Alison Fornell reviews Pedro Barateiro’s We Belong to Other People When We’re Outside recently shown at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, Sept 2013 – Nov 2013.
What is ultimately most significant about Portuguese artist Pedro Barateiro’s newest work, the film We Belong to Other People When We’re Outside (2013) commissioned by Kettle’s Yard of Cambridge, is its meditation on the history of objects: in this case, a range of important modern and contemporary artworks representing a variety of media. This meditation—this attention—situates the film itself in a particular historical context and, most notably, a specific physical place. Barateiro explicitly investigates the possibilities—and limitations—of the moving image with his overt gestures to the precious legacy of objects, the mysterious life of artifacts. Film, an inherently elusive and transient medium, in this instance works to not only suture the spectator into the realm of Barateiro’s imagination but perhaps more strikingly works to assault the spectator’s intellect, her very capacity for criticism.
The film consists of still images of artworks shown one after the other, connected by moments of darkness—all the while, voices fill the film’s narrative space as a philosophical dialogue takes place. Barateiro’s short 16mm analog film hovers in darkness as much as it meditates on the artworks Barateiro has singled out, ranging from Francis Picabia’s Balance (1919) to Bruce Nauman’s Good Boy, Bad Boy (1985) to Ansel Krut’s Giants of Modernism #1 (Vortex Head with Pipe) (2009). Most importantly, however, the film begins with a letter written by artist Constantin Brancusi to Jim Ede, famed patron of the arts, progressive and controversial curator at the Tate who promoted the works of contemporaneous artists like Picasso, and eventual founder of Kettle’s Yard Gallery in the 1960s.
Barateiro’s work covers a broad range of art’s history, suffocates its viewers with overpowering references to theoretical and critical concepts ranging from the philosophical to the political, and constructs a quasi-psychoanalytic dialogue between a man and a woman. While these components are initially the most apparent and most striking elements of the film, it is ultimately the film’s relationship with its container, so to speak, which provides the most critical depth. Its container is Kettle’s Yard, and it is fueled by the narrative and the history attached to the place. The works Barateiro draws on all belong to Ede’s collection, housed both in his home—the original gallery—and the contemporary gallery itself, a separate building connected to the house.
The moments of darkness in the film act as bridges between images, references, and ideas. In much the same way, the film itself acts as a bridge between Barateiro as a contemporary artist and Kettle’s Yard, a small gallery with a long and important history, imbedded in progressive exchange, critical appreciation of the avant-garde, the untraditional. The film contains the history of Kettle’s Yard while being contained by it. Its greatest achievement is its ability to move within and without boundaries of comprehension, of organization—but this is also, perhaps, its greatest fault. In spinning a complex web of intertextuality, information, and interpretation, the film becomes bigger than its whole, larger than the sum of its parts. The spectator gets lost in Barateiro’s seemingly unassuming filmic labyrinth, his 30-minute homage to the history of modern art.
Alison Fornell is currently studying MA Art in the Contemporary World, NCAD.
Image: We Belong to Other People When We’re Outside,film still,Pedro Barateiro,2013 from http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk