FEA: a festival made by everyone to everyone
On the way to its second edition, that takes place from 14 to 18 May, FEA positions itself as a panoramic window facing the world of contemporary art in Lisbon. The objective is to reach more than the institutional spaces and private galleries. Here the gaze is directed at the places were art is made every day with an independent spirit and the focus is on artist-run projects; artists that are also active inhabitants of the city and that we recognize as neighbours and members of our community. This acknowledgement allows for a closer and more truthful relationship between everyday life and contemporary art. Being coherent with this objective, FEA is free for both participants and public, taking economy out of the picture as a barrier to accessing art.
Umbigo talked to Rebecca Moccia, director of FEA, that deepened some of these concepts and half-opened the window to the second edition of the Festival
Explain a bit more about FEA and the decision to do it in Lisbon. Do you live here?
FEA Lisboa is an artist-run and non-profit festival of contemporary art exhibitions. No, I do not live permanently in Lisbon (even if part of our team is living here), but over the years I often visited the city, where I have many friends, and the artistic scene of Lisbon has always thrilled me. While I was participating in ARCOlisboa three years ago, I realized that it was the time to try to transform the experience of Studi Festival, which I had been carrying on in Milan for three years, into something new here, in Lisbon. I had the feeling that it was necessary to offer to the new international and national public, which started to see the city as one of the main artistic European capitals, the point of view of those who in Lisbon had been making art for some time with an almost heroic and independent spirit. Amplify the point of view from a local to a global situation. I had also the opportunity to discover that, moving the festival from Milan to here, this kind of requirement of alternative mutualistic practices is not particular but common in the art system as it is configured today. To avoid the isolation of artists in front of the commercial based system and its dystopic way to work, we need to discover again the significance of artistic local communities which can provide the artists over time with the necessary support and motivation to continue their artistic research. For this reason, we decided, from this year, to record FEA with a Creative-Common copyright and to give access to all the material necessary (fundraising plan, graphic materials, communication plans) as an open source online in order to give the possibility to re-create FEA in any city.
Does FEA intend to bring together the more institutional art world with the alternative and independent circuit? Not just in the sense of showing the complete picture of what’s going on in Lisbon but also in the sense of building bridges and synergies between both worlds.
Risking to be discounted, FEA aims to bring the attention to the importance of collective self-organization and self-production for the development of the artistic research today. We really believe in the importance of the festival for the territory’s artistic development; besides the market growing and the opening of new international galleries and international art fairs, to create something alternative that could “protect” spaces and no-commercial moments dedicated to a local and independent research. Above all, FEA is made prevalently by the projects, the involvement and the commitment that the artists decide to put inside the Festival, sharing its values. Thus, I see it like a collective artist-run festival where us, as FEA organization board, make converge the individual practices in a collective form, through a virtual and real life network, providing a communication and coordination structure as a support. We hope that these experimental and meaningful artistic research practices will be noticed by the “more institutional” world and would become interesting also for the art market, but first of all they must have the possibility to emerge, to be shown and to be supported independently.
How does the Open Call work? Who can submit projects and how are they selected?
Any artist who has an idea for an exhibition, performance or event, and a space that could host it. It can be his studio, his home, an artist-run space, or an independent space. Also, an exhibition proposal can be proposed by the spaces themselves, involving artists. Regarding the selection, I would like to specify that we do not want to “judge” anyone. Unfortunately, a selection is made to give the right visibility to the projects involved in FEA. Since the Festival lasts five days, it would make no sense to have a program filled with many spaces that nobody has the time to see. We composed a jury formed mainly by members that have direct experience with independent and artist-run practices, who share our values and benchmarks and that will not be interested in the “form” – as an important CV or the graphic aspect of the proposal – but in the contents of the proposals.
Besides myself, the selection committee is formed by the artistic duo Sara & André, the young curator of the Kunstverein München and Matthew Alexander Post (Post Brothers).
FEA is free for both participants and public. Why is this important to you?
FEA aims to open a new kind of dialogue between artists and the city, highlighting the need for a more “real” debate between contemporary art and society. What we are interested in as FEA organization is not only the international public attracted by ARCOLisboa. We are also interested in the local public, the citizens who can identify that their neighbour is an artist, that downstairs there is a space of independent culture, in which, walking around the city, they can get in, talk with the artists and discover something new. This is the reason why we decided that FEA had to be free, removing in this way any barrier that could inhibit people from visiting the exhibitions. On the other hand, we felt that artists and the spaces should be democratically selected for the quality of their projects and not for their economic possibilities. These choices have not been easy to take since FEA is a non-profit organization and it was extremely hard to find sponsors and funds through which we managed to cover just the basic costs. We have tried to overcome this by creating collaborations and finding technical partnerships with institutions that are sharing the same vision, believing in the need for an independent, non-commercial project, accessible to everyone.
This is the second edition. Are you happy with the results so far? What has surprised you most and what has been more satisfying? (and/or frustrating)
I am very satisfied, firstly because the festival is gradually becoming an annual appointment in the Lisbon artistic calendar. For example, I was very pleased when, contacting a space that had participated in the last edition and asking to think of a proposal for this year, they told me that they were already preparing an exhibition project to realize during FEA! Moreover, I am extremely happy that this year FEA will be supported by the EDP Foundation and has renewed the support from the Câmara Municipal: we are very grateful to them that believed in this project! And we are equally proud to have started a collaboration with other realities in Lisbon, that share our values, like the Carpintarias of São Lázaro, the art school Ar.Co., the law firm VCA and, of course, we are more than glad to have the possibility to continue developing and deepen our synergies with Umbigo!
What can be expect of this second edition of FEA? Anything new you want to point out?
What we expect is more public and more attention from the local and international critic and press, in parallel to the growing quality of the exhibition proposals and program. In fact, this year we decided, in order to make the festival more appealing, to divide the city in different areas, each one with its openings. Moreover, CATL Contemporary Art Tour Lisbon, with which FEA has collaborated since last year, will organize 3 public tours, also free, to discover and explore a selection from the exhibitions. The exhibition program will be completed by a collateral program made by performances, talks and special in-depth events focused on the themes of the festival: artistic autonomy, the importance of independent realities, the crisis of the fairs and museums system and, in general, all the nuances of contemporary cultural production.