Guimarães – Le Nomadisme Transculturel”, Ed. de La
Paris – Tokyo, July 2012