Unfinished Past (2016) is a video by Henrique Pavão. The work combines images, sounds, and stories from different sources to create an intimate, retrospective and melancholic experience. Henrique Pavão films the wreckage of a stranded boat, in the harbor of Malmö, in Sweden. Oblivious to the city, the images are focused on the hull of the vessel and on its waterline.
In the artist’s clear, attentive and curious approach, what is being filmed has its foundations on the relationship between bewitchment and exploration. A relationship that governs the fascination of ruin and a search for the origins of that condition.
Focused on the actuality of its object, but also on an invocation of the past, this is a work that questions the passage of time; the form it acquires and the how it can reinvent itself. With his peering gaze, Henrique Pavão contemplates the transformation of matter, documenting the death of the boat, and what now covers its surface. In this process, between what was before and what is now, the artist creates a moment of suspension, and a somnambulist presence.
Throughout the video, there is a constant and hypnotic sound recorded near one of the pillars of the 25 de Abril bridge, in Lisbon. Like a second layer superimposed on the image, the sound perpetuates itself throughout the work, with an intensity and a tone that reinforce the numbness the images suggest.
Referring to a notion of place, the bridge appears as a diffuse presence that alludes to the former function of the boat. Like a wakening echo, the sound carries the memory of a hypothetical past that complements the images. Here, both the bridge and the past also refer to the artist’s personal life. A third layer, the text follows the images, telling us about a homecoming to a previously abandoned house. Feeding from the conflict between its present condition and the memory of its past, between reality and poetic fabulation, we are presented with the description of a place that is both a house and a boat, and of how its windows frame the sky and the sea. In this action, there is an attempt to relive something that is no longer there, to take hold of a fleeting moment.
In a process of construction and deconstruction of time, Henrique Pavão dissects, groups and (re) combines the elements that make up the memory of a place. A place that was once his home, in Lisbon, is convoked by a boat he found much later, in a harbor, in Malmö.
The video opens with a sequence that shows us the boat, keeled over and closed to the outside, and ends with a sequence that shows us an interior window, framing an open sky. Between these two moments, past, present and future coalesce in a timeless consonance.
– Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues, 2018