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ECHOES on the Wall

Carlos Noronha Feio: "Oikonomia: uma questão de confiança"

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Carlos Noronha Feio: Oikonomia: a matter of trust

Carlos Noronha Feio is the artist chosen to launch ECHOES on the Wall: artistas portugueses no estrangeiro, a programme of solo exhibitions held at MNAC. His career started in 2008 with shows in London and Lisbon, ever since he has presented his work in solo and group exhibitions as well as performances internationally. This exhibition aims to echo his work, addressing his artistic language, of which issues such as citizenship, identity and universalism are tackled using media as diverse as video, sound, installation, and the less common supports of Arraiolos rugs and silk scarves.

Oikonomia: a matter of trust, takes its cue from a work created by Noronha Feio in 2012 titled Art 4 debt and from the 2014 exhibition A Matter of Trust — calling for a global and active citizenship in the face of the contemporary sovereign debt. Giving a pertinent contemporary tone to the work.

Oikonomia derives from ancient Greek, meaning the management and running of a household (oikos). According to Giorgio Agamben, Oikonomia was considered by Aristotle to be the praxis that allowed, through action, to deal with specific problems or particular situations. However, the concept was later adopted by the Catholic Church and worked into the doctrine of the Trinity, the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, evolving into what Agamben calls the “Apparatus”. Leading “to a kind of a formation, so to speak, that at a given historical moment has as its major function the response to an urgency. The apparatus therefore has a dominant strategic function (...) it appears at the intersection of power relations and relations of knowledge”. It is through a similar strategy that public debt is here addressed.

The transition from Oikonomia to Economy in this exhibition is the result of this exploration of relationships of power and knowledge employing strategic approaches.

In countries such as Portugal and the United Kingdom it is possible to buy and sell public debt on the primary market. This act by individual citizens, when practised on a large scale, can have a bearing on the national economy as the purchase or sale of government debt securities by individuals affects the national treasury. Buying demonstrates a position of support and solidarity with the government, while selling represents the opposite. In this sense, this actions translates an “economic vote” —  a form of direct democracy, with strong political tones, employable even by foreign citizens without the right to an electoral vote.

The centrepiece of this exhibition is a 13 metres long by 1 metre high silk scarf composed of symbols associated with government debt sale websites in Portugal and the United Kingdom. From Portugal come the horseman on horseback (the brand logo of CTT, the post office network which sells treasury bonds and postal savings certificates), the wind rose (from the IGCP, the agency in charge of the treasury bonds and public debt issuer),and the red and green columns (from the Portuguese government website). From England come the horse-chestnut in its husk, the drums, the brick wall and a video still (from NS&I, an executive agency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer). Supplementing this symbols are various words, expressions and phrases:  “vendo”, “sell”, “compro”, “buy”; the word “voto” (“vote”) and the expression “voto directo” (“direct vote”), both with and without the new Portuguese orthographic reform, creating a reference in this manner to the evolution of language; “#transnacional” (“transnational”) and “#economical blackmail” allude to possible examples of key words to be used as connections within social networks such as Twitter and Instagram; the sentence “Por baixo de toda e qualquer construção existirá sempre uma paisagem” (“Under each and any construction there will always be a landscape.”) is also present.

Utterly dynamic, the composing landscape encompasses symbols and images multiplied to create waves whose meanings intersect with the haphazardly handwritten words across the space of the scarf. The dynamism of the composition is accentuated by the interplay of colours and gradations dominated by red, blue, green and yellow, placed over a white background.

The apparent playfulness present in this visual game casts a critical eye over the current economic situation in the two countries to which the artist makes direct reference. Although paying his taxes in the UK, as an immigrant Noronha Feio is not entitled to vote, he can however vote in Portugal, where he neither lives nor works. Noronha Feio addresses this though the strategies employed and represented by his silk scarfs.

Two other pieces are also present in this exhibition. One evokes transnationality, the abolition of borders, through a sound piece composed of national anthems with their rhythm altered, speed-up version, creating and almost abstract and undecipherable cacophony. The other functions as a sort of musical score made up of images and signs, scans from the artist collection of currencies — alternative, propaganda, artist, war currencies — are then printed on paper serving as a reference to his work.


Adelaide Ginga