Joana Vasconcelos Disassembles Electricity Heritage in the Plug-In Exhibition at MAAT Lisbon

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MAAT museum in Lisbon has teamed up with renowned Portuguese contemporary visual artist Joana Vasconcelos to present her solo exhibition, Plug-in. The exhibition showcases Vasconcelos’ new works, as well as some of her iconic pieces created since 2000 and projects from the EDP Foundation Art Collection.

Vasconcelos, who has built an impressive career spanning three decades, is known for her monumental sculptures and immersive installations. She takes everyday objects and transforms them, updating the arts and crafts movement for the 21st century. Her work explores themes such as the private sphere and public space, popular heritage, and high culture, while questioning the status of women, consumer society, and collective identity with humor and irony.

In Plug-in, Vasconcelos creates an intriguing dialogue between electricity heritage, technology, and contemporary arts. The exhibition, which opened to the public on September 29th, 2023, is spread across two buildings of the MAAT museum, now known as MAAT Central and MAAT Gallery.

In MAAT Central, Vasconcelos presents Árvore da Vida / Tree of Life (2023), a work created in the context of the Portugal-France Cross Season and adapted to the Tejo Power gallery. Meanwhile, at MAAT Gallery, visitors can view a total of six works, including the newly created Drag Race (2023), which connects back to War Games (2011). Two conventional vehicles transformed into works of art are also on display – one extravagantly ornamented with gilded carvings and feathers, and the other covered with toy rifles and filled with stuffed toys.

Two other pieces featured at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao are being exhibited in Lisbon for the first time: the mirror mask known as I’ll Be Your Mirror (2019) and the gigantic Solitaire ring (2018), which is installed outside the museum. Additionally, the textile sculpture Valkyrie Octopus (2015), originally created for the casino MGM Macau, is showcased at MAAT’s Oval Gallery.

Alongside these recent productions, the exhibition also includes a work from the EDP Foundation Art Collection, allowing visitors to delve into Vasconcelos’ history while maintaining the electrical connection that defines the exhibition. Strangers in the Night (2000), originally exhibited in the same location as Joana Vasconcelos’ first retrospective, Medley, marks the artist’s return to the Lisbon waterfront after 23 years.

By utilizing the heritage of electricity, which is at the core of the EDP Foundation’s work, and exploring the interaction between technology and contemporary arts, Vasconcelos establishes a connection with the public in her city. She was the first artist to win the EDP Foundation New Artists Award in 2000, which she describes as a pivotal moment in her career. The Plug-in exhibition will run at MAAT until March 25th, 2024.

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