Culture&Nature in the first place: the Walk&Talk experience

Entitled In the First Place (Em primeiro lugar), the eleventh edition of the Walk&Talk (W&T) Festival took place on the island of São Miguel, Azores, until July 23: a dive between art and nature, music and shows.

Within the unpredictable Azorean climate, where changes are sudden, the W&T also undergoes annual transformations: its themes, the places where its programme flourishes, with the support of the Azores Autonomous Government and DGArtes.

The partners of this W&T edition are Arquipélago-Centro de Artes Contemporâneas, which houses in the Blackbox the installation Unidade by Estela Oliva (CLON) and Ana Quiroga; and also vaga-espaço de arte e conhecimento, born in Ponta Delgada during the pandemic. Its purpose is to be a free and open hall for people, just like the W&T’s temporary stage, accompanying the nights and days of the Festival in front of Teatro Micaelense, in the city centre.

Now let’s talk about the question in W&T 2022’s title: what comes first? Or, more exactly, what is the first place for us? We consider several possibilities as we submerge into Walk & Talk’s great sea.

In the first place, we must think about how art creates communities without forcing anyone to participate in them, without having the pretentiousness to play a social role, as Jesse James, one of the founders of the Festival, says.

In the first place, we also have the environment’s defence and protection. In this part of the world, this is a strong feature. In fact, we can even say that it is the leading character in all of this, which has been happening for more than ten years.

In the first place, we have to create empathy, unite space and time, aggregate the complexity of the present with our lives, judgements and feelings.

In the first place, as said by Campolmi, guest curator of this W&T edition, races, limits or theorems already written are not enough: we must always be open to the world’s complexity, which is impossible to imprison.

We must deal with heterogeneity; in this daily challenge, we must play with seriousness, to be part of the whole universe, as its guests. For this reason, the Festival wants to be inclusive, in the truest meaning of the expression: a permeable and sustainable membrane with the outside.

“The festival wants to be the spot of a new aggregation between the island’s residents, temporary dwellers and those passing through, all mixed in this uncertain and precarious labyrinth, where the island’s stunning environment joins the complexity of today’s world,” say the Festival’s other creators and curators, Luís Brum and Sofia Carolina Botelho.

It’s no coincidence that W&T also promotes PARES, the Support Programme for Artistic Activity in the Azores. The aim is to support cultural agents who develop their work in the region, with funding grants for activities of an artistic nature ( with a €5.000 budget).

This is an event focused on live arts. Besides the music and the DJs playing in this edition of the W&T Soundsystem, a mobile sound system that roams the beaches and parks, the Festival proposes exhibitions that talk about a world that is sometimes alien and dangerous, of which we have always been part of even without knowing it, and about which we need to talk.

For example, with the installation Águas Futuras, Diogo da Cruz talks about green industrialisation, which is often not so green, rather the opposite.

This is a production whose characters are in an existential crisis over the script’s topic, reflecting on the artificial ties of our professional or identity “mask”: the force of the water destroys them. Karen Blixen was right when she said: “The cure for everything is salt water; sweat, tears or the sea”.

And there’s no history that fails to bring environment and politics together, according to Tiago Patatas’ excellent work entitled Telemetrics: the researcher reflects on the installation on the Flores island of a French military observatory to evaluate France’s nuclear missile tests. They started in the 60s and only ended dozens of years later, in the Sahara desert and Polynesia, radioactive sepulchres. Or, even worse, “live” experiment sites, as in the Pacific archipelago between 1966 until 1974. There were 46 atmospheric nuclear tests and 150 underground tests. More than twenty years later, in 1995, there were demonstrations all over the world against new tests in the region. These new experiments were called off the following year.

Raising hands against those with strong colonial powers, shedding light on the interdependence with nature, shifting the focus to ideas beyond traditional knowledge: this is what happens in Vivian Caccuri’s performance, The Fever Hand. The Brazilian artist relates the peculiarities of the colour yellow in relation to diseases, art history, biology and politics. Based on insects attracted to yellow flowers, and their sugar, female breasts and representations of motherhood in Western culture, the story of the colour yellow is made of addictions and fever, of attraction to a sweet drug that can even influence drastically everyone’s future. After all, fans of Brazilian president Bolsonaro dress in yellow. Perhaps this practice will turn out to be very dangerous, Vivian concludes.

At Teatro Micaelense, with Catarina Miranda’s Poromechanics exhibition, we enter a world of bodies and movements, where human and animal mix relate to the environment: the mirrors, the lights, the theatre’s chandeliers become fragments of a mesmerizing narrative, where we are mysteriously involved. Meanwhile, the dance show Cabraqimera is an encounter beyond gravity by four dancers: a stark challenge, even to the tradition of contemporary performance, as in Visions by Nástio Mosquito. With sounds, words and the intervention of saleswomen in the audience of Auditório Luís de Camões, the artist blasts the traditional notion of mise en scène.

Further on there is Cagarros Assembly, a beautiful walk with narrative art and nature in Rocha da Relva, a magical place where the artist Ellie Ga presents the public with a listening session. There are sounds of the Cory’s shearwaters, Macaronesia’s most mysterious and fascinating nocturnal seabirds, in the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries and Cape Verde. We enter the darkness, on the edge of an oceanic precipice: Assembleia dos Cagarros is another example of Walk&Talk’s poetic liquidity. Art connects with the surrounding ecosystem as a sustainable way of cultivating culture.

This Festival is brimming with possibilities to examine new ways of imagining art and community.

The Azores are the right place for this, with curiosity and authenticity, without rigid structures: everyone can come in, swim, go out, enjoy, indulge curiosity or also simply avoid contact with this sea of practices. We know that the water – depending on its temperature – may not please everyone.

Matteo Bergamini is a journalist and art critic. He’s the Director of the Italian magazine and also a collaborator in the weekly journal D La Repubblica. Besides journalist he’s also the editor and curator of several books, such as Un Musée après, by the photographer Luca Gilli, Vanilla Edizioni, 2018; Francesca Alinovi (with Veronica Santi), by Postmedia books, 2019; Prisa Mata. Diario Marocchino, by Sartoria Editoriale, 2020. The lattest published book is L'involuzione del pensiero libero, 2021, also by Postmedia books. He’s the curator of the exhibitions Marcella Vanzo. To wake up the living, to wake up the dead, at Berengo Foundation, Venezia, 2019; Luca Gilli, Di-stanze, Museo Diocesano, Milan, 2018; Aldo Runfola, Galeria Michela Rizzo, Venezia, 2018, and the co-curator of the first, 2019 edition of BienNoLo, the peripheries biennial, in Milan. He’s a professor assistant in several Fine Arts Academies and specialized courses. Lives and works in Milan, Italy.

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