Henrique Pavão: Almodôvar Mirror Site

Curated by Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues

The exhibition is accompanied by the book Henrique Pavão: Almodôvar Mirror Site published by Mulberry Tree Press with texts by Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues, Nicolas de Oliveira/Nicola Oxley, and the artist.

The Portuguese artist Henrique Pavão’s Almodôvar Mirror Site (2016) shows a synchronized pair of slide projections of seemingly identical motorway service stations located on opposite sides of the route between Lisbon and the Algarve, each serving a different destination. The artist and a collaborator, facing in opposite directions, had examined the 11 petrol stations along the road while in mobile phone contact to ascertain the similarities between the pairs; they concluded that only a single pairing was in fact identical, offering itself as a ‘mirror-site’ chiming with American artist Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1969) close to half a century earlier. In Pavão’s scrutiny of identical pairs of buildings the very thing that defines them, the road, is never actually shown. We rely on the gap between the images of the petrol stations to describe where the road ought to be.  The banal near identical images fit into an aesthetic of doubling especially associated with postmodernity in the 1970s and 1980s typified by artists such as Sherrie Levine or Marcel Broodthaers. Levine writes that her images were like ‘ghosts of ghosts’ and underscore ‘the space in the middle where there is no picture, rather an emptiness, an oblivion’. Pavão sets out to demonstrate the mechanics of time and place; to accomplish this feat analog technology is employed as an analogy – in which the input and the output largely correspond like the mechanical minute hand on a clock that performs an entire circle to describe the hour. And yet, the mechanical performance of these prosaic images that demonstrate similitude, displaces a quasi mystical quest for a lost domain that can never be attained – the complete mirror site, the Aleph, the place of all places – masking ’the unsatisfied desire for that which is always missing and found wanting in modern rationalist society: the miraculous’.