April 20, 2008 - Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France - João Paulo Serafim
April 20, 2008

João Paulo Serafim

Turn into bright light
Copyright: João Paulo Serafim (MIIAC)

IMPROBABLE MUSEUM of the Image and Contemporary Art
23 April to 6 June 2008

51, avenue d’Iéna, 75016 Paris
T : 01 53 23 93 93,
du lundi au vendredi de 9h00 à 17h30


The Calouste Gulbenkian Cultural Centre in Paris presents the work of the Portuguese photographer João Paulo Serafim. Consisting of fifty photographs in various formats and two videos, the exhibition forms part of a project previously unseen in its entirety, to which the artist has given the name of the Improbable Museum of the Image and Contemporary Art (MIIAC).

MIIAC is a fictitious entity that João Paulo Serafim began to develop in a more systematic fashion in 2005. Serafim explores the symbolic and legitimising power of museum spaces and galleries, also displaying a great fascination with the relationship of scale between architects’ models and the reality that they miniaturise.

Its echoes can be found in his work entitled Prowler that shows the interiors of furnished houses lit in such a way as to suggest a series of inhabitable atmospheres. In their game of different scales, they incorporate the ambiguity that is peculiar to photographic enlargement. They are scenes that do not immediately reveal the model from which they had originated and which, in the final analysis, tests our apprehension of a certain space based on a physical relationship shaped by optics. Later those “inhabitable atmospheres” would be developed into the series Home Sweet.., exploring that “intrusive” perspective in what was an openly family-based context.

This first cycle of works dedicated to the very act of observation itself, set out along a path onto which the spectator projects himself in accordance with a game of scales, is taken to new consequences in the MIIAC project. The House has become the Museum and the objects that formerly gave it the intimate atmosphere of a family home are now photographs that João Paulo Serafim has taken himself or chosen from his vast private collection of images and which come both from his own family album and from collections of anonymous people that he either discovered or bought while on holiday.

MIIAC functions as a temporary corollary of a photographic research that is centred on photography itself and on its new home: the Museum. This has now become the setting for the artist’s photographic production, legitimising his creative strategies of appropriating and transforming images, whilst also revealing the process in the final result and reinforcing the myriad roles performed by their author: he is the photographer, but also the archaeologist, the archivist, the curator and the manager of images that are sometimes fixed, sometimes in motion.

Serafim’s Improbable Museum is, in the end, an enormous room to be used for testing the freedoms of the image and the imagination. And it not only calls upon the history of art and photography, but also upon the artist’s personal story. In it we find a highly diversified group of culturally shared allusions and we also encounter strangely familiar images, where anonymous people lend themselves to poses that immortalise a given moment of conviviality, or else figure in other genre settings – as in the various portraits – setting in motion a series of representations of an affectionate nature that link the spectator to his own memories.

MIIAC thus becomes the quintessential place of personal but shareable memories, providing the setting for a whole body of work that is immediately and ontologically linked to its own space of presentation. To think the image – either fixed or in motion – from an image – as is the case with the “figure” of the museum as a fictitious convention: this is the challenge presented to us by João Paulo Serafim’s Improbable Museum, in which we already find ourselves.

Curator : António Pinto Ribeiro

Press contact: jasmin.uhlig@gulbenkian-paris.org , 01 53 23 93 78

Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France
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