The publication accompanying the Belgian Pavilion at the next Venice Biennale, Personne et les autres borrow its title from a lost play by André Frankin, a Belgian art critic affiliated with the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals.
My friend Andrés grandmothers sawmill
Following in a series of industrial research projects, here a series of biographical and
material portraits is pursued, an attempt to both capture and translate the subject at hand.
The central muse is a decrepit sawmill in the centre of Lisbon, Sociedade de Construções Fernandes & Fernandes — the long standing family business of friend, André Avelãs.
A former bustling hub of processing and trade in exotic hardwoods, the firm has been in a steady two-decade decline: an indicator of both economic and consumer hardships of the Atlantic port city.
In a play between functionality and redundancy, the works look at the sawmill as both human as well as technical entity. On one hand the approach is that of a formal structural study, at times leaning towards abstraction serving to describe a kind of underlying harmony or divine order to the otherwise chaotic environment of the mill.
Manifest in several ‘façade portraits’ consisting of piles of deteriorating wood, and accompanied by mobile collections of machine-parts, the installation becomes a thinned-out library or archive of sorts. Other works in the mix present a more literal and candid line of portrayal, such as a pair of shrine cabinets which house oversized jerry-cans, alongside flashy men’s watches, conceived of for the carpenter on the move — complete with embedded porno pin-ups.
The mill was set up in 1951 and has stayed in the Fernandes family ever since. Its history spans import, processing and production of large quantities of tropical and regional wood, large-scale construction projects, and service to the local community. Today the mill concentrates on the sale of specialist wood and customized furniture repair and production.
Aside from the obvious social and historical significance of the mill, the working period and exhibition around the subject is seen as a chance to exist for a month as a temporary community, a forum for discussion and creativity. The selected artists share an uncanny material obsession, and in this project wood is naturally the keen focus point. How it is shaped, what it means, both as nature and eventual human-artefact?
The project and exhibition are generously supported by the municipality of Lisbon and Fonds BKVB, the Netherlands.
Nothing would be possible without the AvelÃ£s and Fernandes families.
An exhibition produced by Nuno Carrusca featuring work by AndrÃ© AvelÃ£s, James Beckett, Seamus Cater and Marianne VierÃ¸
Photo Fred NS