The artist’s withdrawal from the artwork: the case of the goodbye man (senhor do adeus)
Revista de História da Arte/Série W︎


João Manuel Serra (1931-2010) owes his media impact and his pseudonym — the senhor do adeus (the “goodbye man”) — to the fact that he spent the last evenings of his life waving to drivers as they passed through the Picoas and Saldanha areas of Lisbon. Many people sought to pay him a posthumous homage by waving to drivers from those places where previously he was most frequently to be found. This paper reflects on the ways in which the goodbye man might be inscribed in the field of the arts and of performance in particular. Such an inscription is in no way self-evident due to the fact that the two fundamental aspects — authorship and work — on which any inscription of this nature should be based are extremely difficult to pin down in this case. The problem can be expressed as follows: the goodbye man is the author of a gesture that is artistic in nature, for otherwise the waving is an artwork without any owner; the wave and its repetition testify to what is an artistic limit gesture, since it is nothing more than an act of politeness, and therefore a political act.

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