Silvestre Pestana, BREATHLESS
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, California
The first solo museum exhibition of Silvestre Pestana’s work in the U.S., Breathless features an intimate view into the vast universe of one of Portugal’s most pioneering artists. Pestana’s practice, which evolved out of a background in experimental poetry, has involved forays into the realms of sculpture, video, performance, photography, and gaming over the past fifty years. These works seek to explore how humans interact with and negotiate a variety of controlling forces in the world and how art can be a vehicle for challenging those very same forces, be they technological, economic, or political. Included in the exhibition are a selection of Pestana’s earlier pieces, as well as a newly commissioned performance, premiering on the opening night of the exhibition. As a whole, the exhibition touches on a number of pervasive issues facing society today, from the changing state of our environment to the impact of war, all of which have continuously informed Pestana’s work throughout the course of his illustrious career.
Breathless has been co-organized by André Sousa and Mauro Cerqueira, founders of Uma Certa Falta de Coerência / A Certain Lack of Coherence (Porto, Portugal), and Brooke Kellaway, associate curator at MCASB.
Exhibition-related programs include:
In Conversation with André Sousa and Mauro Cerqueira
Silvestre Pestana (b. 1949, Funchal, Madeira) studied Graphic Arts and Design at the School of Fine Arts of Porto, PT and received a Master’s degree in Art Education and Design from the De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Between 1969 and 1974 while living in Stockholm, SE as a political exile, his artistic practice developed through experimentations with various forms of poetry, performance, and music . In the late 70s, he directed the first video art films in Portugal, where he was one of the main producers of this art form. He was also the first artist to write poetry for Spectrum personal computers, in 1982-84. For the past several years Pestana has continued to incorporate new technologies into his practice, including drones and online virtual platforms. His work was recently featured in a major retrospective at Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, PT (2016); and also included in exhibitions including the Maia Biennial, Porto, PT (2015); Espaço Mira, Porto, PT (2014); Casa da Escrita, Coimbra, PT (2013); Centre of Modern Art, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, PT (2010); and Uma Certa Falta de Coerência, Porto, PT (2009). Pestana lives and works in Porto, PT.
This exhibition is part of MCASB’s Exchange exhibition series that takes place in the museum’s Bloom Project exhibition gallery, a space that for over a decade continues to feature new commissions and experimental projects by regional, national, and international emerging or under-recognized artists. The series presents solo exhibitions focused on programmatic collaborations with small-to mid-sized “off-centered” art organizations in cities across the globe. While bringing increased visibility to vibrant yet less broadly known artistic contexts, the exhibitions generate dialogue on innovative and localized approaches to display, communication, publishing, and audience development. A focal part of the series is public programming that involves critical discussion amongst Santa Barbara artists and arts professionals on articulating the necessity of new or expanded arts initiatives; and considering various factors that influence how these initiatives emerge and endure, notably in regions outside of major artistic centers, as is our town.