Plug-In
MAAT Central | MAAT Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal
28/09/2023 > 31/03/2024

MAAT presents Plug-in, a solo exhibition by Joana Vasconcelos, bringing together new works, some of the iconic pieces produced by the artist since 2000, and works from the EDP Foundation Art Collection, while establishing a dialogue between electricity heritage, technology, and the visual arts. The exhibition opens to the public on 29 September.

Plug-in takes place in both museum buildings, now known as MAAT Central and MAAT Gallery. In the former, the artist presents Árvore da Vida [Tree of Life] (2023), created in the context of the Portugal-France Cross Season and now adapted to the Tejo Power Station Generators Room. At MAAT Gallery, a total of seven works will be presented: the brand new Drag Race (2023), which establishes a dialogue with War Games (2011), two conventional vehicles transformed into works of art, the first exuberantly ornamented with gilded carvings and feathers and the second covered with toy rifles and stuffed with stuffed toys. Two pieces that were featured at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will be presented for the first time in Lisbon: the mirror mask popularised with the title I’ll Be Your Mirror (2019) and the gigantic Solitaire ring (2018), which will be installed outside the museum. From Asia comes the tentacular textile sculpture Valkyrie Octopus created in 2015 for MGM MACAU; for the first time in Europe, it will be hung in the Oval Gallery. 

These works from the artist's most recent production are joined by another from the EDP Foundation Art Collection, which allows us to revisit her history without ever losing the electrical connection that sets the tone for this exhibition. Strangers in the Night (2000) was exhibited in the same location as Medley, Joana Vasconcelos' first retrospective, which was made possible by the first edition of the EDP Foundation New Artists Award in 2000. 23 years later – and after having established her name on the world contemporary art scene – the Portuguese artist returns to the Lisbon waterfront for an ambitious exhibition. Using the heritage of electricity, which is at the root of the EDP Foundation's work, and the dialogue between technology and the visual arts, present in many of her creations, she re-establishes a connection with the public in her city.

Joana Vasconcelos was the first artist to win the EDP Foundation New Artists Award, in 2000: “I still remember the day João Pinharanda rang me to say that I had won the first edition of the EDP New Artists Award. It was one of the rare times in my life - the other was Versailles - that I was truly surprised. I was driving along, started laughing, and had to stop the car. When I realised he was serious, I was obviously overjoyed and started thinking about what I was going to do with that money. I immediately decided to buy the video camera that allowed me to film Fátimashop, Hand-Made and a whole host of other things. Right from the start, the EDP prize was a very important moment that set many things in motion in my work.”

My story and that of MAAT are intertwined and I am delighted to return 23 years later. I was the first to receive the new artists EDP award in 2000, which allowed me to launch my career and have my first solo exhibition in 2001, in a warehouse where the new museum is now located. And the Plug-In concept also explores our shared connection between art and electricity. It brings together a selection of works that combine craftsmanship and technology, showing how, rather than being antagonistic, these elements can interact to create artworks. I mix a lot of artisanal, handmade things with technological effects, namely electricity or some form of energy. Most of the artworks gathered here are connected through the plug.
Joana Vasconcelos
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© Rita Carmo
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© Rita Carmo
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© Rita Carmo
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© Rita Carmo
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© Rita Carmo
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