The artist's fingers press down the keys of a Bösendorfer resolutely. This is a piano manufactured in Austria, which José Carlos Teixeira, in the first instances of the large projection of "Between Clarity and Fog", admits no prior knowledge of how to play. Nonetheless, throughout the 30 minute video, images are cut through either by the sound of the very same exercise, or by the image of the author practicing it. The wandering fingers perpetuate the movement, either pressing the continuous white keys, or the black intermittent keys that define themselves in opposition to the former.
Along with the movement of the fingers seeking out the melody as they press down the keyboard, to which we shall return later, another displacement begins through the body of the author. During his artist residency in the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2008, Teixeira went down, from the north to the south, along the line where the former wall dividing the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic stood until the end of the Cold War. A wall that is practically invisible now, and that in the past fractured the landscape and demarcated ideologies, delineating, simultaneously, the beginning and the end of two parts, which, like piano keys, define themselves through meeting their opposites.
However, is it not when we are in the presence of something different that we characterize ourselves? According to authors like Deleuze and Guattari, the other is always the negation of something of the same nature. It was also in this sense that Derrida would have termed the meaning of hetero-affection. Alterity and identity express themselves at the same moment, by acknowledging that the other is different. That is, at the limit of what simultaneously starts and ends and in the space that remains between. This is the case of the wall, whose memory José Carlos Teixeira decided to bring to mind. This is the impartial tangent where the author chooses to stand at, "looking left... looking right", as can be heard in the video's last moments.
Along the way, Teixeira chases the legacy of that border which, despite almost physically invisible, lingers on through the immaterial and built patrimony. In Marienborn, one of the places he goes through, the camera stops at a former checkpoint in that border area. Empty and seemingly inoperative nowadays, those spaces rise up as insignias of that past and evoke its contemporaneousness.
Between melodies and silences, absence of image and fragments of landscapes, a non-narrative itinerary emerges, dotted by the sharing of testimonials of the people interviewed as the journey progressed. In editing his conversation with the interviewees, the author does not allow the questions asked to be recognized. However, considering Teixeira's body of work, some of the subtext can perhaps be guessed: what others come into being in this confrontation with the imposition of what is different? What physical and affective heritage remains after the reunification? What cultural identity? And now, what is the being-with-others?
We get to know the profile of the interviewees, unidentified locals, who were the direct or indirect witnesses of the fall of the wall, through clippings in their discourse. Still, does this piece of work attempt to reconstruct the historical truth? Will it endeavour to expose the truth about the complexities that inhabit these residual places where agricultural fields and small villages were split up? At minute 16 of the video, the author, with his camera pointing at the map of Europe showing the graphic representation of the line that divided Germany, personalised his uneasiness.
"Am I looking for something to tell you? Maybe not. I am definitely looking for something to tell myself."
Thus, ultimately "Between Clarity and Fog" proposes a subjective revision of history, in which José Carlos Teixeira prolongs the problematisation of identity and alterity issues omnipresent in his work, this time anchored on the East/West dialectics.
In this journey, the itinerary stretches along the former areas on the border, stitching across what has now become an imaginary line. Mödlareuth, Pötenitz and Schöningen are some of the places we can see through the eyes of the artist, who moves on challenging the physical location as mirror of an identitarian and deep-rooted memory.
As with some of his other works, the displacement movement and the relationship between identity and occupied space are recurrent themes. For instance, in "38 minutes of anthropology", a group of people who have in common the fact of living far away from their home countries, talk about their displacement experiences; in "Always chasing, always displacing", it is the body of the artist that moves incessantly across a seemingly indistinct landscape.
Is it the physical space that defines shared identities, or, instead, it is the sense of individual identity what informs the definition of place? According to Michel de Certeau, space is an individual construction, and since no two bodies can occupy the same space, there are as many spaces as people that occupy them. In "Between Clarity and Fog", the author tries to position himself over the "limit", the "borderline", the "between", like he states in the video, his words accompanying the projection of images. Surely, this stand does not intend to demonstrate the impartiality of a look, rather call attention to the fact that any place, even what lies in between, is hostage of its partiality.
In the light of contemporary anthropology, the author places himself before the landscape and, in the absence of any carefully detailed route, moves on towards his previously selected references, letting his personal contact with them, his understanding, sensibility, and time choose the next steps.
It is the experience of each moment that delineates the road.
The same happens with the exercise on the piano keyboard. Despite the uncertainty, the movement does not cease, stitching on the same piece of cloth what moves and its very outcome, the striding along a path and the melody it generates.
"I took the car and left. Far away. (...) I knew what to do, but not where to go."
The fragmented images of the landscape and of people, the almost ubiquitous voice off, the fractions of audible discourse or its deliberate cacophonization, the reflections on the meaning of border between the self and the non-self, turn this journey into journey, and one which is primordially his. "Between Clarity and Fog" marks the continuity in the work of José Carlos Teixeira, not only due to the aforementioned problematisation, but also due to his definition of a language that stands between the factual and the superimposition of the partiality with which he looks at things.
In addition to this major projection, José Carlos Teixeira exhibits two other devices inherent to the project. Despite the fact that each can operate independently, they maintain a complementary and holistic connection between them. It is an installation composed of two small projections showing a set of images edited from those the artist collected during the journey. This silent video allows viewers to establish a formal and poetic relationship with a space laden with political and social connotations, and universalize their look, and thus forget the meanings that the context bestows to the way we look at each segment of the world.
This is followed by a third and last part. When this installation was assembled at the Akademie in Stuttgart, José Carlos Teixeira place this device slightly apart from the other two mentioned above. This piece recreates in the exhibition area the author's atelier at the artist residence, as an open studio. As the ultimate place where creation and the individual action takes place, the atelier was open to visitors, not to let them see the finished work, rather to extend the reflection process contained in the videos to all those wishing to be involved in it. In this space, visitors came across an orange coloured wall where they could intervene by using white chalk, and a chair where they could sit and talk with the artist on the topics in question. The conversations were edited on to two videos and made available in two screens in the area representing the atelier.
Teixeira' exhibition lay-out normally has a strong formal and finite component, due to the importance he pays to the installation of the object, the careful editing, and also due to the existence of a recognisable video graphic language. In this last work, what stands out is the presence of the author's body, his personal reflections made perceptible through text and sound, and the incomplete images of the landscape and of the corporeal territory of the other. Consequently, the author takes on the editing of what is said and shown as a form of appropriation of that content and, simultaneously, of substantiating the reflections that inhabit it.
Still, another timeframe totally spilling over the experience of the exhibition runs in parallel. It is in the performativity of the artist's action in context, when he chooses, decides, makes contact, is, talks, rejects, and shares subjectivities, that part of the reification of his works lies. Accordingly, I believe it is possible to state that his work exists in the continuity of a process that has occasional moments of visibility in the exhibits. This is because a process that reflects on alterity must be next to the other, be in contact and together. This is a persistent and continual process, like the hands that seek the melody out of the keys. As we do not look out for the other on an occasional basis, the other is always the place where we can find ourselves, in an ongoing exercise, like the hands running up and down the piano.