Luisa Cunha's (1949, Lisbon, Portugal) works can manifest as drawings, paintings, photographs, videos, texts or sounds. But whichever medium, there exists in all of them an interest in language, for the ways we find to say what we understand or question in the world, the place we occupy and how we move within it. A photograph of a body up against a white wall is like an exclamation point, or a question mark. A photograph of a pair of sneakers, or the hinges on a door, are ellipses. There is a simplicity and a clarity of everyday phrases in these images. But, if we listen again to every word of every phrase we have heard many times, if we ask ourselves again the meaning of, "take care", for example, what do we understand by the words take and care? It seems the artist doesn't seek out big subjects, but finds their reflections in small everyday absurdities and in the different ways we have to see and communicate them.
The majority of her sound works belong to the realm of conversation. They are words that are thought, written, spoken, recorded and repeated for every one of us, for every person who listens. In many of these works the speech describes features of the architecture where we find ourselves listening to them, modifying with a few words the perception of the context of the situation, in the meeting between the work and the public. Such is the case in É aqui [It's Here] (2008), in which her voice appears, unexpectedly, pronouncing the words of the title alone, and in Artista à procura de si própria [Artist Looking For Herself] (2015) where she repeatedly calls her own name – "Luisa".
1.680 metros [1,680 meters] (2020) was born out of the unique characteristics of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, the historic headquarters of the São Paulo Bienal, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The artist first tells us her own height and the length of her stride – immediately we compare ourselves to her, we are taller or shorter, we walk with longer or shorter strides, or we realize that we have never thought about the length of our walks. In the phrase that follows, Luisa Cunha calculates the time it would take her to walk the empty pavilion – we try to imagine it – and reflects on the impossibility of defining how long it would take to visit an exhibition in the same place. This exhibition, a previous one, or another, some day?
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Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).