Sofia Pidwell

The Meaning of the Non-Meaning

Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência


The unknown / the Resert / the watery


The exhibition The Meaning of the Non-Meaning by the artist Sofia Pidwell presents itself in two acts; the painting exhibition with nine works that build a mural and the performance that has been adapted to current times that impose restrictions upon us.

The Meaning of the Non-Meaning brings us the duality of a spatio-temporal experience and confronts reason and emotion, where performance calls for the passage between different times, the ephemeral and the permanent. Sofia Pidwell combines herself with the Self of others, as if we were all united by a superior force. “In the beginning the ego embraces everything, only later does an outside world separate itself. Our present feeling of self is thus only the emaciated remnant of a far wider feeling, in fact, of a feeling that encompasses everything and which corresponds to a closer union between the self and the world around it.” (Sigmund Freud, in: Malaise in Civilization.) We live in two overlapping cycles and the exhibition highlights them.


Sofia Pidwell is aware of her artistic process in which she is the protagonist, she assumes the importance of her plastic and performative language. In the paintings, the artist contrasts two planes, in the background chaos and the unknown and on the surface of the canvas the pragmatic lines of the constructed connections. Quoting the artist “Americans are now talking about the results of The Great Reset and, for me, it has to do with The Meaning of the Non-Meaning. It is the unknown, it is the great change for which we were not prepared, nor did we believe it would be possible. The unknown brings us a change, it is the Reset of ourselves. The impact is greater than the Industrial Revolution. It has everything to do with what I want to convey in the exhibition. We believe that we have a much larger dimension than we actually have. We haven’t mastered anything! Where does the Universe begin and where does it end? Failure to answer this question shows us the dimension of what we do not know. It is necessary to have that awareness and that humility.”


The artist puts together a set of performative acts in their experimentalism. And the relationship with the public is fundamental. “Artists, like researchers, build the scene in which the manifestation and the effect of their skills are exposed and have become uncertain in terms of the new language that translates a new intellectual adventure.” (Jacques Rancière, in: The emancipated viewer.). The triad, a work of art, a space, a spectator, function as the common body of the installation at an artistic level.


Happening is not an installation it is an event and the exhibition has a conjunctural and universal meaning. The distribution among the public of colored ribbons aims at unity and faith that bring us together. As Sofia Pidwell tells us, “the ribbons simbolise the process we are going through, with insecurity; they are not the Bonfim ribbons but they have the symbol of a happy end. When people use a Bonfim ribbon they ask for a wish and believe it will come true. During the performance we hold hands and arms and then let go; there is hope.” The exhibition is a concrete, deliberate and organized moment, a kind of game between things, space, time and waiting.


“Knowledge needs to be seen with the idiocy that it holds, with the game of certainties that an era considers inevitable, but not permanent. A world without idiots saturated with false dignity.” (Agustina Bessa-Luís).


Sofia Marçal (free translation by Rita Pidwell)