Picking it apart, piece by piece, the young Lisbon-born Fábio Colaço decyphers the multitude of systems, signs and symbols that we function in and around. In creating his striking sculptures, the artist questions all of these modalities of contemporary life.
The leading driver of our society is money. That’s why it features heavily in the most recent works from the artist, whose mission it is to offer a reality-check. His statements on money are broad and varied. Money, like many topics that artists tackle, can be sticky. It’s easy to come across as convoluted or, on the other side, ham-fisted. For such a brash symbol, money must be treated delicately.
Colaço manages to do just this, without ever eroding the temperamental impact of his pieces. Blanket critiques of capitalism tend to be rather immature. Being too anti-establishment is a very establishment standpoint. Despite his relative youth, Colaço has a wiseness beyond his years.
One particularly pertinent example of this is his 2019/2020 piece, One Million. Now, many others have showcased this much money before, in various different ways. Few shred that amount of money and leave it in a pile, though. Fewer still go on to conceptualise the symbolic importance of leaving it in a pile in a way that combines mythology with contemporary culture.
By highlighting the inherent worthlessness of paper money (which is in itself, symbolic), Colaço juxtaposes this with the power of presentation. Namely, he takes reference from Uncle Scrooge and the money that lies in a pot at the end of a rainbow. A mountainous pile highlight that there is an abundance of something. Yet, this is just an abundance of nothing.
One thing that seems to fascinate the artist is the idea of ‘gaze’, or, of how we see things and are seen by them. In Untitled (he is watching you), a fragment of a dollar bill (with Benjamin Franklin’s face) contrasts with the blacked-out frame that it sits in. It’s almost a taunt. It’s like the dollar bill is asking us why we’re not chasing after it.
Money Blinds You features the shoe on the other foot. This time art is created to be worn. The facemask, cut out of a five-hundred euro note, takes a shot at how easy money obscures our vision. The strength of these pieces lie not in the parts, but the whole. Seen as constituents of a larger conversation, Colaço sets about challenging our innate value systems, as well as those bred into us through societal coding.
We’re often fed the quip that money is a way to freedom, to happiness and to a better life. It’ll get you that new BMW, it’ll allow you that holiday in Bora Bora you saw in your favourite film. You can live the life of the virtual reality stars that make their money from twerking and teeth-whitening product placement.
But, they too are trapped. The hunger for more - greed - is never far away. In Untitled (mousetrap), Colaço cruelly bates out that greed. Banknotes lay on the ground, covered in glue, bound to make a mockery of anybody that dares try to pick them up. So, what would you do? Do you see greed as nothing but a malaise, as represented by the cut-up pile of notes? Or, is your face-mask still on? The money lying there isn’t even art to you, but an opportunity to pick up a sticky tenner for God knows what.
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