Appropriately entitled 'X', Susana Mendes Silva's exhibition at Marz Galeria takes Portuguese fiction writer, journalist and filmmaker Reinaldo Ferreira, whose name stands on the street outside, as the focus of her attention and point of departure to her work. Born in Lisbon in 1897, Reinaldo Ferreira was the creator and mentor of 'Repórter X', a popular journalist of the 1930's who spewed reports for newspapers on murders and other fait-divers. Printed as fact, these articles were largely fabricated by Ferreira and his entourage of collaborators, whom he taught the art of "reporterxizar" (reporter "x"ing). Audiences at the time were taken aback by the scandals and events delivered by the infamous, but invented reporter. In order to meet the public's demand for hot news, Ferreira not only produced 'X', but a collection of novels set in a cosmopolitan Lisbon of espionage, secret organisations, exiles and street chases, where he could advance the detective-reporter he so dreamt and aspired to become.
Today, Reinaldo Ferreira is acknowledged as a pioneer of the classical crime novel in Portugal and a herald of Portuguese crime fiction, having forerun such figures as Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.
Susana Mendes Silva's project was the result of a process of observation and data gathering that draws on the ethnographic model of participant observation, one that necessarily reflects a subjective experience that is both situated and motivated and says as much about the observer as it does the site and subject of the fieldwork. To this effect, the installation was less about documenting or truth-finding, but was rather a projection that was quite in keeping with her subjects persona. As such, artist Susana Mendes Silva provides us with "evidence" that takes the form of the coloured photograph or slide. These documents obscure rather than reveal their object; they provide clues that do not claim to dismantle her subject, but allude to processes of deviance and multiplicity that lead the observer on several interpretative paths. These images, culled from films directed by Reinaldo Ferreira, or reproductions of staged portraits where Reinaldo Ferreira appears face to face with his pseudonym Repórter X, direct one's attention to significant subjects, and bear witness to the contemporaneity and avant-garde nature of Reinaldo Ferreira's work: the figure of the cross-dresser (who emerges as Rita or Rito in the 1927 silent film by the same title), and the pseudonym of doppelganger who gains an envious life of his own, outshining his creator. Susana Mendes Silva highlights these figures that incarnate the margin - Reinaldo Fereira too - and challenge easy notions of binarity such as male and female, fact and fiction, original and copy, enacting thereby the crisis of these categories. Susana Mendes Silva underscores the free play of signifiers adopted by Reinaldo Ferreira and the Duchampian strategy of masquerade, reminding us that the notion of identity is anything but stable. The installation suggests a hall of mirrors or space of possibility where the idea of one (of identity, self-sufficiency and self-knowledge) is put into question. Here, male surface identity, and by consequence, the author-function, is set free so as to give way to what could possibly be termeda third identity.