João Penalva

PRT (1949). Lives and works in the London.

2007 Light Beam Video installation, no sound, 4’

It is not unusual for João Penalva to produce work that becomes unrecognizable, precisely because it makes us think that there is not much to know and that not much is
happening. Sometimes this is almost true. For instance, in earlier works he has presented a video triptych for our contemplation of waves in a lake or, in a single-channel video, an almost impenetrable mist. Sometimes misunderstanding becomes part of understanding, and the work becomes discursive without really having to say much. Is this an actual light beam? Is it what we might see if “the image” were somehow absent from the projection? But a light beam is, in itself, an image—in this case, of how light travels through a confined space when it bursts into it through a small opening. And when Penalva projects an image of this image there is no way he can prevent it from becoming a meta-image.

Light Beam shows us all the temporarily agitated and suspended small particles that a light beam makes visible—and luxuriously resplendent, although that may be
beside the point—but it also casts light on what conditions our vision: the confined space, the darkness, and that other thing, the nondarkness that we see as unconfined,
that makes us both aware and selfaware. Did you notice that I avoid mentioning Plato’s cave? I see no real reason to, and besides, how can I speak of the light beam as a shadow image of itself? asks Anders Kreuger, the author of this text.