Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Quem matou Joaquim de Melo? / Who killed Joaquim de Melo?

Jan 19, 2015 - Tiago Casanova

My main fascination regarding Destruction is actually on analyzing and understanding other people's fascination towards this subject. People love murder movies, the decadence, explosions and abandoned places. They all make good stories, beautiful photographs and share a powerful nostalgic feeling. So I am sharing with you something that I started in 2013, a fictional crime investigation, a multidisciplinary and performative project called »Quem matou Joaquim de Melo?« [Who killed Joaquim de Melo?] with the intention to get closer to the general public, in order to understand their thoughts, and also to draw the attention to the problem of all the abandoned and mistreated architectural heritage in Portugal. It is known and almost part of our culture that old architectural heritage don't get the best treatment and maintenance, but what I found extremely unbelievable is that the State doesn't care much about modern and contemporary heritage too. Sometimes it is easy to forget what was around us since ever, but it's much more difficult to close your eyes or look to the side for those examples that you saw grow and you understand their past, present and future importance. An example are the two portuguese Pritzker laureates Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura, who saw recently some of their most important buildings abandoned and destroyed. Far too many, in fact. So I used this specific case to represent a wider problem. In this metaphorical project, Architecture is symbolically personified through Joaquim de Melo, the anonymous side and name of the renowned portuguese architect Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira. Nobody cares about who destroyed some building or left it abandoned, but everyone will want to know who killed Joaquim de Melo, and even who the hell his he. That's exactly what happened when I came to the streets of Porto during an Anti-Crisis protest sustaining the biggest banner around with this provocative sentence. The reaction was immediate and people came to ask us who was the guy and how he was murdered. People just love blood! So this question is the main fuel for this fictional investigation, which I spread over strategical points, including the Tea House of Boa Nova [Casa de Chá da Boa Nova], designed by Siza in 1958 (built by 1963) and the first classified National Monument of the 20th century. This building was already abandoned for a few years when I started the project, because the day after the restaurant closed due an internal economic crisis they suffered a copper robbery by the Copper Gang, destroying and disabling the place. Due to this fact, in this fictional crime investigation, the Copper Gang is my heteronym and the main suspect of this metaphorical murder. Like most of the criminal groups they are against the system, so they use graffiti and urban art to share their critical thoughts of present issues, allied with irony and metaphors, and always with the copper as their signature. I also invite you to take a look at the super 8 film I did of the Tea House when it was still abandoned. It is part of the installation Esta[g]Nação, were a game with the words means both [This Nation] and [Stagnation]. Here