+ Concept Book by
Rogério Nuno Costa

Serralves Contemporary Art Museum
The Museum As Performance
10-12 September 2021, Porto (Portugal)

1917-1921 (working title) consists in a cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists from Portugal and Finland, corresponding to the final phase of an ongoing research project on the intersections of Art, History and Solitude, that Rogério Nuno Costa has been developing since 2015, spanning the fields of philosophy, literature, geography and psychology. The performance’s structure will be based upon a semi-autobiographical semi-chronicle text, suggesting a critical and ironic re-writing of an art history’s hegemonic narrative (post-Duchamp’s Fountain) by the means of a queer, non-normative lens, simultaneously drawing a fable-like tale that is at the same time post-historic and nostalgic. Taking the poetics of the solitary artist as a visual, literary and dramaturgical starting point, the piece will build on a dialogical monologue, multilingually written in Portuguese, French, English and an imaginary Novilingua.

Alongside the textual object as the performance’s central element, commissioned audio-visual works will be featured: Portuguese visual artist Luís Lázaro Matos, Finnish sound artist Niko Skorpio and Finnish light designer and video artist Kristian Palmu. By the interconnection of text, movement and projected light/video, the piece aims to initiate a dialogue between fields, a proposition for the building of an artistic buffer zone, a secluded experimental laboratory where a group of artists can test the possibility of solitude one might experience while being together. In other words: the building of a “solitary togetherness”, ultimately questioning the primary notion of working collectively. At last, the performance aims to rhetorically (re)construct the alternate history of those silenced, oppressed or invisibilised. A literary apology of failure (d’après Jack Halberstam) through self-chosen isolation; not a selfish individualism, rather a “conceptual isolationism”. A healing through suffering. An ascetic and mystical experience.

Ph: Performance preview at the Museum of Impossible Forms, Helsinki
December 2018 © Christopher Wessels


Artistic Direction, Text, Performance: Rogério Nuno Costa
Installation: Luís Lázaro Matos
Light Design & Video: Kristian Palmu
Sound Design: Niko Skorpio
Movement Dramaturgy: Pie Kär
Dramaturgy Consultancy (English): Francesca Rayner
Dramaturgy Consultancy (French): Graça dos Santos
Historiography: Colectivo FACA
Graphic Design & Documentation: Jani Nummela
Stage Photography: Miguel Refresco
Production: Inês Carvalho e Lemos.

Project funded by: Governo de Portugal – Direção-Geral das Artes | Co-production: Teatro Viriato (Viseu) and MUDAS. Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Madeira (Funchal) | With the support of: Teatro Feiticeiro do Norte (Funchal), Estrutura (Porto), Ballet Contemporâneo do Norte (Sta. Maria da Feira), Museum of Impossible Forms (Helsinki) and Parfums de Lisbonne (Paris)

Residencies (Research and Creation): Rua das Gaivotas 6/Teatro Praga (Lisbon), Là-Bas Studio/Kaapelitehdas (Helsinki), Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Espoo), Hošek Contemporary (Berlin), Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris – Maison du Portugal (Paris), Artistas no Palácio | Inestética (Vila Franca de Xira)

Tour: Serralves Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Porto), Festival Temps d’Images (Lisbon), Festival END (Coimbra, Viseu and Guimarães), Festival Contradança (Covilhã), Teatro-Cine de Torres Vedras (Torres Vedras) and Chão de Oliva (Sintra)

Promo picture: “Nude Laying Down On A Couch, D’Après Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase”, performative photographs by © David Pissarra with Rogério Nuno Costa (first residency at Pólo Cultural das Gaivotas, Lisbon, 2017)

Further Conceptualisation

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp writes 1917 in an upside-down urinal. In 1919, the same artist draws a moustache in the most important portrait of the history of art, not the original one (he’s not Banksy), not even a reproduction (Pop was yet to be invented), but a portrait he painted himself, copying the “original”, and, by doing so, stating: I would prefer not to. In 1921, Man Ray photographs Marcel Duchamp’s female alterego Rrose Sélavy, thus completing the full circle, or paving the way for the artist’s disappearance. One hundred years later, we still don’t know how to deal with these radical endeavours. More than clever attempts to revolutionise, shock or transgress the art world (or to prophesy the end of art itself, some might have said…), those historical epiphenomena hide a more obscure quest for a self-imposed ostracism and loneliness, as if it was impossible to do anything more after having obliterated almost everything. Duchamp spent decades doing “nothing”, the reason why Spanish novelist Enrique Vila-Matas has dedicated some footnotes to him in his non-book of negative authors, those who have decided to stop pushing the pen and let their silence do the talking instead. In 1917-1921, I’m interested in reformulating Duchamp’s “problem”, assuming self-neglect and oblivion as an act of resistance; in addition, appropriating Vila-Matas formula for the production of the text: how can one write a book that is just the footnotes of an invisible/non-existent text? Footnotes do not just festoon the text of “Bartleby & Co”; they are the text. This strategy of providing the caption with as much importante (if not more) as the captioned image, is probably one of the fundamental operational strategies of my artistic practice, both as performance artist, researcher and writer. In 1917-1921, I intend to amplify and expand that pattern. Ultimately, the work will suggest an autobiographical statement about how can one perform an exercise of resistance to a commonplace — theatre as a literary, artistic and historical established order —, with the purpose of elevating failure, deviation, disruption, forgetfulness and the readymade dramaturgies of everyday life to the status of “main courses”, at the same time avoiding the problematic ethics of celebration and homage.


Premieres: Serralves Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Porto, Portugal, September 2021) + Teatro Viriato/Festival END (Viseu, Portugal, October 2021).

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