The location of the gallery hosting João Pedro Vale + Nuno Alexandre Ferreira’s latest exhibition could not be more fitting: The Conde Redondo quarter, in Lisbon’s city center, has historically been a hub of underground sexual activity. Once stigmatized as a kind of ghetto for the LGBTQI+ community, Conde Redondo street has recently been reclaimed as a place of liberation. The artist duo’s practice has always explored the tension between the dominant, mainstream attitudes toward sexuality, as inscribed in patriarchal law and lifestyles, and the celebration of an alternative, even deviant understanding of the connection between sex and identity.
The Names Are Always Found Within (all works 2022) takes Vale and Ferreira’s engagement with queer narratives and iconography a step further, intervening directly into Conde Redondo street, where the artists have engraved slabs with the names of local “travesti” prostitutes known to work the area. Obliquely referencing the custom of hiding money under pavement stones, the gesture functions as both a memorial and an allusion to activist struggles.
The exhibition’s title, “1983,” alludes to the date of the first reports of HIV infections in the Portuguese press, which exacerbated the homophobic sentiment that still pervaded a country shaped by conservative values and habits. This context informs the other key work on view here, also titled 1983. In the basement of the gallery, a “bus stop” decorated with a variety of materials—a pile of tabloid newspapers, blankets, a map of Lisbon, a makeshift ad for a gig by 1980s Portuguese singer and gay icon António Variações, graffiti poetically reading “if whores were flowers, this street would be a garden”—operates as the stage for a performance series featuring the artists and their guests. Through their voices and gestures, the performers serve as proxies of the bodies and minds that have endured violence (both physical and symbolic) against the LGBTQI+ community.