Galeria Energia: Interview with Filipa Ramos, Artistic Director of Porto’s Department of Contemporary Art

Galeria Energia is the new programming of Galeria Municipal do Porto, with art, music, nature and science in several encounters. A cycle of concerts, debates and walks, with four themes: Ciência é Arte, Concertos Comentados, Imaginários and Pastos e Pastos, where guests from different areas discuss several themes in various city venues until the end of the year. We have interviewed Filipa Ramos, Artistic Director of Porto’s Department of Contemporary Art, to better understand the programme.

Ana Martins: How did the idea of Galeria Energia, the new programme of Galeria Municipal do Porto, come about?

Filipa Ramos: When I arrived in January at the city’s Department of Contemporary Art, the Gallery was about to be under construction. What could have seemed like a major issue turned out to be an advantage. Instead of starting a programme immediately, I was given a period to do research, discover and get to know Porto’s cultural and artistic life. However, the gallery and the department had to continue to have a dialogue with the city, with its cultural agents, artists and audiences.

In line with the programmes I’ve been making over the years, I decided to create a programme that was not rooted in a single place, that would move around the city, covering several areas of cultural production. A programme that would represent how art is a form of knowledge and discovery of the world, with different types of knowledge, forms and experiences of relating to each other (humans and others), with particular attention to the relationship with the natural sciences, ecological thinking and time-based media artistic practices – film d’auteur, music, performance or theatre. In parallel, Galeria Energia presents live key figures of current thought, whose ideas have been important for the great movements of cultural and social transformation. That is why we have created this programme with very different moments that take place in several locations, with distinct durations and rhythms, preparing the ground for the Gallery’s programming in the coming years. Galeria Energia is an open and flexible programme. It is also a way of listening to the city, paying attention to people’s wishes, oddities and interests. The aim is to try to imagine how the Galeria Municipal’s programming fits the wishes of multiple audiences.

The name Galeria Energia thinks of energy as something that unites life forms: a circulating entity that is absorbed, transmitted and re-elaborated without ever being fully grasped. We need energy, but we don’t see it. Our programming is not based on exhibitions, nor on the materiality of objects. It lies in ideas, flows and intensities passed on in a constant process of becoming. Energy also relates to ecological thinking to question current ways of living and imagine our future through the unique and transdisciplinary contribution of artistic production and thought, where we can imagine a different world.

AM: How will you intersect art, science, music and nature, bearing in mind their relevance to contemporary thinking?

FR: Galeria Energia has four strands. In Ciência é Arte, we invite scientists from various fields – neuroscientists, biologists, agricultural engineers – to share their knowledge on important themes for cultural production and, above all, artistic practices in recent years. In the first session we invited neuroscientist Marta Moita, researcher at Lisbon’s Champalimaud Foundation, who has been studying the root of fear in animals. This invitation to open our programme takes into consideration the last years, where we have lived an abstract fear, but at the same time very concrete. In view of the way culture and art have related to the last years’ different reality, we have invited the expert Marta Moita to share with us her research on fear. She presents not so much the artistic point of view, but more scientific: rationalizing the present to better understand what we are living. A scientific epistemology to understand the phenomena and affections of these last years.

Another of the axes, Concertos Comentados, also stems from the current context where we cannot have very direct or consistent contact with concerts, performances or theatre. Concertos Comentados are a hybrid format, where the musical and concert experience becomes a dialogue. Practically speaking, we have asked several people working with music to share their references, influences and inspirations with the audience: the way they relate to music. We have invited several people with artistic and musical backgrounds to comment, throughout the concert, on their relationship with instruments, aesthetics and sonorities. A concert-conversation. The first event will be a concert in Arda Recorders music recording studios’ main room, where the Fonoteca Municipal is also located. We have invited a musician from Porto, João Pais Filipe, who builds his gongs and other musical instruments to share the relationship between his sculptural and musical practice.

The next two Concertos Comentados will be by the artistic duo Invernomuto (Simone Bertuzzi and Simone Trabucchi), who have been exploring Black Med’s cultural permutations. This territory, inspired by Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic theories, addresses cultural permutations, frictions and coexistences in the Mediterranean. In September, in line with critical post-colonial thinking, the musician, producer and artist Nkisi, alias Melika Ngombe Kolongo, will give a performance at Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, where the 1934 Colonial Exhibition was held. She will contribute to exorcising a very important site of the city’s identity.

For the other strand, Imaginários, we have invited two important contemporary thinkers: poet, playwright and writer Claudia Rankine, and author Saidiya Hartman, whose work, based on post-colonial thought traditions, focuses on the construction of African-American identity between past, present and future. Philosopher Emanuele Coccia will be the third guest of Imaginários, sharing with us his research on metamorphosis and the circulation of life.

Galeria Energia’s fourth branch is called Pastos e Pastos. It interprets the word pastos in its Portuguese dual meaning: the pastures of animals, as well as food and eating. For this, we work with two artistic collectives – A Recoletora and Landra -, which work on the relationships between ecology and art, promoting knowledge about natural spaces in urban territories. They present art on walks and workshops in the city, teaching how to look at the urban landscape in a different way. They show new understandings about waste land, such as ecologies between plant and animal species, but also the possibility of the city being a space where nature coexists with humans.

Galeria Energia stands between scientific thought, musical rhythms, theoretical-philosophical thought and ecological action, crossdisciplinarity, creation, rethinking nature and intellectual intensities, committed to imagine how we live the present and future.

AM: After the break in GMP’s construction works, what other programmes will there be? Can you already reveal the opening date of GMP, apart from the exhibitions and parallel programming?

FR: Galeria Energia will last a year and GMP will reopen in the spring of 2023, I think. The programming will continue to be very attentive to Porto’s cultural and artistic scene, with a particular focus on the younger generations, building the future of the city’s art scene. The new programming will keep in mind the specific characteristics of the cultural identity of the country’s north, where Porto is the epicentre, distinguishing some unique features of the artistic fabric of the Iberian north, from the standpoint of themes, motifs, mythologies and cosmologies, regarding specific ways of making, methodologies and artistic practices. Galeria Municipal will also continue to reveal the lines that motivate me, in particular ecology, ecofeminism, time-based media artistic practices, such as the moving image, film d’auteur, performative and musical components, and also the interest in establishing dialogues between local life and international context. A detailed programme will be announced in the last quarter of the year, when we will also have a clearer idea of GMP’s opening schedule.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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