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2299 totaal.jpg


Julião Sarmento

Currently not on display
Acquired in 1996
Inventory number 2299

The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 3400 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.

If you need specific information on this work or artist, remember that the Van Abbemuseum Library is at your disposal, or feel free to write to the library.


The artist associates six black and white photographs with three pieces of French text. In the first one, we see someone who appears as though they are about to enter a room from behind a door. In the second one, we see a coat hanging on a valet stand. The next four pictures show details that make it clear are looking at a bedroom. The blurry shadow on the fourth photograph suggests that someone has entered the room. The combination of text and photographs allows the viewer to create their own narrative. The artist uses this device to encourage us to give free rein to our imagination, and to express our own desires or fears.

Sarmento is a Portuguese artist, who has been developing a conceptual and post-minimalist approach since the 1970s. In his studio he mixes painting, video, sound and sometimes sculpture.

Sarmento’s work chiefly questions the notion of pleasure and the mechanisms of desire in relation to women. He believes women to be the central thread of his oeuvre. However, the main difference between his work and the work of others that make up the Van Abbemuseum collection is that the presence or representation of women does not address the viewer directly. The emphasis here is on the contrasting feelings of fear and desire; the intimacy and darkness of the bedroom.

Translation of the three French captions under the photographs:

Beauty is hidden in the shadow and we can only see the sensual pleasure of movement. Desire fragments as fear increases. The image then becomes less sharp.

Resistance is now too weak and it too becomes the object of desire. Desire turns into a response to primary intuitions. The bulk of the figure in the landscape makes it too much and reality becomes appearance.

It is likely that we can’t die without knowing what fear is. And, after all, the woods are still so far away. The scream escapes into the night. Is it a cry of fear or a cry of pleasure?


Queer perspective

Here, Sarmento presents fear and desire as sensually intertwined: a hidden observer creeping around, a scream of fear and pleasure. To what extent are we used to this artistic and literary cliché? How does it help normalize sexual understanding whereby women (but not only women) are perceived to be passive and unassertive, rather than being explicit about their boundaries and fears, as though hiding and masking their desire? Contemporary understanding of consent in sexual acts needs to go beyond the logic of "the absence of a NO implies a YES", or the "I know you want it" (even if you show fear, I will assume otherwise). At the end of the day cultural representations of sex, like this artwork, could be seen in two different ways: as a personal expression of the artist’s kinky emotions, or as a piece of the puzzle that shapes what is known as "rape culture", one component of which is the cultural normalization of the absence of sexual consent.

%>Tags: gaze, heteronormativity, kinky, normative, patriarchy