Rui Calçada Bastos lives and works in Lisbon and Berlin. He attended both the Lisbon and Porto Escola de Belas Artes, and Ar.Co in Lisbon. Of both his artistic residencies, one in Paris and the other in Berlin, the latter proved of great importance in concentrating his work on video.
He has participated in group shows since 1998; his first solo exhibition, in 1994, was held at the Boqueirão da Praia da Galé venue (Lisbon), where the following year he held Pausa (Pause), a performance associated to a video installation: on a screen are the feet of the artist with his own body lying in front of them in a sleeping bag where he slept a few hours a day. This physical duplication and the presence of the artist as actor will continue in other works, which do not cease to relate to the strong personal existential and biographical substratum that nourishes the concept of a great number of his works.
In Ten Years Looking Forward to See You (88/89), the accumulation of familiar and unfamiliar faces, which he comes across whilst away from Portugal, looking into the camera and therefore at the artist, make him the delayed centre of the entire sequence and consolidates his thoughts on working with this medium.
Duality is a limited formula, although it is multipliable and is necessarily present at the evaluation he is always impelled to conduct when confronted by an amorous relationship, be it happy or frustrated. In Ambos (Both, 2002), the separate narratives of his grandparents, a couple that has been together for 66 years, and the way they allow a journey together to be weighed, is displayed using a double bed as the device. On one end there is a video of a train window split in two and travelling in opposite directions. Underneath the bed the audio versions of both his and her stories come from different points and are intertwined. The metaphor of duality and spatial divergence is also used in Both of Us (2002), where the artist’s own face and her face come in and out of focus in the fog of progressively opposing shower moments.
In another video, It’s not Romantic to Be Romantic, two large screens face a garden and an ocean view with a semi-submerged woman, two image speeds, the bipolar interruption of the images and the constant indecision between what to choose to look at. Over Exposed (2003) and Loneliness Comes from One (2003) are installations that are very close in form: dark pieces of clothing create the space for a ghostly being on a wall, whilst the lamps of white light seem to become the place of language, the first instance deals with spoken language (a tape that repeats “leave me alone, I don’t have anything else to show you, I think I’m over exposed” is heard), the second with written language (the sentence is the title of the work). Once again, loneliness, told to another, and the negation of the actual stated duality, structure the meaning and the devices that are constructed.
Sound had already been used in the Entrance/Exit (1999) installation where the sound of a mirror breaking was heard in front of the mirror. In the Maia Biennale (Untitled, 1999), the sound of his footsteps was added to the similar effort of the light trying to erupt through a semi-permeable object found in later works.
In photographs of installations of a more spatial nature, the structural duality, the light, words of aphorism, the confession of mistakes made along the way, and features dispersed in other works, emerge once again.
In Work Table (2002-3) two tripods support fluorescent lamps with words written on them; stacks of video tapes (one corresponding to each month) placed underneath one of the legs disturb their balance. In Studio Accident (2003), imbalance (falling shelves) also seems to be the protagonist in another photographed studio situation. In the latest edition of the União Latina/Latin Union Prize (2005), the studio is in fact used as a resource to exhaustively list everything that exists there, this is then transformed into words on a film where they are organised them visually.
A series of four videos created between 2001 and 2002, brought together under the name Quadrifoglio, develops fundamental aspects of his video language. In Personal Like Everyone Else (2001-2), the actor comes away from himself in a fictional and unlikely physical detachment that gives form to the principle of self analysis, of the double, the unfolding of personalities, of momentary sleep or death and of a return to the body. Duality hinged on the subject is once again expressed in O Caso (The Case) an imaginary chase where the subject hides and peers through the peephole of a rapidly shut door; and, in Rendez-vous, the roles of a man and a woman become confused upon reception of a letter.
The cinematographic atmosphere of these works (music, narrative, enigmatic sequences) experiences a climax with Ascenseur, a simple sequence of an old elevator carrying an anonymous character up towards a diffused light that becomes stronger at the top.