CV, 2018, by Luisa Cunha. Pigment print on paper; 100 × 82 cm. Coll. EGEAC – Câmara Municipal de Lisboa. Photo: Bruno Lopes, courtesy of the artist.
Hello! Are You There?
An exhibition by Luisa Cunha
The title of the exhibition Hello! Are You There? is taken from the text of one of Luisa Cunha’s first installations. Hello! (1994) is a work which contains a number of characteristics that would become strong authorial markers: installing pieces in places that normally would not host artworks; using her own voice in a colloquial but assertive register, creating interpellations that reveal a subtle, disarming sense of humour; using the word as sculptural material and employing looping; creating unusual situations through minimal means; destabilising the acts of perception and reception; an urgent drive for communication which carries variance and incommunicability within; and minimalism and conceptualism as the foundations of an intriguing, enigmatic, subversive artistic universe.
The questions of perception and communication are problematised through listening, observing, and paying attention to simple actions of daily life that, although resulting in seemingly gratuitous messages, displace the viewer to another time and space, creating a multiplicity of interpretations and emotions.
Sound is invisible, which does not imply that it fills or creates less space – as attested by the landscapes and relational and existential states it generates – even if the speakers and other sound devices are invariably minimal and discrete.
The performative dimension in Luisa Cunha’s work not only is present in how she urges us to move in space or imagine other bodies in relation to our own, but it also underlines and impels us to become aware of and reflect on our surroundings, be they physical, mental, sexual, or sociopolitical.
The exhibition Hello! Are You There? (maat – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon, 19/05–28/09/2023), is the most comprehensive retrospective ever of the work by Luisa Cunha (Lisbon, 1949). Spanning multiple media – from video to drawing, painting, and sculpture – a large and wise choice of 52 works occupies the entirety of this floor and extends outside. This exhibition is also the occasion for releasing the most complete catalogue of Luisa Cunha's work to date. With more than 280 pages, the book Luisa Cunha. Obras / Works 1992-2022 encompasses a total of 108 works in dialogue with a selection of text excerpts by various authors, released between 1997 and 2022 in several different publications. The volume also includes two original essays by Isabel Carlos, who curated the exhibition, and by Joshua Decter, an American writer, curator and art historian.
Luisa Cunha was born in 1949, in Lisbon, where she lives and works. With a degree on German Philology, at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, she concluded in 1994 the Advanced Course in Sculpture at Ar.Co – Centro de Arte & Comunicação Visual, Lisbon. Heir to the dematerialising experiments in international art of the 1970s, Luisa Cunha has exhibited her work since 1993. In 2021 she was the winner of the EDP Foundation Art Grand Prize, having the jury highlighted “the originality, experimental boldness, multidisciplinary and pioneering nature in the use of new languages”, while also emphasising how influential she has been to younger generations, and also “how she works with space and sound based on verbal language, in a permanent game of constructing and deconstructing meanings”. In 2022, she was awarded the AICA/MC/ Millenium BCP Award for Visual Arts.