emanuel dimas de melo pimenta
EMANUEL DIMAS DE MELO PIMENTA IN THE STREAM OF EMERGENCE by René Berger
Ever since first meeting Emanuel Dimas de Melo Pimenta at the Gulbenkian Foundation, during the inauguration of the Modern Art Museum of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 1987, I have been struck by the inherent need of his innermost being to escape traditional barriers and open himself up to the jubilation of whatever emerges.
How else to explain the ravishing (in the strongest sense of the word) experience I had when given the opportunity to hear the Concerto of the Brazilian bullfrogs? Faithful to his driving intuition, Emanuel Pimenta defies (rather than de-constructs) all potential cultural traps. In this way newly emergent realities are discovered one by one, and in turn become as many 'new evidences'. This is what gives meaning to his multiple activities, which attest not to an anthologising diversity, but on the contrary, to a multifaceted fecundity.
What the artist refers to traditionally as "architecture" in his hands expands its definitions beyond conventional boundaries, aspiring to a meaning that is truly jubilant: "If in traditional architecture there are paradigms - walls, windows, covering - in virtual architecture everything becomes permanent mutation, turbulence, fluidity, concepts of light, of flux, of presence". The titles of the works "Virtual Architecture", "Woiksed, the Virtual Planet ", "A Floating Island for Lisbon", express what we might call the "augural breath" of forms.
The phenomenon of emergence thus appears suddenly to take on an importance that is at once significant and promising. For it postulates that at the origin of every change, what matters first and foremost is not, as we generally expect, the final result, but rather the entire realm of the possible, revealed at the outset ("pro-jected", thrown forward, in architect's parlance). Our attention thus needs to be reoriented. It is a question not of resting our gaze upon the outcome, the result, but of retracing the source of the "initial vibration", endowed with a becoming that is without end. It is the complexity of the context that reveals itself and enlightens us. Nothing remains that might be reduced to simple systems, such as the division of the whole into its parts; nothing that limits itself to the Cartesian homogenisation that we have endorsed for almost four centuries. Instead, the paths of an adventure open up that somehow echoes "Alice in Wonderland", a "wonderland of the future".
There is an intuitive sense of this among certain artists who, in the manner of Emanuel Pimenta, share in the flourishing of new technologies. Against the mentalities that would hold us back, against the threats of hegemony that divide us, against the abuses committed by declining powers, these contemporary artist-designers put in motion the generative fecundity of multimedia that combines the written word, the voice, sounds, music, data, and which our various networks extend to a planet-wide scale. A prodigious process is under way that metamorphoses the multi-millennial notion of Representation into a dynamic Reticulation. The landscape increasingly escapes the bounds of the map, knowledge breaks free of categories, disciplines transcends the various fields. Under the watchful eye of the satellites above, the earth flows like some Heraclitean river. Even music does not remain unchanged: witness the graphic scores of Pimenta, "playing out in open space, mutating and mutable, in virtual environments, breaking away from the logical systems of the conventional score".
It would seem, therefore, that a form of art is emerging that, without rejecting the past, is inaugurating the metamorphosis currently under way. Like the butterfly bursting forth from its cocoon, it is up to us, and to artists first and foremost, to invent the wings of a new world of imagination. The resulting fluctuations and amplifications not only bring about the emergence of unknown forms, but they transform our very experience of space and time. An example of this may be seen in "Deep Ocean", dating from 2005.
While the stable systems to which we have been accustomed until now remain in a state that, although not stationary, is at least stable, dynamic systems are tied to a permanent "rheomorphism" that distances itself from the shortcomings of "conceptual thought", favouring instead "thought as attraction", so beloved by Prigogine (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_prigogine). It is not that the two systems are antagonistic to each other, but the new conditions of our era, and especially the role of the "tecnho-urgic power" (http://oeuf.epfl.ch/carnets/techno-urgie), impel us to explore new paths.
While our brain remains moored to its modest shelter within the skull, we are unceasingly connected to the immensity of the flux that makes up the ever more vast, ever more powerful networks. A new stage of Evolution is under way. Mirror, memory, history have been intertwined for centuries. But now we see that "techno-genesis", by fusing together the symbolic and the technological, transcends the models of yesteryear.
Is a new sacredness in the process of being born, capable of forging a link to death that gives meaning to an era where all is in flux? In essence, we might conjecture that contemporary artists are reinventing the symbols of civilisation, whose strength for millennia has been to ward off change, degradation, separation, death. Word, image, music, dance, belief, ceremony create among human beings, fellow actors in symbolic activity, the enduring link that, beyond the services and functions that govern needs, unites all members of a single community.
Rinaldo Bianda, founder of the VideoArtFestival of Locarno, with whom Emanuel Pimenta and I had been collaborating for many years, wrote shortly before his death: "We nevertheless continue to hope that visionaries will devote themselves to taking the steps necessary for seeking potential solutions so that species may continue to live in their natural environments, so that the vital force of history and of humanity might continue. We need to recover the strength, the determination and the wisdom to understand that the true goal of existence lies in knowing the essence of our own spirit, and of the spirit of art. This is a quest that we pursue through the spiritual renewal that alone ensures the unity of knowledge. Only in this way will we be able to bear witness and render visible the "noosphere", to borrow an expression of Teilhard de Chardin's, which lies on the horizon of all experience. It is this profession of faith, which calls upon the visionaries in our midst, that it behoves us to make our own.
It should come as no surprise therefore that along this path, or rather in harmony with its approach, we find companions such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Joseph Beuys, "initial" artists all, just like Emanuel Pimenta himself.
This is what, in my view, illuminates the very foundation of Virtual Reality, For the latter is not the result of a simple opposition to actual Reality, or a mere linguistic expedient. Virtual Reality does not limit itself to leading to actualisation as its ultimate goal. The "objects" that we distinguish owe as much to the "flame" that animates them as to the gaze that defines them. Flame and gaze are in a relationship of reciprocity. When the flame is extinguished, or the gaze loses its vivacity, knowledge hardens and becomes indistinguishable from the objects cut up into knowledges (in the plural). It is in the ardour of the flame and of the gaze that things, ideas, sounds and gestures become mutually fecund.
How can one not be attuned, then, to an extension of the scope of the virtual that embraces the immensity of the universe and the immensity of our thought? The terror of Pascal gives way to the jubilation of a discovery that never ends, but begins always anew. The "jubliant virtual" on which Emanuel Pimenta nourishes himself becomes the rhythm that serves as a prelude to the Future.
(*) An important work issuing from the pen and from the friendship of Vittorio Fagone tells the story, which often verges on the epic: L'art Vidéo, 1988-1999, 20 ans du VideoArtFestival de Locarno, Recherches, théories, perspectives, Milan: Mazzotta, 1999.