Over the last twenty years, João Maria Gusmão (Lisbon, 1979) has developed an enigmatic and complex set of practices and meta-practices ranging from experimental film to photography, encompassing sculpture and drawing, and extending to literature, exhibition curating and publishing. Gusmão’s research stands at the crossroads between a metaphysical reflection on the aesthetics of photography and early cinema, a conceptual examination of the analogue medium, the revival of certain Modernist experiments within literature and particular currents in contemporary philosophy (transcendental materialism and speculative realism). His installations are evocative of a non-diegetic experiment in the moving image organized not as a replacement of the world but as a spectral and mnemonic manifestation of its removal. Hinging on a “mental experience” of time/image, his work attempts to stimulate a remote awareness in the observer both in discursive terms, reflecting on the conditions of visibility (the essence of image/theory), and in the phenomenological experience in general (duration/description), questioning our modes of existence and the representation of the world. JMG has expanded his work as an artist collaborating with different artists, curators and publishers on various contemporary art platforms. His long, multidisciplinary and prolific collaboration with Pedro Paiva (from 2001 to 2018) was particularly notable for their highly composite 16mm film footage shown in immersive installations using various projection devices. In the words of Chris Fitzpatrick, JMG+PP are artists dedicated to “charting a line of naturalist inquiry in the abyss—peripatetically assaying its contents through biological and technical comparisons, philosophical demonstrations, psychological illustrations, and para-scientific observations (often with considerable overlap).” Based on periods of cinematographic production and the use of alternative cinematic techniques, these creations were combined in themed exhibitions which, as a whole, comprise the conceptual and poetic corpus of their joint work (Eflúvio Magnético [Magnetic Effluvium] 2003-06; Abissologia [Abyssology] 2008-12; Papagaio [Parrot] 2014-16; Avantesma Fantasma, 2016-19).
Gusmão and Paiva’s work has been shown in various monographic exhibitions around the world. Of particular note is Papagaio, which was exhibited in Milan (Hangar Bicocca, 2014), London (Camden Art Centre, 2015), Berlin (KW, 2015) and around Germany: Kunsthalle Dusseldorf in 2011, Kkv Kolnischer Kunstverein in 2015 and Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2016. Other highlights include the exhibitions The Sleeping Eskimo, at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland, in 2016; Um mês sem filmar [A Month Without Filming], at REDCAT, Los Angeles, in 2015; and Alien Theory, at Frac Île-de-France, Le Plateau (Paris), in 2011. In late 2021, JMG and PP held a large retrospective of their joint work, titled Terçolho, at the Museu de Serralves in Porto, Portugal. The artists also took part in several international biennials: 27th São Paulo Biennial in 2006; 6th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre(Brazil), in 2007; and Manifesta 7 (Italy) in 2008. JMG and PP represented Portugal at the 53rd Venice Biennale and participated in the 55th edition of the event curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2013.
Their work features in various international museum collections, among which the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MACBA, Centre Georges Pompidou, Tate Modern, SFMOMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and the Museu de Serralves.
In February 2020, Gusmão joined Celia Bernasconi, curator of the NMNM in Monaco, to create an exhibition on the work of Eugène Frey (1863-1930), one of the last pioneers of the magic lantern. The show was dedicated to an alternative history of the moving image for which the museum commissioned various installations from the artist. Gusmão has established long standing partnerships with other agents in the contemporary art field, creating content and written material for projects with Natxo Checa and ZdB, and collaborating with artists like: Alexandre Estrela, Mattia Denisse and Gonçalo Pena. An example of this is the project Lua Cão, which he developed with Paiva and Estrela (with Natxo Checa, as curator), and was shown in Lisbon by ZDB in 2017,at Kunstverein Mϋnchen and at La Casa Encendida in Madrid in 2018.
Gusmão has also published and edited several books on his oeuvre through Mousse Publishing and Pato em Pequim (his own publishing house), and curated several exhibitions by Gonçalo Pena at Galeria Graça Brandão, ZDB (co-curated with Natxo Checa), Kunstverein Mϋnchen (co-curated with Pedro Paiva), Andrew Kreps in New York, Galleria Zero in Milan (co-curated with Pedro Paiva), and Cristina Guerra in Lisbon. As well as books and exhibitions by Mattia Denise, for example, the exhibition Pau-Podre at Rialto6 in Lisbon in 2022 or the catalog Mattia Denisse: Tout Encyclopaedia in 2023. In 2022, he also co-curated a monographic exhibition on the work of Mauro Restiffe with Natxo Checa at ZDB, Lisbon. Recently Gusmão has also published via Pato em Pequim and Mousse Publishing a monograph titled Massa Confusa.