aFesta at aDrogaria

Black, with Wonderful Life, presented the image of parallel worlds, astonishing stories and picturesque images to those who visited aFesta at aDrogaria, on October 1. Wonderful Life kicked off the performance by the artist Inês dos Santos, who integrated the whole aDrogaria team, which took place at different points of the exhibition.

aFesta, which lasted a few hours, was the fifth and last moment of aDrogaria’s exhibition cycle, a project co-directed by Beatriz Chagas, Francisco Correia, Manuel Fonseca, Nuno Pires, Sebastião Pires, among other artists, curators and “druggists”, which is supported by Criatório, hosted by aSede Amarela, created since 2016, cultural programmer of the space. Drogaria da Corujeira – a venue whose name inspired the project’s title and location – is like a laboratory of cultural experiences based on the Slow Curating concept, addressing the urge to reassess concepts associated with the art world and the pressing need to locate the artistic object in another context outside institutional boundaries. This dilutes the classical and romantic boundaries that define the museum institution based on venue, artist, work and viewer. The exhibition features the artist Inês dos Santos, in collaboration with Nuno Pires in design and production, Beatriz Chagas in recording and editing and Francisco Correia as scriptwriter.

Inês dos Santos’ art varies between performance, installation and social sculpture through the sociopolitical analysis of what we eat and how we eat. In her work, the artist builds contexts and structures where she explores social issues such as collaboration, assistance, generosity and togetherness. From this point, she manages to develop a practical and metaphorical side to the process of fermenting food. This, in aFesta, is exemplified by the several loaves of bread made by the artist, transformed into works of art to be consumed during the exhibition. She is interested in the exchange of information between food and its surroundings, the viewer, the work and objects such as a toaster, a hand-held wand for beating butter, as well as a metal bowl. Here they also become works of art through their position on a plinth and exhibition similarities. For the artist, fermentation is like a site-specific archive, a unique map of space-time points, based on a constant and symbiotic microbial relationship that binds humans and food.

Inês dos Santos explores how the fermentation process connects us to our everyday life, using food as a means of perception. This was visible during the performance in which the artist made butter in a bowl to then add it to a small mound with edible flowers, on top of a plinth at the exhibition’s entrance. The artist, after beating the butter and adding it to the rest, cut two slices of bread and toasted them, smearing the butter on this toasted bread. One could not help noticing the scenic side of the event, given the artist’s clothes, her walking around the exhibition space, all the way to picking up the toast with wooden tongs. This ended with a speech by Francisco Correia, escorted by the lighting of a hand lantern and a quirky sense of humour. He thanked the interveners, relatives, neighbours and even the pets that, like the works that kept changing, “don’t ask [him] (…) how he got there”.[1] During the performance, we could hear a female voice, saying lines like “according to the notion of “foul-mouthing”, a faceless that constantly makes mean comments about everything and everyone [2]. The scenario fit the Slow Curating concept, where the spectator, after cutting and toasting the bread, spread it with butter and tampered with the exhibited works. With this, the artist created a speculative narrative about the role of fermentation as an archive, not only through microbial life, but also by recording place, time, emotional and aesthetic experience.

Through Slow Curating, the artist activates, explores and displays the museum space and exhibition experience to allow for greater audience engagement. This directly and intentionally connects context – and specifically notions of space – using relational and collaborative processes between the exhibition and the viewer. This method does not necessarily create a temporal space, although it does exist through the way it relates. The process includes understanding the immediate context created by the artist and the work, the aim of which is to probe conscious and unconscious issues that affect everyday life through the site’s cultural and poetic politics. Space, time, artwork and community collaboration nurture reciprocal relationships, generating comprehensive propositions and outcomes that can be delved into by different people at separate moments in the process. This process is rhizomatic, organic, non-linear, continuously challenging authorship, experience and aesthetic expression through the viewer’s participation and this turns out to be the essence in the process. The emphasis is on activation, i.e., the process, the gap between art object and audience, as well as the “epistemological nuances resulting from knowledge and non-knowledge”.[3]

Slow Curating is a morose commitment to temporal and conceptual notions, reflexively adapting to socio-political and historical contexts. As a social and artistic practice, it foresees alternatives to contemporary museology and conceives alternative approaches in the current mediation of art within the museological context.

In aFesta, we note the way in which the art object has taken over the status of a work of art without any “association to the gallery or museum space [4].. For instance, the toaster, showing the influence of the fine art system beyond the museum’s physical boundaries, extending beyond the “abstract sphere”. This influence is represented discursively and democratically “by the museum without walls.”[5]

This fifth juncture of aDrogaria’s exhibition project fits Nicolas Bourriaud’s definition. He stated that art, from the 1990s onwards, represented the interaction of viewers and their integration with everyday life, something evidenced by the aim of breaking down the barrier between work, viewer and gallery – socially segregated at the turn of the millennium -, showing the intimacy between the exhibition and the institutional fabric.

This is obvious in aFesta which, through its critical posture, damages and subverts the exhibition venue in favour of representation between artwork, artist, viewer and art institution. In this seemingly illusory fringe, a permeable image of artistic and museographic concepts is built, challenging the possibility of art and the artistic object escaping from its own history and traditional values.[6]




[1] Quote from Francisco Correia’s speech.

[2] Francisco Correia in conversation with the author.

[3] Laermans, Rudi. “Teaching Theory and the Art of Not-Knowing: Notes on Pedagogical Commonalism,” Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy Issue 1, 2012, p. 63.

[4] Brian O‟Doherty, “The Eye and the Spectator”, in O’Doherty, Brian, 1986, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space Santa Mónica: The Lapis Press, pp. 39-49.

[5] Graham Coulter-Smith, “Introducción. El problema de los museos”, in Coulter-Smith, Graham, 2009, Deconstruyendo las instalaciones. Madrid: Brumaria A.C., p. 17.

[6] Walter van Rijn, “Disputed Terminology”, in Rijn, Walter van, 2015, Rethinking the status of the art object through distribution vol. 1, University of Southampton, pp. 31-33

José Pedro Ralha (Chaves, 1994) has a degree in History of Art, with a specialisation in Philosophy of Art obtained at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra. He also has a Masters in Curatorial Studies, obtained with the dissertation A Instalação Artística através da obra de João Maria Gusmão e Pedro Paiva: Análise às obras 3 Suns, Falling Trees e Papagaio (djambi), by the College of Arts of the University of Coimbra. He has collaborated in several projects such as LAND.FILL, 2019, with Gabriela Albergaria for Laboratório de Curadoria, Anozero ‘19 Biennial of Coimbra - A Terceira Margem, Terçolho, 2021, with João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, at the Serralves Foundation. He has collaborated with Serralves Foundation and is currently contributing with articles and essays for Umbigo, as well as working at the Museum and Libraries of Porto as Executive Producer of Museum Projects.

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