The Cypress Dance
17 September – 11 October, 2020
Though one could argue that all the work of artistic duo Mariana Caló & Francisco Queimadela has been invested in bending and folding reality into something unreal, The Cypress Dance stands as their furthest descent into narrative filmmaking and cinéma fantastique. While several hallmarks of the duo’s previous films are present—a transfixed focus on potent objects; a syncretic visual logic that unites diverse images without narration; and the visual and communicative importance of drawing and mark-making—the film pushes towards territory that feels new and surprising.
In this Programme:
by Herb Shellenberger
The Cypress Dance
Beginning among the strident strains of baroque harpsichord and strings, the first images of The Cypress Dance are wild yellow daisies, their lush beauty disturbed by the traipsing of jet-black beetles, harbingers of the darkness soon to come. Daylight soon fades into a dusky, atmospherically dense dreamland, ushering in the oneiric register that will remain throughout the film. Images upon images flow together with little demarcation or explanation; the film operates as something a viewer feels rather than understands.
The film follows four actors—artist Mariana Barrote, Henrique Ponte da Luz and their children Artur and Rafael—as they perform wordless, stoic and simplistic gestures, interacting with each other or with the coastal landscape through which they traverse. This rocky, cragg-filled seaside environment, which reflects the local ecology of Berwick-upon-Tweed itself, becomes a site of mystery and wonder, as sea anemones, shells, starfish and a diverse array of wondrous creatures are shown in cinematic glory to rival Jean Painlevé’s films of the natural world.
The figures of the four characters are raised to the mythological register, resonant with Paul Valéry’s text on Calypso delivered as spoken narration. While this text is read, Barrote draws primitive-looking mythological figures on a rock, reminiscent of cave drawings, and aside from the otherworldly atmosphere of the film it also functions as a portrait of an artist and her family. Later in the film, a text by Georges Bataille ruminates on love, eroticism and death, as swirling symbols of each of these recur throughout the film.
A century after its earliest flourishing of Surrealism in European avant-garde cinema of the 1920s, The Cypress Dance stands as a contemporary flowering of it. Sequences of the film were derived from Barrote’s recordings of her dreams, and the multiple invocations of the mythological also lend weight to this comparison. The film’s landscape is, as Caló & Queimadela describe, an “emotional geography”, which reveals its concomitant “daydreams and projections”. Perhaps no projection is more elucidating than the title’s invocation of trees gently swaying in the wind, which the filmmakers call “a symbol of passage, resurrection, and eternal life.” —Herb Shellenberger
Mariana Caló (PT, 1984) and Francisco Queimadela (PT, 1985) began their sharing and collaboration during their studies at the Fine Arts Academy in Oporto and have been working as an artist duo since 2010.
Their practice is developed with a privileged use of moving images, which intersects installative and site-specific environments, and also drawing, painting, photography and sculpture.Grantees of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for an international artists residency in Gasworks and awardees of the BES Revelation prize, in 2012. Finalists of the10th edtion of Edp New Artists prize and winners of the Lo Schermo dell’arte Film Festival International Prize, in 2013.
They have present their work in several exhibitions, namely: “The importance of being a (Moving) Image”, National Gallery, Prague, 2015; “The Composition of Air”, CIAJG, Guimarães 2014; “Perpetual Interview”, Edíficio Axa, Oporto, 2013; “Chart for the Coming Times”, Rowing Projects, London, 2012 / Villa Romana, Florence, 2013; “Gradations of Time over a Plane”, Carpe Diem Arte&Pesquisa, Lisbon, 2014 / Gasworks, London, 2012 /General Public, Berlin 2011; among others.
They live and work in Oporto.
 The Cypress Dance
 Sombra Luminosa (short)
 The Mesh and the Circle (short)
Mariana Caló, Francisco Queimadela