Von Calhau!

Curated by João Laia

For over a decade, Marta Ângela and João Artur have been collaborating under the (shifting) name of Von Calhau! (also known as Calhau or von Calhau, among others). Recalling this elusive signature, the duo’s practice flows between different formats and media, being mostly recognised by their performances and installations that consist of sound and moving image.

PHANTOM BLOT BACK TO ATTACK focuses on the idea-image-object of the Black Blob. The title references a 1980’s graffiti tag ‘mancha negra volta a atacar’ still visible on a wall in a Lisbon suburb, as well as the Walt Disney character the Phantom Blot, who got his own spin-off comic series between 1964 – 1966. The amorphous blob has been transformed into the disobedient inflatable object Von Calhau! use during some of their performances to scare the audience away. Now seemingly caught in an idle moment, the black blob slowly rises up and rests back down again. Showing an eerie relation between solid and gas-like states, the sleeping beast transforms from angry eyed ghost to gallery-sized presence. The elusive inky black phantom reappears to haunt the walls, casting a shadow over everything but the character’s white gloves and the comic’s sound effects.

Von Callhau!’s awareness of the world’s instability is reflected in their use of language, approached as a tool based in tacit agreement that is full of contradiction and in permanent transformation. Translating this understanding into ‘concrete poetry’, their work produces the humorous, surreal and visceral cosmos that Von Calhau! inhabit and propel.

Von Calhau!: PHANTOM BLOT BACK TO ATTACK / MANCHA NEGRA VOLTA A ATACAR is supported by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Portuguese Embassy in the UK and Instituto Camões, Portugal.

Von Calhau! in Art Review

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