– Summer 2010

Perturbing Vision: A Leonor Antunes Portfolio

Nuria Enguita Mayo

Leonor Antunes, 1763—2008, 2008, Brazilian/Portuguese gold coin dated from 1763, Brazilwood, certificate. Courtesy the artist

Leonor Antunes, 1763—2008, 2008, Brazilian/Portuguese gold coin dated from 1763, Brazilwood, certificate. Courtesy the artist

Leonor Antunes's sculpture is configured in space by means of an extremely precise staging, which in turn generates and transforms the space it occupies. Her sculptures strike up a dialogue which constantly renews itself; a dialogue into which the spectator can furtively enter through its intervals - the spaces defined by the presence of the sculptures, between their shapes and their surroundings. Once inside, apprehension of her work necessarily entails abandoning the hope of any symbolic interpretation. Her sculptures are not rooted in any primordial origin, nor do they represent or document a reality that is outside of them. As a result, viewers are always perturbed by her work: in the first place by its density, its texture and its composition - the means by which it constructs its meaning. In this sense, the work could be said to be typically 'modern', as it vindicates its formal nature, its 'construction'. But the sculptures also recognise their historical and anthropological context. For Antunes, sculpture must be related to the way it appears and the way bodies gain access to it. All her work partakes of the silent anthropomorphism that Georges Didi-Huberman discusses in relation to Tony Smith and Robert Morris's sculptures (in opposition o Rosalind Krauss's understanding of Minimalism as lacking inner signification). Size, scale and proportion are key to her work; her sculptures focus on this connection, on the interval between us and the presence of the works. Disproportion, miniature and monumentalisation are lines of investigation for Antunes, but in her work the human scale, that 'silent anthropomorphism', is perturbed in many other ways.

Modos de usar #1, #2 and #3 (how to use, 2003-ongoing) are three

  1. See Georges Didi-Huberman, Lo que vemos, lo que nos mira (trans. Horacio Pons), Buenos Aires: Ediciones Manantial, 1997, p.89.

  2. For example, see Ricardo Nicolau, 'O futuro de onten nao é hoje ', in Miguel Wandschneider (ed.), Leonor Antunes (exh. cat.), Lisbon: Chiado 8 Arte Contemporânea, 2008, p.25; and Doris von Drathen, 'The Inexistence of the Real: On the Utopian Sculptures of Leonor Antunes', duplicate (exh. cat.), Berlin: Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, 2005, p.12.

  3. The Oulipo group (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature) was formed in 1960 by writers and mathematicians who made works starting from constrained writing techniques. Founding members included Perec, Queneau, François Le Lionnais, Claude Berge and Jean Lescure, among others.

  4. D. von Drathen, 'The Inexistence of the Real', op. cit., p.10.

  5. Statement from the Beca de Artes Plásticas Award, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 2008.

  6. 'A propósito de un dardo que vai ser largado para dentro da Cisterna da Casa da Cerca. Entrevista a Leonor Antunes por Catarina Rosendo', in apotoméus: Leonor Antunes (exh. cat.), Almada: Casa da Cerca, Centro de Arte Contemporânea, 2004, pp.55-56.

  7. Walter Benjamin, 'Tesis de filosofía de la historia', Discursos Interrumpidos (trans. Jesus Aguirre), Madrid: Taurus, 1973, p.180.

  8. After the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, José I, ruler of Portugal and its colonies - including Brazil - ordered that the gold and silver found in the rubble be turned into coins.

  9. G. Didi-Huberman, Lo que vemos, lo que nos mira, op. cit., pp.115-16.