Teresa Milheiro – Jewels are not dead
Ep. 1, 25′
Documentários – Artes com produção de VENDE-SE FILMES
Estar vivo não é necessariamente o contrário de estar morto. Por entre esqueletos debaixo da cama e asas de insectos asiáticos, entramos no universo mais punk da joalharia portuguesa. Como é que uma jóia pode romper tabus e falar da alienação social? As jóias vistas pela lente de Teresa Milheiro.
Um documentário de Alfredo Pereira Nunes, João Pedro Botelho
Way Through One Another Side
NEW ANIMATION LAB– Nico Guedes director , Suzie Peterson production and Vasco Viola production assistant filmed at Puppet Museum
Design para Debate
Ciclo de conferências na ESAD.CR
T.M. Killer instinct
— Ruy Otero
F. wanted to talk. I could feel it. But I was ready to say goodbye and head on my way. There was nothing to talk about. It was late and I wanted to listen to Sonic Youth on the long motorbike journey home. Until he suddenly blurted out:
“So, I’ve heard that you are going to write something for the catalogue for Teresa Milheiro’s exhibition at the Money Museum.”
“And what are you going to write?” “Something will come up.”
“But isn’t it a bit incongruent that Teresa is exhibiting her work at the Money Museum? I barely know her personally but having seen almost all her work, it seems to be generally quite critical and even radical in some aspects, pointing a finger at greed, banks and white-col- lar scams. I’ve got a ring of hers and I feel a verve running through me all the time!”
He said, smiling, and went on:
“The Money Museum could, for some- one naïve, be the very symbol of what she criticises. So, my question is more related to language. What, then will your text be like?”
The seriousness of the question perplexed me. It was already two in the morn- ing and I had to hit the road with Sonic Youth humming through my headphones, although I was facing a problem I couldn’t escape from. And between the tarmac and F’s curious expression, I had to decide, because coming from him, the issue was serious and profound, and deserved my time. F. didn’t mess around, and neither did Teresa. In a way, I felt trapped between my motorbike and the wall of his house. I suddenly remembered the Anarchist Banker by Fernando Pessoa, a paradoxical book where the author elegantly explains how it’s possible to be a banker and an anarchist. There was a social fiction, which he alluded to. I believe that today our fiction is more cultural, and it was precisely because of that that F. posed the question to see if we understood how I was to envelop the form in the content, given that today, the new paradigm is more concerned with form. I decided not to answer straightaway as the unexpectedness of the question was enough, being that I’d almost pulled my helmet on. One hundred years have passed in the meantime and life and its vicissitudes have changed a lot since the poet wrote the Anarchist Banker. Now we have loads of things like the internet, Brexit, new countries and body piercings in the West, Facebook and emancipated women. But I wasn’t able to forget the book, there was something familiar in it. The first thing that came to mind was to relate, in the most direct way possible, Teresa’s jewellery to life,
which never passes her by. And banks are also part of our lives and never pass us by, which is unquestionable. She is, above all, a liberal, attentive to the world’s problems and the consequent servitude of people to power, something timeless. However, the fact that there is a museum dedicated to money and its history is not an issue in itself; it could even be commendable. A little of us all is in that money. My friend is not of the radical left, and so understood that the problem he posed me was more conceptual and linguistic than political, referring to cultural rather than social fiction. So I abandoned politics and concentrated on fiction. He wanted to be my inspiration. Whether I had any or not.
I remembered some of Teresa’s journey as an artist, which I had followed over the years, and the coherence of her discourse and thought processes, which were visible in her works, filled with metaphor and symbolism, bathed in silver and gold. A political and politicised metal, perhaps, which we use to wear on our bodies with pleasure. But these thoughts weren’t enough to answer F., who wasn’t one to mess around, just like Teresa. The issue he’d raised was interesting and, if I wanted to write an equally serious text, I couldn’t run away from it. Although the artist’s work speaks for itself and may not need any context, or when its context is more likely to be our bodies rather than the ubiquitous museums and galleries. But in this specific case, the pieces exhibited are puppets allusive to Gil Vicente’s Acts. The damn puppets seem to have a life of their own, hiding from our gaze so that blood may flow through their veins… Which they don’t have. And it is in this paradox that poetry resides.
