All photos courtesy of Stick2Target
In July 2010, the Brooklyn-based street art collective FAILE installed their much awaited Temple Project in the heart of Lisboa, Portugal. Having spent years tagging the streets of various cities, FAILE has developed an acute awareness of our urban settings, and this Temple is a masterful display of the site specificity of their oeuvre. The elaborate installation was only up for one month last summer, and it undoubtedly deserves to be revisited .
Right in the middle of Restauradores Square in Lisboa, FAILE married pop art with antiquity in what appeared to be an ancient ruin. In this curious new monument, a now canonized collection of FAILE imagery was manifested in textbook historical forms. Geometric patterns, glitzy typography, seedy advertisements, and references to early comic books and Japanese animation were re-contextualized as high-relief sculptures, friezes, and painted tiles and mosaics.
The colors, forms and materials of buildings surrounding the site were also carefully integrated into the design. Muted reds and greens gave subtle accents to the structure, and the painted wrought iron tracery and ruined mansard roof pull directly from the local historical architecture. The temple refused to stand out yet also resisted association with any place and time. Described as “camouflaged in plain sight,” the design allowed people to engage and interact with the work on their own terms.
The artists have always been interested in the notion of visual time travel. Throughout their work, their subtle references to 1986, the year the Space Shuttle Challenger launched and crashed, seek to tug at our subconscious, providing just enough of a visual cue to trigger the emotional reconstruction of a past moment. For the temple project, FAILE expressed this fluid notion of time with incredible precision and grace. Construction took less than 2 weeks, and, as if it had actually traveled through time, the temple came and went in one month.
As part of the Portugal Arte 10 Festival, the installation was fitting for a country with such a mixed history. Having only recently emerged from the grips of dictatorship, Portugal seems simultaneously new and old. The country celebrates its recent freedom and also looks to the past, seeking to revive the spirit that drove the Portuguese to discover the New World.