Ping! Programa de Incursão à Galeria: Interview with Matilde Seabra at the Galeria Municipal do Porto
At the launch of the new educational project of the Galeria Municipal do Porto (GMP) – ping!, we interviewed Matilde Seabra, the coordinator of the educational project.
Ana Martins – GMP’s new educational project, ping! – Programa de Incursão à Galeria encompasses several activities for school and non-school audiences in the Gallery, the auditorium of the Almeida Garrett Municipal Library and the Crystal Palace Gardens, based on three themes: Botany (Gynoecium & Stigma), the First Portuguese Colonial Exhibition (An Elephant at the Crystal Palace) and the urban surroundings of GMP (Exodus). When and how did the concept for ping! Emerge? And did you find it pertinent to change GMP’s educational programme?
Matilde Seabra – GMP’s educational project existed more invisibly, in a network with schools nearby. There was no defined program, with research efforts, with space for artists to think and create. With the formation of the Agora, new places were created in this organic entity dedicated to leisure culture. One of them was the definition of what could be an education department and the public programming of the gallery. When this challenge was proposed to me, the general will was to make sure that the educational programme should not only be for schools, but also a non-school audience. The name is useful in this sense, as the idea of ping! conveys a sense of rhythm or uncompassionate sound. It does not present a flood of workshops and guided tours based on the exhibition at GMP but gives the artist the time and place to do a residency, which can then be translated into a workshop or a walk in the gardens. Ping! is something that is built through methodologies with the public. And that was the change in relation to what might have been thought a year ago, but which remained silent, being recently announced.
AM – The Gynoecium & Stigma programme, centred in the Palace Gardens, wants to present new perspectives on the universe of Botany, using artistic creation and research on issues of gender, politics and nature through two themes: Ecothinking and Botanical Speculations. How did you think about this theme and the relevance of these issues for the community and today? What will be the activities, the artists and researchers invited?
MS – Gynoecium & Stigma emerges from the interest in plant anatomy and realising that some of these names from science are also used in other contexts. The idea of Gynoecium is not only the place of the female sex of the plant, but also the place of women in a Greek house. Stigma comes from the stigmatization we often feel for belonging to certain collectives. In Ecothinking, the interest was to show ways of connecting with nature, more immersive and not condescending, in a relationship of mutualism and symbiosis, and not with a condescending attitude. Some several ecocritical movements and studies allow us to find other ways of relating intellectually and physically to the landscape, ecology, and the plant world. Ecothinking invites Michael Marder and Yayo Herrero, who will talk to us about the new relationships we can have to generate a plant education. In addition to conferences, we are also invited to share literary knowledge. As such, we have thought of a tour of the gardens, guided by Círculo de Leitoras Peripatéticas. In Botanical Speculations, we invite several artists to design and map a route, where each one will create a relationship with the participants and of all of them with the gardens. The proposal made to Uriel Orlow will be perhaps the most challenging: to make a residency to design a workshop based on the Palace Gardens and the political, historical, and healing role of plants. It will be an “Assembly” in July and October, with the same participants, and requiring the fulfillment of an individual project. The rest of the courses will take place with Carla Filipe and her work for the São Paulo Biennial based on weeds, and also with the Von Calhau! given the collective’s performative practice.
AM – The programme An Elephant at the Crystal Palace started with an invitation from GMP to three curators and an artistic collective to develop a programme about the First Portuguese Colonial Exhibition (1934) in the gardens of the Crystal Palace, through three sub-themes: Ethics of Looking and Representation; Colonialism, Capitalism and Religion and Staging the Colonial Empire. How did you conceive this theme and the relevance of reflection on the context of the Colonial Exhibition through contemporary thought? And what will be the activities on these issues?
MS – There is a concrete colonial legacy in the Palace Gardens. When we looked at the place where GMP is, as a landscape, we also took a closer look at the historical events and so we selected this event from 1934. We brought together Nuno Coelho, Alexandra Balona and Melissa Rodrigues, given their research in design, political activism and curating, as well as the InterStruct Collective, important for their activist and artistic interventions in the colonial marks left in the city. Ethics of Looking and Representation aims to question how and from where we look at the other and the way this is reflected in visual literacy and this type of exhibitions, such as the First Portuguese Colonial Exhibition. The issue of Colonialism, Capitalism and Religion focuses on having colonial policies and economies, which still tend to continue. Staging the Colonial Empire thinks about the way we analyse colonial memories and the reminiscences that remain in our urban spaces through a workshop with Bárbara Alves, to study the Monument to the Portuguese Colonising Effort, which was here in 1934 and is now in Praça do Império. When this challenge was launched to the curators, it was also important to include workshops with schools. Therefore, we proposed the artist Dori Nigro, Gisela Casimiro, among others. Finally, Cristina Roldão will talk to us about institutional racism and concepts such as lusotropicalism, exoticism and white privilege. Ana Cristina Pereira will analyse colonial documentary cinema. And Bambi Ceuppens, responsible for changing the Leopold II Museum into the Africa Museum in Brussels, one of the strongest museums on colonialism, will present an intervention point of view outside the Portuguese context.
AM – The Exodus programme wants to recognise local art through guided visits to galleries, exhibition spaces and artists’ studios in Oporto, on three routes: Boavista-Baixa; Oriente-Campanhã and Baixa-Rio Douro. How did you think of this theme? How will the visits be articulated? Who will be the guides and the visitable venues?
MS – We thought it was important to devise visits with classroom-based moments, under ping!’s discursive back-and-forth, where high school and college students could take tours to get to know an art studio, an art gallery or more alternative art venues in Porto. For the general audience, there are five Exodus routes with five guides. Choosing these names was remarkably interesting. On the one hand, we have Francisco Babo and Felícia Teixeira, people connected to alternative spaces; on the other, we have Maura Marvão and Fátima Lambert, closer to the structure of galleries and collectors. As well as Vera Carmo, who is between the programming of the Espaço Rampa and the creation of the fanzine A Mola. What would be a programme only for schools has also become a programme for the general audience. We organised the itineraries geographically and we know that Maura Marvão wants to start at GMP and walk down to the river; that Francisco Babo and Felícia Teixeira will be in their areas of action; that Vera Carmo thought of a programme between the art studios and the more alternative spaces; and Fátima Lambert is keen to talk about these sculptures that have been installed in the garden and then head for Miguel Bombarda.
AM – Ultimately, do you think that the participation of the Oporto community in the city’s art and culture, as well as in GMP, through ping!, will be fruitful? Will there be continuity?
MS – I believe there will be continuity because the municipal policy has been investing in culture. I also think that this trio composed by Botanica, the 1934 Colonial Exhibition and the Local Artistic Fabric, is taking shape and should not end after one year. The Gallery was already receiving new visitors involved in artistic collectives, people studying for master’s degrees, or those who are undecided about a professional future in the arts. Many then apply to the Creatorio, the Shuttle and take part in the Cursos Pláka. When we made the programme, we also determined the participants. This mediation department is what gives strength to this relationship. To be a participant is also to be an accomplice. It is important to realise that mediation also stimulates artistic creation, generates collectives.