Crying in Public is the first solo exhibition held in a German art institution by the Portuguese artist, Pedro Barateiro. In his works, which include sculptures, drawings, films, texts and performances he questions the mechanisms and structures of post-capitalist societies, as well as that of the individual from himself. At a time when the world seems to be increasingly out of joint, characterised by a lack of orientation and helplessness, whereby dissatisfaction and distancing are rampant, Barateiro focuses on the question of how we can change the way we relate to one another and to the world around us.
As far as Barateiro is concerned, alienation is rooted in the beginnings of modern society and European culture. The latter is predicated, in particular, upon the agricultural mastery of nature coupled with centuries of territorial expansion. Connected to this, wind as an element – representing freedom, movement, change on the one hand, and conquest and oppression on the other – appears exemplarily in several of his works: for the ability to manipulate the winds and the tides, as well as to develop navigational instruments, led a group of white people to rise above others, to justify multiple genocides, to enslave entire swathes of people and to infect them with disease by merely coming into contact with them. All at the behest of the noble goal of “civilising” them. Liberated from religion, the development of science coupled with anthropocentric myths (or multiple fictions), helped to spread the idea of private subjective capital as the ultimate form of emancipation for the human body and mind. Exploitation and oppression, and likewise its concomitant dependency, took their course, leading to yet more alienation. The endemic culture of capitalist entrepreneurship posited the notion that the individual is responsible for making its own way, fighting against and subjugating everything and everyone in its way. A system of competition has likewise been nurtured that benefits only abstract capital production but is otherwise characterised by coldness and indifference toward the Other. The baleful collision of the Self with the environment is the inevitable outcome in this scenario.
A previously given, unquestioned relationship of humankind to themselves and to their environment seems to have been disrupted, turned upside down, destroyed. Against this very background, Barateiro plays with the essential means of orientation and disorientation. His works serve as instruments of self-reassurance, allowing one to question one’s own position in the world. His art makes it possible to stay in touch with one’s own humanity; it offers space for vulnerability, imagination and dreams. To this end, he relies on emotion and intimacy to counteract an increasingly prevalent trend toward casual insensitivity. Accordingly, his recourse to the epoch of Romanticism, which emerged as a reaction to the rational philosophy of the Enlightenment and the fundamental motifs of which being emotion, passion, individuality and individual experience, seems almost like a logical consequence. After all, his art is characterised by a melancholy yearning for a perfect place where protean commonality and affection stand innocently before monolithic commodity-form. In order to decolonise our bodies and minds, Barateiro uses poetry as an instrument. In a sublime and reposeful way, a kind of anaesthesia is countered, insensibility is deconstructed, and that very moment is harnessed in a palpable form.