Photography by Bruno Lopes
On the 16th of September 1964, Mário Cesariny is admitted to Fresnes prison, south of Paris, following his arrest for alleged «gross indecency». The two months he spent behind bars and the supposed motives for his detention remain to this day controversial and heavily disputed. In truth, little is known about this period except for his intense dedication to a small volume of confessional anecdotes, sketches and poem-collages. If we read this work, entitled A Cidade Queimada [The Burnt City] (1965), we get a glimpse into, among other topics, his fascination for Saint-jacques Tower and its garden, located in Le Marais, and one of the city's emblematic historical symbols. In what amounts to a curious coincidence, in 2018 the artists João Pedro Vale and Nuno Alexandre Ferreira relocated to Paris for an artistic residency at the Cité internationale des arts, and found out their apartment was a stone's throw from the gothic tower which appears on the aforementioned book's cover, depicted in an iconic photo with Cesariny standing in the foreground. And so began a long research project plunging into the life and work of one of Portuguese surrealism's most important protagonists and an essential figure of the 20th century, focusing particularly on the time spent in Fresnes, and establishing parallels between contemporary structures of incarceration, marginal life experiences and the multiple strategies of bodily transgression, subversion and dissidence.
Loving as the Road Begins, is the unveiling of a new project produced exclusively for MAAT. The artistic duo's first major work presented within a museum setting, the exhibition borrows its title from a poem-collage written by Cesariny in 1955 and explores a wide range of visual, cultural and artistic references the artists trace from the surrealistic movement and its legacy — in particular those of this Portuguese poet — but also from the first movements of queer activism and sexual liberation. From these strands arise ideas of impurity and sanitation, crime and punishment and their historical connection to homosexuality, as well as notions of gender and cure. João Pedro and Nuno Alexandre juxtapose an amalgamation of objects and images in the creation of an installation on two levels — a structure that reminds us of an outsized collage or surrealist assemblage which, on one hand, may evoke cruising spots of the gay community such as the public urinals, sex clubs and saunas, but on the other are also reminiscent of installations and infrastructures of public hygiene and sanitation such as, for example, urinals, wash-houses, or prison cells and other elements of life behind bars. These objects and environments allude to the perpetuation and reconfiguration of contemporary society's efforts to restrict our individual rights, freedoms and guarantees. The exhibition also incorporates a series of performances, conceived in a collaboration with choreographer João dos Santos Martins, which are to take place spontaneously and without prior warning — physical interactions which activate the space and imbue it and its objects with new layers of meaning and interpretation, in a process of permanent and continuous amplification, and transformation.