Thesis Info

Thesis Title
From the Dark Room. Portuguese Video Art.
Tânia Saraiva
2nd Author
3rd Author
MA Contemporary Art
Number of Pages
University of Manchester and Sotheby's Institute of Art
Thesis Supervisor
Mark Gisbourne and Tony Godfrey
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Contemporary Art
Languages Familiar to Author
Portuguese, spanish and english
URL where full thesis can be found
art, contemporary, video, portugal
Abstract: 200-500 words
Divided into three chapters this dissertation gives a general overview on Portuguese contemporary art, focusing on the video works done in the last decade. However, considering the political characteristics that Portugal lived between 1933-1974, with a right-wing regime under António de Oliveira Salazar, throughout the paper there are constant references to political national context and to the serious consequences of the dictatorship into the artistic field. It concentrates, giving greater analysis to four leading Portuguese video artists, and places them in the context of national and international practice. The role and process of legitimisation of video art is also understood in relation to Portuguese galleries and museums who have played an important role in the validation of video as a medium. Despite initial assumptions of video as an instrument of social contestation, the period in which video art appeared at the end of the 60’s, beginning of the 70’s, it opened a debate between modernists and post-modernists, something which has become central to understanding the specificities and characteristics of the video as a medium in Portugal. The choice to evaluate Portuguese video art of the 90’s, was because the 70’s had used it particularly in political terms. However, this is not the main objective of this dissertation, and the 80’s were marked by a return to traditional genres of artistic practice, such as painting and sculpture. In the 90’s there has been a proliferation of young video artists, that finally have found a more coherent voice and been validated by a more open-minded set of public and private Portuguese institutions. This is also the result of the changing attitudes to culture, something that the country itself has developed over the last two decades. This has been reinforced by the individual efforts of today’s critics, artists, curators, collectors and gallerists. To better comprend of Portuguese video art, I have chosen the works of four prominent artists, Sarmento, Onofre, Penalva and Araujo, a mixture of older and younger generations (70s and 90s) who concentrate on the human figure, narrative and theatricality. Thus, working through Julião Sarmento and João Onofre we address references to the human figure, specifically sensory questions of voyeurism, scopophilia, eroticism; the territory of desire in which Sarmento works. While Onofre’s works reveal a larger commitment to the medium itself, with references to a pluralistic conception of space, a strong sense of humanism, a close relation to performance, exploring the difficulties of teamwork. Thereafter I discuss João Penalva and Vasco Araújo’s complex installations, which deal with issues of narrative and storytelling, making direct references to the performative arts, such as opera and dance, appealing at the same time to memory and fantasy.