The worst thing that can be done in the world of money is to counterfeit banknotes and coins, which reminded me of Alves dos Reis, and in this case, it was a good choice. If there is anyone less false, it is Teresa, who could never be a fake version of herself and even less her own avatar. We have gold in unworked form, which fits in well with the Money Museum. I remembered that Teresa is often literally and subtly unmasked in her creations. Sometimes camouflaged. Sometimes exposed.
F. was a lucid economist and normally knew how to keep an issue at boiling point. At that time he was completely awake and ready to start a conversation with little hesitation about the peculiar work of Teresa Milheiro and the raison d’être for her exhibition in the museum they called Money. Silence was not a problem between us. I was therefore relaxed, having bought some time. If I answered him without thinking, nonsense could come out accidentally, which wasn’t serious between friends and cigarettes at two in the morning, with the Parkinsons’ music warming the atmosphere.
I tried to rationalise whilst F. left the room for a few moments, perhaps having under- stood that I didn’t want to talk for the
sake of it. But in truth, various brainwaves crossed in my mind, bringing me various thoughts. Today we live according to the visibility we have, or don’t. And Teresa’s jewellery speaks, in a certain way, plainly and perhaps somewhat obsessively too, of this alienation and obsession with visibility. She once spoke to me about a kind of ‘psychological Auschwitz’ we’re in. Was it exaggeration on her part? I thought that all this, which hammered on my mind in a fragmented yet fierce manner, would be a good way of getting closer to her completely unique and technically irreprehensible work. The text had to contain these fragments, because this was the best way to reflect what I know of her. No rhetorical texts, impossible set-ups, but yes, a lively text, with the directly proportionate risks associated merely with the fact that we are alive. Speaking of death, as if it were from her that we retained hope. Whilst there is death, there is hope. It appears that this is what her work leads us to, with light-filled skulls and syringes.
There is a punk lifestyle from Lisbon and she is one of the personalities who best incarnates it. In terms of her relationship with subservience to money and power, she has an ethical sense.
I thought her work wouldn’t be easy to catalogue, being easier to use, as though it worked like a kind of repelling magnet for the aggressive bankrupt world we live in. Her work is filled with representations of insects, which takes us straight to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. And she knows
that the insects are us. The puppets are us. But an us which is plain and aesthetic, a prêt-à-porter, postmodern us which puts up with us and makes us like all sorts of money and museums.
I remembered that I wasn’t alone and that F. was looking at me, waiting for my answer just like the anarchist banker’s friend. I asked him for a drink, perhaps to gain some time. In truth, I still didn’t know what to answer. We’re facing a special sculpture, a sculpture which moulds time more than it is moulded by time, although time always has its place, beautiful and catastrophic, just like the jewellery which came to mind. I should focus more on the pieces, like Be Botox, Be fuckin beautiful, which is not in the exhibition because the Vincentine Puppets already are, in them- selves, self-explanatory. Magical things should never reveal their tricks.
I was reminded a small text I’d asked Pedro Cabral Santo for.
“Teresa Milheiro is always questioning us, that is, posing us an inextinguishable question: where is the boundary, the line that divides us, that excludes/includes us from artistic activity and the social circle?
“Between the drift in explaining art, in its quietness and finiteness, we reach an idea, often very simple – that is, in attempting to understand it better, we still try to evaluate it based on an old and debatable dichotomy – figura- tive/abstract, of the greater or lesser
employment of values considered symbolic or of the way in which certain procedures are employed, among others. In this context, we should place the unrefusable temptation of recourse to trends or currents to which objects can be attached, as well as all that which can help us situate them, beyond a merely artistic plane. This is the case of Teresa Milheiro’s sculpture, which gives us the artistic genesis itself, the paradoxical – how can Art be made as though it were a jewel, a precious adornment, without however, calling that diktat into question? Teresa Milheiro’s sculpture takes the form of a jewel, it is certain, but it refuses to be available as such, it is Art, in its fair day-to-day struggle to manifest itself.”
