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Of the works selected by Portugal, the art installation “Lighted Jelly Fish” by Bordalo II is one of the most iconic moments in the Cultural Programme of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. On show at the Europa building in Brussels until the end of June, the piece reflects concern about the pollution of the oceans.
The work commissioned from Artur Bordalo addresses issues relating to the generation of trash, wastefulness, pollution and the effects of these on our planet. Nature, symbolised here by a kind of gigantic Medusa, is represented using that which causes its destruction: discarded end-of-life materials.
Environmental themes remain the focus of the artist’s work
Amongst the most recognisable aspects of Bordalo II’s work – be it for the message, the raw materials used or the scale of the work – the “Big Trash Animals” series, where the artist takes a critical look at consumer habits, stands out. This line of thought is intensified in his most recent series of works, “Lighted Plastic”, which criticises the illuminated advertising in our cities that entice the observer to consume.
The oversized Medusa now exhibited in Brussels can be seen as an integral part of that criticism. It is a work that incorporates LED lamps and is made, to 80%, from the waste found in rivers and on beaches. Of this waste one can highlight, in addition to the fishing nets and ropes, a rubber duck, a doll and a sandal originally designed for use by sailors.
With his “Lighted Jelly Fish”, Bordalo II seeks to call attention, in an amplified way, to the issues of plastics in our oceans and seas. And, thanks to the pandemic, to those plastics one can now add a whole range of other materials – from masks to latex gloves and surgical gowns – which end up in the sewage and the seas, causing grave harm to the natural habitat of marine animals.
The choice of a Medusa as an artistic object has to do with its delicateness, which contrasts with the completed work. By depicting it using waste materials, to which are added lights, the artist seeks to alert people to the urgent need to define measures and rules that apply to all, if we are to avoid the catastrophe of turning the oceans into a place without life.
“ Raising awareness is something that must take place at the international level. Portugal may have a long coastline, but it is not the only such country and action is now urgent. ”
Enhancing the value of European cultural heritage, as well as conserving and recovering marine ecosystems, are issues that are particularly dear to the Portuguese Presidency. Indeed, these are two of the main priorities for the ongoing six-month period of the Presidency. The ultimate goal: a green and truly ecological Europe.
About the artist
Artur Bordalo (b. in Lisbon in 1987) today goes by the name of Bordalo II, the artistic name he chose as an homage to his grandfather (the painter Artur Real Bordalo), thus successfully furthering continuity and reinventing the latter’s artistic legacy.
His youth can be divided up into the hours he spent in the company of his grandfather and his never-ending passion for watercolours – in addition to his ventures into illegal graffiti in the sub-world of the city of Lisbon. During his eight years at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts, Bordalo discovered sculpture and began experimenting with a variety of materials, which took him further away from the medium of painting.
The public space was to become the chosen stage for his explorations of colour and scale and the platform where he eventually transformed his artistic vent and began to channel his experiences. He has since built and developed his artistic work, which currently focuses on the questioning of our materialistic society built on greed, of which he admits he is also a part.
The excessive manufacturing of “things” and exaggerated consumption, which result in the continuous production of “trash” and, consequently, the destruction of the planet, are the central themes of his artistic output. “Trash” has become the unusual and distinctive raw material he uses in the construction of both small and large-scale pieces, of which examples are to be found all over the world. His works above all are intended as a vehicle for a universal manifesto.