Art(e)facts Biennial arrives to Beira Interior — with a group show opening this Friday

The Art(e)facts Biennial promotes the encounter between artists, designers, architects and craftsmen with residences in six villages in the Portuguese region of Beira Interior. This meeting nurtures a reflection and valorisation of the interior territory and the reinterpretation of traditional knowledge and techniques.

In the area of Architecture and Territory, responsibility of the architect and curator Andreia Garcia, the first edition of the Biennial Arte(e)facts is part of the candidacy of Guarda to European Capital of Culture 2027.

Alcongosta, Janeiro de Cima, Telhado, Famalicão da Serra, Fundão and Gonçalo host several residences of this Biennial’s first edition, whose theme is Supernatural Togetherness, proposing the salvation of the future through an alliance between species and generations.

With the participation of the guests Coletivo Warehouse and Fernanda Fragateiro, in addition to the four winners of the international Open Call, which took place in February this year. Ancestral techniques, such as basketry, weaving and pottery, are worked in collaborations at various sites in the municipalities of Fundão and Guarda.

Andrea Canepa & Vanessa Foster, together with the artisans Sónia Latado and Rosa Pereira from the Casa das Tecedeiras in Janeiro de Cima, join the traditional technique of weaving to the computational process, so that algorithms give shape to several textile pieces.

Diogo Rodrigues, Fernando Pimenta and João Oliveira learn chestnut basketry with António Nunes dos Santos, in the village of Alcongosta. Starting with the harvesting of the raw material, they learn how to prepare it with the appropriate tools and then build traditional baskets. They explore the technique to adapt it to others that make up an installation.

Nuno Vicente uses the technique of pottery, transmitted by Cátia Pires at Casa do Barro in Telhado, building devices such as troughs or water tanks, suitable for various species to survive in rural and urban spaces, free of «human action», part of the Third Landscape, concept proposed by Gilles Clément.

The designer duo Anja Lapatsch and Annika Unger develop, together with the craftsman José Venâncio in Famalicão da Serra, several objects in chestnut basketwork, which depart from the traditional baskets for cherry picking or to store and transport other objects and food. They seek to unite past and present in a perspective of future, paying homage to chestnut basketry and challenging tradition.

Coletivo Warehouse works together with FAB LAB in Fundão to create a testimony to the local collective memory, a former carousel in Arraiais da Câmara, a deposit of objects of the municipality. This intervention reflects on two opposing concepts, obsolete and innovation, exploring a possible complementary relationship. Through digital fabrication, the artifact gains a future life that takes it away from its original function.

In Gonçalo, Fernanda Fragateiro learns to work with wicker in Alberto Carvalhinho’s workshop. Interested in the relationship between sculpture and architecture, she challenges the craftsman to move from the domestic scale of basketry to an architectural scale, creating large, braided pieces placed in an abandoned manor house.

After the residency period, a collective exhibition distributed in various points of the territory presents the result of the collaboration between artists and craftsmen. The exhibition ends in September 2021. On 9 and 10 July, Fórum de Ideias, an international online conference, will take place.

The Art(e)facts Biennial announces a possible future for knowledge and traditions, today mastered only by older generations, in danger of disappearing. It also encourages the valorisation of the interior. It is urgent to preserve these memories and Art and Architecture are excellent means to do so.

According to the curator Andreia Garcia, «the Arte(e)facts Biennial is attentive to this intangible heritage, which is knowledge. This knowledge can be preserved in several ways. Through the constitution of an archive. Or, in another way, perhaps the one that interests me most: creating a relationship between this traditional knowledge of craftsmen, their techniques and materials, and contemporary art. This is another way of preserving a legacy, in a situation that allows for a re-look, a re-think.»

This rethinking also produces knowledge for the artisans, who find another interpretation of theirs. This interpretation presupposes a gesture, which allows them to understand that it is possible to apply their technique to other scales and objects, beyond the usual ones. And the artists have contact and learn techniques and modes applicable to their artistic production, which open up a new range of possibilities that they never considered before.

«The result of this collaboration could be an object or just an artistic thought that alerts us to the importance of artistic reflection on traditional knowledge. This is the main ambition of Art(e)facts», says Andreia Garcia. And she adds: «it is a project related to an idea of dialogue between people, needs, uses, key concepts, which we often mention uncaringly, between concepts and techniques». This raises profound questions: «What is craft? What is art? Is craftsmanship art?».

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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