I agree and might put it in the middle of my text, which can only be spontaneous and alive to do justice to who Teresa is and our relationship, more of the street than the gallery. The pieces may be cold and clinical, but the bodies are there to warm them. But there are cold bodies and all bodies have the jewellery they deserve. For me, this premise came from the time I started seeing Teresa Milheiro’s exhibitions, which always made me think.
In a longer text, I would inevitably have to talk about or mention António Arroio, the Eighties and Nineties, the Bairro Alto and its paradigmatic places, the Arco, the Belas Artes, the concerts at Johnny Gui- tar, the abuses, the order, Expo 98, Sep- tember 11th, the fall of the Wall, growing
consumerism and the 2008 crisis, gyms, Botox, war, hyperbole and thousands of other things to give a better context to Teresa’s work which, according to her, “is a range of emotions, attitudes and functions connected to mixed imagery, of mediaeval and spatial, in which the life/death dichotomy is often present. It is marked from the beginning by the need to attribute a function to the pieces that is not restricted to simple adornment. I started by creating self-de- fence jewellery, and then moved on to instruments of torture, until the creation of ‘objectewels’, which are a mixture of objectsjewellery, and now a type of pup- pets. In all these works, movement and articulation are always present. They are an extension of the body, enabling them to be used for their intended purpose and, at the same time, play with them and give them life. The body itself serves as a driving force for these objects. For most of these pieces, forging techniques were used. More recently, I created a collection of jewellery which reuses ani- mal bones and teeth. I sought to match them with silver and reinvented new forms of joints, in which the organic of both materials complements each other, with movement, generator of life, being ever present, and so Biojewels were born. Bones are true works of art in addition to the symbolism they contain. Bones and teeth have served since antiquity as adornments which carry the energy and wisdom of our ancestors. These biojewels have developed into protest jewellery,
in which some strongly criticise the social values of our times, like obsession over image which prevails over any other value, and others serve to call attention to the state of the planet and its ecosystem.”
All this, which has reality as an asso- ciated brand, could be used to write the text, which should never be conventional. What is conventional is soulless and if anything has a soul, it is her pieces. Innumerable unexpected thoughts went through my head, as F. had turned it into a pinball machine. Luckily his mobile rang, a device which these days can be used for almost anything, even answering calls, and he answered having apologised. It seemed to be an important call and it gave me more time to think of an answer to his pertinent interrogation. I had delayed the issue of form and language, but it was in fact the crux of the problem. In speaking and writing about Teresa and her work, it was fundamental to be in a state of permanent imbalance. It is certain that the reinforcement of Cabral’s text would help, but I needed to dive into the depths of the day-to-day for a better picture.
I remembered that Teresa and I had been to the beach at the beginning of the sum- mer and, at a certain point, a helicopter hovered over us. Teresa looked at it and told me that the sky was funny. She told me of her ambivalence towards the military. I smiled, fixing my stare on the helicopter, and I almost glimpsed a piece of jewellery on someone’s fingers. A silver
helicopter flying through someone’s fingers. Helicopters belong to a belli- cose world that lives off the constant pulse of death, therefore of life. Life without death is worthless. And it is this aesthetic quality of death that interests her. The other, reality, is mostly unfair and hateful. Through art, death is fought.
We went to eat a toasted sandwich and sat silently watching the sky which changed gradually from grey to another shade of grey. And, under glasses, eyes sparkled. That is gold.
The metal melted on the sand that day.
A day on the beach and the metal, simultaneously weighing down and lighten- ing a person’s body. But that’s how I see her. That’s why, when speaking of her, I’m automatically talking about her work. She is her work, even the most sellable. She is perhaps one of the artists who uses the fewest tricks to Exist and to Be.
