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


Theatre performance written, directed and performed by Rogério Nuno Costa.

In collaboration with Luís Lázaro Matos, Kristian Palmu, Niko Skorpio, Francesca Rayner, Graça dos Santos, Colectivo FACA, Jani Nummela, Pie Kär, Miguel Refresco and Inês Carvalho e Lemos.

Co-production: Teatro Viriato (Viseu) and MUDAS. Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Madeira (Funchal)

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).

With the support of: Serralves Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Porto), Festival END (Coimbra, Viseu and Guimarães), Festival Contradança (Covilhã), Teatro-Cine de Torres Vedras (Torres Vedras), Teatro Feiticeiro do Norte (Funchal), Estrutura (Porto), Ballet Contemporâneo do Norte (Sta. Maria da Feira), Museum of Impossible Forms (Helsinki), EKKM/Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (Tallinn), Parfums de Lisbonne (Paris) and Chão de Oliva (Sintra).

Starting Point

The upcoming theatre/performance production by Portuguese director, dramaturgist, researcher and curator Rogério Nuno Costa is planned to premiere in 2021, consisting in a cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists from Portugal and Finland. 1917-1921 is 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, with an interest in the fields of philosophy, literature, geography and psychology. The performance proposes a re-writing of the contemporary art history’s official narrative (post-Duchamp’s Fountain) by the means of a queer, non-normative and post-colonialist/de-colonialist lens, simultaneously suggesting a discourse that is post-historic and nostalgic. Taking the poetics of the solitary artist as a visual, literary and dramaturgical starting point, the performance/site-specific installation will be based on an autobiographical allegory, a dialogical monologue, multilingually written in Portuguese, French, English and an imaginary Novilingua. Having the text as its central element, it will feature commissioned works from Portuguese visual artist Luís Lázaro Matos, Finnish sound artist Niko Skorpio and Finnish light designer and video artist Kristian Palmu. The final goal is to create an oniric experience by the interconnection of text, movement and projected light/video, a dialogue between fields, but also 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 alternative 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.

“Nude Laying Down On A Couch, D’Après Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase”, performative photograph by © David Pissarra with Rogério Nuno Costa (first residency for 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 those 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 at all”, the reason why Vila-Matas 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.

Performance Preview

[Museum of Impossible Forms, Helsinki, December 2018. Pictures by © Christopher Wessels]

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