Colossus Complex

Lola Lasurt

16 Apr 2021

Colossus Complex (On the edges of fiction. Exhibition Season)

Centro Internacional das Artes José de Guimarães

16.4 – 5.9.2021


Ángel Calvo Ulloa, Guest curator

Carla Filipe, Alisa Heil, NEG (Nova Escultura Galega), Jorge Barbi, Lola Lasurt, Taxio Ardanaz, Jeremy Deller, Gareth Kennedy, Jorge Satorre, Pedro G. Romero, Andreia Santana, Joaquim Salgado Almeida, André Sousa and José de Guimarães


The beginning of the artistic programme “On the edges of fiction” is marked by eight new exhibitions and by dialogues with the collections.

Colossus complex is about a colossus inside the museum, with twelve artists, from various countries.

The first news about the existence of the Colossus of Pedralva dates from May 23, 1876, when Francisco Martins Sarmento recorded, in one of his notebooks, the information he received from a certain Father António. He reported the existence, in the Monte dos Picos, in the parish of Pedralva, of a stone man, who supposedly corresponded to a “preliminary model for the giant Goliath”, intended for the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, in Braga.

But after his first visit to Pedralva, the archaeologist began to fantasise about the possibility that the indefinite bulge on the figure’s left thigh was related to a phallic cult and the superstition of procreative virtue attributed to other stones that Sarmento considered belonged to proto-history.

Over the following years, the contradictory theories transmitted by the different individuals who talked to Martins Sarmento and his own doubts about the origin of the sculpture defined new interests for the researcher. In 1892, he finally decided to buy a small plot of land, a few metres from the discovery site, where the three parts of the Colossus were assembled.

After Martins Sarmento’s death, in 1899, interest in the case waned in archaeological debates and the sculpture was only transferred to the garden of the Sociedade Martins Sarmento (SMS) in 1929, where it remained until 1996, when Guimarães City Council and SMS decided to transfer it to the city’s main western thoroughfare, the Alameda Mariano Felgueiras, in a roundabout between Hospital Senhora da Oliveira and Guimarães Shopping, where it remains today.

Throughout the 20th century, the Colossus timidly aroused the interest of several scholars in the field of archaeology, with a special impact in Galicia, Spain. In the second half of the century, the Colossus became part, among the intelligentsia of the neighbouring region, not only of extensive specialised studies, but also of a symbolic repertoire which talked about the supposed importance of this find.

They say that stories are formed partly from truth and partly from speculation. Through the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century the complexity of the case led to constant resignification, wherein it was the subject of speculations and imprecise archaeological studies that, somehow, transcend it, as an anachronistic artifact that doesn’t just pertain to the field of archaeology, but also to the collective imagination of the surrounding Minho region.

In addition to verdicts on the importance of origin and dating, the Colossus Complex project intends to delve into the various layers of meaning of this account, in an undisciplined manner. The multiplicity of identities that determine the everything and nothingness of the Colossus are the fundamental basis for calling into question the “blame” to which it has been condemned.

Transferring analysis of the Colossus to the field of art also makes it possible to rethink the account, using all these layers – those that have fuelled and questioned this epic – which forms that which the Colossus represents today. Colossus Complex also points to a complexity that extends beyond the debate about the origin of this stone figure, ending in political and social aspects that reveal an entire series of historical problems, of which the Colossus is just the tip.



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