Her art is more than real. It is so real that it becomes jewellery ready to use and sweat, just like people. It becomes organic to the point of being able to imagine it in a David Cronenberg film, or even, at another level, one of Tim Burton’s. Ready to help us become more than what we are or want to be. Her jewellery connects us to her, it adds, in a synchronous way, uto- pia and dystopia, adding paradox, with its comfort and discomfort like a confluence in time, making us a little like public art, if you’ll allow me the irony. We are all
involved in this great cultural fiction, and fiction is always fiction. Could this be one of the problems for the text: the fact that I like her aesthetic too much to distance myself from neutrality and the cold, distant gaze needed for a catalogue? But F. is my friend and he is only posing a normal question for our context. I’m not the anarchist banker, nor do I have Fernando Pessoa’s ease of enveloping myself in paradox to the point of becoming it, but I know that the question is pertinent. Our actions must agree with our character, otherwise everything is possible and we become schizophrenic. No more schizophrenia!
And with all this information, disorganised but objective, I understood that I had a lot of material to write the text and I’d finally thought of an answer to give F. who had, meanwhile switched off his phone as the call wasn’t important. He put on Sonic Youth and I asked him for another drink as the night would be long. Teresa is not a catalogue description, but a book… open to the world.
And as day embraced night, we stood up from the table.
Catalogues and Publications
2020- “ Tiara” 40 years jewelry ar.co
2019- “ Joalharia contemporânea em Portugal” Cristina Filipe
2016 -“ Passagem para um outro lado”- Teresa Milheiro- Money Museum
2013 – Abecedário – 40 anos do ar.co , Chiado Museum
2013 – “Um ajuste de contas com o futuro”- Pogo Theater
2012/13- Jewel book- international annual of contemporary jewel Art – Stichting Kunstboe
2011- “ Triennale Européenne du Bijou Contemporain – 2011”
2011- “ Border City” – Piirilinn , cidade fronteiriça
2008 – Joias Reais- Joalharia contemporânea Luso-Brasileira
2008 -“ Garbage Pin. Project ”- “worthVS waste”- Klimt02 Publishers
2007- “ Schmuck 2007”-Sonderschau der 59, International Handwerksmesse Munchen
2006- “ Gender and Jewelery” . a feminist Analysis- Rebecca Ross Russel
2006- “4 Pontos de encontro “ -Rome- Lisbon
2005- “ New directions in jewelry II” – Black dog publishing- Lin Cheug, Beccy Clarke and Indigo Clarke
2005- “ As idades do Fogo”- Instituto do Emprego e formação profissional
2004- “Ponto de encontro”- 25 anos de intervenção de joalharia do AR.CO Centro de Arte Moderna José Azeredo Perdigão – Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
2004- “ 500 Necklaces”- Lark book
2004- “ 500 Bracelets” – Lark book
1994- 7a Bienal de jovens Portugueses da Europa e Mediterrâneo”
1992- 93 – “ Arte Portuguesa do séc. XX” – Mistry book -Temas & debates- Rui Mário Gonçalves
1992- “ Schmuckszene’92 Internationale Schmuckschau
1991- “Tendências 91″ – Forum Picoas
1990- “ Biennale 90” – Marseille
1990- “ Scholarship ar.co”
Newspapers & magazines
2020 – ” Instrumentos de distanciamento Intimo e Social” Homemade Design Teresa Milheiro – Revista Umbigo- Arte & Cultura
2017- “ Interioridades”- artigo de Isabel Ribeiro Albuquerque para a revista “Estúdio 20”
2010 -Umbigo- nº 33
2010-Umbigo nº 32
2009-Casa Cláudia nº 254
2009- Parq – nº 16
2008 – Umbigo nº 24
2005- Umbigo- nº 15
2005- Umbigo- nº 12
2004- Revista Visão – nº 613
2004- “ Balanço de actividades”- Revista Actual do expresso nº 1640
2002- Revista OP
2000- Revista MID – edições Dimensão- nº 54
1995- Revista Vértice nº 64
1991- “ Tendências em balanço” Revista Actual- Expresso
1990- “ Portuguese na crista da onda”Jornal público – Cultura 24
1990- Diário de noticias “ Garra criativa de jovens Portugueses cativa público de Bienal de Marselha”
1990- “Modelos BD inspiram moda jovem” Diário de noticias
1990- “ Avec un “X”…au pluriel” Journal La marseillaise
1990- “ Representação Portuguesa está a postos para levar a arte jovem à Bienal de de Marselha” Público
1990 -“ Marselha”- Diário de Notícias