By Sarah McCartan
Situated upstairs in the Assembly Room gallery within the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA), is a cardboard structure weighing in at 700 pounds, tethered to the gallery space’s windows overlooking Main Street, via a suction system.
The structure itself goes by the name of “Dietrich,” and is a solo installment of local artist Filipe De Sousa. Although it may be a singular art piece, it is large enough in scale to encompass 75 percent of the room.
Dietrich was officially unveiled Feb. 21, just in time for Gallery Night and will remain on display through April 5. Friday, March 7, an opening reception will be held in the space. During this time, De Sousa will be presenting an artist talk and lecture focusing on both the piece itself and his process.
If you saw De Sousa’s Bachelors of Fine Arts Exit Show at the University of West Florida’s TAG Art Gallery during the fall, you will notice that the same three words that captured the title of that particular show, “Force. Measure. Resistance.” embody the approach to this installation at the PMA.
“While some of the materials are the same, the work is operating in a different way than the pieces involving the cardboard and windows at TAG,” De Sousa explained. “Actually, in terms of weight and tension, it is much closer to the piece in that show involving the wood planks propped against the wall with the steel I-beams strapped to their centers.”
Although De Sousa’s work is designed with the viewer’s relationship to the pieces in mind, it is driven by the space itself—the interest in exploring specific spaces, utilizing their characteristics, and responding to the ebb and flow of the dynamics and limitations. In this case, the space includes both the PMA Assembly Room and its windows.
“The window functions as a pivot point between the piano and the cardboard mass,” De Sousa said. “Through the use of industrial grade suction cups, I was able to guide my support system between the two objects while also distributing the space.”
As for the set up, the most cumbersome part of the process was the transportation and getting everything in place for the installation to begin.
“Most of the material I used for Dietrich I already had in my possession, so it was really a task of transportation and setting up. The process before the actual install is what always takes the longest,” De Sousa said. “The actual installation process however, took a total of six days, working mostly half days because of my other job.”
Much like with any heavily involved process, once you begin working with a space and facing that space’s distinct variables, oftentimes adaptations to original plans must be made. As a result, things end up shifting shape. For this installation, the baby grand piano proved to be one such variable. While the piano may have not been in the original sketches or plan, because of its fixed position in the room, it became a part of the equation.
“About a week before the opening, we realized that we weren’t going to be able to remove the baby grand piano from the Assembly Room—a move all of my sketches at the time were anticipating,” De Sousa said. “This left me with a decision to make about how the piece was going to function within the space with the piano. This specific piece of work was decided on about five days before it was available for viewing.”
Not only did the piano end up serving as a part of the physical representation of Deitrich, it ironically or not, ties into the title of the work.
“The name and inspiration for this piece are rather different entities in my mind. However, they do have some interesting overlaps,” De Sousa explained.
The name comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian who, according to De Sousa, was one of the earliest champions of justice and equality of the Jews. After becoming involved in a coup to assassinate Hitler, he was imprisoned and killed in a Nazi concentration camp.
“I am currently reading a biography on Bonhoeffer and decided that, in lieu of the piece being available for viewing during his birth month and existing in a former jail, I would dedicate the piece to him and his life,” De Sousa said. “It is my first dedication. A funny coincidence is that Dietrich was known for his fantastic piano playing.”
While the work may pay homage to Bonhoeffer, it equally showcases De Sousa’s thoughtful approach and spatially-based abilities. It also acts as another representation of the PMA welcoming a diverse group of artists. De Sousa expressed both excitement and eagerness to be included in this mix.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “When a museum in the PMA’s position is committed to international, national and local exhibitions, I think it is operating at its greatest effectiveness for a city like Pensacola.”
“Dietrich” by Filipe De Sousa
WHAT: Opening Reception and Artist Talk
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, March 7
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson Street
DETAILS: pensacolamuseum.org or 432-6247