With the presence of the Mayor of Coimbra City Hall José Manuel Silva; the Director-General for the Arts Américo Rodrigues; the Head of the Touristic Information and Animation Centre (NAIT) of Turismo Centro Portugal Carlos Figueiredo, and the Regional Director of the Central Region Culture Susana Menezes, the first circuit of PARTE Portugal Art Encounters was inaugurated. This is an international seminar dedicated to reflection and knowledge sharing through Contemporary Art, as stated in the presentation of the event held on July 30. The inaugural session also counted with Sílvia Escórcio and Miguel Mesquita, directors and founders of the project, whose guest curators for this edition are Vicente Todolí and Isabel Carlos. With several common points, the speeches presented to the audience the National Network of Contemporary Art, the Declaration of Montemor-o-Velho and the contribution of these and other actions to build territories and to social and territorial cohesion. These processes must use culture, art, and heritage as a strong fuel.
Afterwards there was PARTE’s first programmatic moment, entitled Is change possible? The director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery, Zoé Whitley, presented the film The Island by Mónica de Miranda. A fictional island, whose narrative wants to intervene and change the discourses seen and imposed as real, seeking new ideas of belonging. On an island occupied only by Black people, the poetry of the dialogues relates to the poetics of the image, in a sound and hypnotic dome, within a borrowed geography.
After the film, the seminar morning featured a conversation with Kasia Redzisz, Director of Kanal – Centre Pompidou, Brussels; Luís Silva, Codirector of Kunsthalle Lissabon, a gallery in the Portuguese capital; and Filipa Oliveira, Director of Casa da Cerca, Almada, who also addressed her experience at the Municipal Art Gallery of this city. Each of these cultural agents presented the modus operandi of their institution in their territories. The Kanal – Centre Pompidou has a strategy of action and relationship with the audience, set up before the inauguration, which will take place in 2024. The Kunsthalle Lissabon showed to be a living organism, problematizing the role of institutions as definers of the world, in a constantly changing collective action. Finally, Filipa Oliveira presented symbiotic projects between artists and public, with two practical examples of the duo Musa paradisiaca and the artist Maja Escher, among others. The three presentations tried to answer the two questions of the talk’s title: How can cultural institutions work differently and build plural experiences? and How can institutions welcome, live and work together?
After the lunch break, Daniel Baumann, Director of the Kunsthalle Zürich, presented the talk entitled Why do we look at exhibitions?. Starting with an excerpt from a critical text by Franz Villier about Portugal, he spoke about his experience as a visitor to the country (we should mention that the organisation of PARTE allowed the group of invited curators to visit several Portuguese cultural venues). After talking about his experience in exhibitions – “some people read books, I read exhibitions”, he said -, he mentioned Portuguese artists he admires: Nadir Afonso, Álvaro Lapa, Lourdes de Castro, Helena Almeida, Ana Jotta, Augusto Alves da Silva, and Hugo Canoilas. He met most of them during PARTE’s organised visits, saying that he does not understand how some barely have information on the internet. He said he did not find the typical hospitality associated with the Portuguese when visiting museums and pointed out two problems: the architecture and the narratives, giving the (good) example of an exhibition at Gabinete Gráfica of Biblioteca Municipal Almeida Garrett, Porto, underlining the need to create narratives where everyone can find themselves (Pitorescos e Naifs: Do guia turístico ao view-master, curated by Rui Silva). Daniel Baumann also screened the film A Brief History of Princess X, by Portuguese filmmaker and artist Gabriel Abrantes.
In the following panel, Hendrik Folkerts, curator of Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and David Cabecinha, co-director of Associação Cultural Alkantara, were unanimous in answering the conversation’s question/title: Twenty years after the institutionalization of performance, is it still alive?. According to both, performance is very much alive. Several viewpoints were explained and various opinions were exchanged. For instance, questions of representativity, asymmetries between museums and festivals, and the difficulty in defining a model to deal with performance in a similar way in the different places. How to present a performance, how to technically prepare it, how to collect a performance and how to relate this practice to the concept of exhibition were also important issues.
Towards the end, Rita Natálio presented the performance Spillovers, a creation based on a translation of Lesbian peoples: material for a dictionary, written in 1976 by Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig. Revisiting the dictionary, Rita Natálio chose some of its terms and explored them through words, sound, and body.
Finally, Ricardo Ramos Gonçalves, publisher of PARTE BOOK, came on stage for the official launch of this 400-page compendium, which is intended to be a comprehensive guide to Contemporary Art in Portugal. As well as including all the art institutions and galleries in the country, the book has essays by Delfim Sardo, Margarida Mendes, Raquel Lima, Odete, João Pedro Vale & Nuno Alexandre Ferreira, Vincenzo de Bellis and Neringa Bumblienė.
In Convento São Francisco, Coimbra, specifically in Sala D. Afonso Henriques, PARTE Portugal Art Encounters had a second moment in Loulé, at Cineteatro Louletano, August 6. PARTE Summit’22 is programmed and creatively directed by Joana Mayer.