One of the main characteristics of Margarida Gouveia’s work is that she privileges processes and devices associated with the fields of photography and video. This fact is key insofar as her artistic imaginary is directly linked to the possibilities and contingencies inherent in the particular nature of these means of representation. In other words, it is linked to effects that bring about a significant reconfiguration of our perception and awareness of reality, and of the spaces, objects and bodies that inhabit it. It has been within the context of the transformative nature of images (in the sense that they constitute a reality that is different and alternative but not necessarily antagonistic to their referent) that Margarida Gouveia has persistently investigated the range of possibilities created by photography and video, not only to reaffirm their unique and specific qualities but also to explore areas in which they overlap with other areas of the visual arts such as painting and sculpture, often to explore connections and tensions between two- and three-dimensionality, or between physicality and visuality.
In this project, entitled The Mirror Game, Margarida Gouveia has sought to explore the territory opened up by the most recent developments in the field of virtual technology: augmented reality, gestural interfaces, 3D and holographic displays, haptics, 3D printing and scanning especially developed for medical, educational, entertainment and research purposes. The project was carried out at a well-known motion capture studio in London, where she produced a series of photographs and a video in which two actors (a man and a woman) participated.
The photographs documented parts of two bodies, objects, space and the markings on them before being converted into digital data and subsequently transferred onto a digital platform. These black-and-white photographs constitute an imaginary that calls to mind scientific and forensic photography. They are imbued with a sense of strangeness and of a hygienic and strictly functional world in which the cold and constraining presence of technology can be felt.
Everything that we see in the photographs doubtless corresponds to something distinct in virtual space. In this process of dematerialising bodies and objects, the nature and identity of these same bodies and objects are reformulated. The video is particularly symptomatic: what we see are movements of geometrized bodily volumes inside a virtual space. The body, the individual, the man and the woman (it is impossible to distinguish between them in the video) are digital realities. The bodies move and accompany each other without ever touching, obeying an inexpressive choreography whose meaning (or lack of one) is exacerbated by the nature of the topography. The correspondence between them and the bodies represented in the photographs is no longer relevant. These desexualised, geometrized, transparent and incorporeal masses have their own lives within this peculiar universe of simulacra and simulations.
With these works, Margarida Gouveia leads us to the heart of the passages and oscillations that exist between the analogue and the digital, the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds, highlighting the extent to which both sides are connected in establishing new kinds of perception, knowledge and reality. These images compel us to scrutinise a process of change that has inevitably produced gains and losses and that has made possible a new metaphysical, semantic and experiential horizon. However, we must not overlook their implications for the media and strategies used in monitoring and surveillance. With the current abundance of satellites, surveillance cameras, mobile phones and computers, contemporary societies are characterised by the overwhelming presence of devices programmed to indicate, record and analyse people's locations, movements and gestures.
It is inevitable that the march of technology should unleash complex changes that force us to reformulate the nature and scope of our perceptions, bodily experiences, and relations with (the) other(s). Against this background, The Mirror Game points to a deeply paradoxical horizon, a fascinating and problematic territory situated halfway between the dream of utopia and the fear of dystopia.
Text by Sergio Mah . Exhibition Photography Award 03 catalogue
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