Dumping – A Obra de Arte na Era da Economia Digital

In downtown Porto, at Rua Sá da Bandeira 196, EDITORIA has been born, the city’s new cultural venue for breaking free of the centre and embracing turbidity. Conceived by Ana Carvalho, Alejandra Jaña, José Roseira and Paulo Mendes, the EDITORIA project has a diverse and complex programme, focused on visual arts, design, music and cinema, with good conversations, music and food, the presentation of author books, artists’ multiples and artists’ books.

EDITORIA wants to nurture the curation and editing of ideas, discourses and debates, works and mishaps, presenting the results in different forms and media. With a focus on artistic expressions, the programme not only presents works and artists, but also promotes the debate of ideas, a function of Assembleia Ordinária, created in 2022 and now hosted by EDITORIA. Besides the promotion and presentation of new artists and cultural experiences, it is a meeting place for different or opposing visions, a space to debate proposals and topics to be presented, pooling divergences to build a library of difference.

In this new exhibition venue, the TURBULÊNCIA programme was inaugurated on March 17, a curatorial project by Paulo Mendes, with the exhibition-installation Dumping- A Obra de Arte na Era da Economia Digital by the artist Rita GT, open until May 15. Continuing the research on the secular practice of ceramic production – the artist’s main medium – and the corresponding social and cultural contexts, EDITORIA’s inaugural exhibition reveals new pieces related to Rita GT’s previous works – installation Museu Duty Free (2019) – and her research on the history of closed or abandoned factories associated with Viana de Castelo’s ceramic tradition, for example Fábrica da Meadela, founded in 1947. [1]

When thinking about the project to inaugurate the venue, curator Paulo Mendes challenged the artist to continue developing this series of works, as it would make sense within the project’s strategy, in the way we had thought of it, associated with the EDITORIA space. According to the curator,

The EDITORIA space is about publishing, artists’ books, multiples (…). What Rita does is to work with the idea of industrial production, transforming it into artistic output. It is related to mass production, with the fact that they are artist’s multiples and, at the time, it seemed interesting to me to ask Rita to work from this factory and with these ceramics.[2]

Dumping- A Obra de Arte na Era da Economia Digital allowed Rita GT to close the cycle of work with Fábrica da Meadela and the research on the artistic decorative ceramics produced there: the pieces, the moulds, the drawings and the unique type of painting. During the process of conception and production of this exhibition, the artist visited the factory space one last time, making a new video work inside, entitled Olívia (2023), which she now presents.

With a political, social and cultural message, the exhibition fits in an artistic exercise that promotes the questioning and reflection of themes such as memory, history and identity, including elements of popular culture and references from the world of handicraft, where the ceramic pieces are like symbols of the history of the region of Viana do Castelo and the transmission of a possible Portuguese cultural identity. The artist’s critical sense is evidenced in her proximity to ceramics, a medium connoted as a female hobby, seen as a minor genre in fine arts, through work that promotes questioning between artistic hierarchies and a reflection on the differences between fine arts and arts and crafts. The idea of multiples and what makes a work unique are also questioned by the artist during the exhibition. We would like to highlight that her pieces on display are appropriations of old moulds, now abandoned, from Fábrica de Meadela. All the pieces are unique, but have the same moulds. The same mould, but with different interventions, I like to use that in my work.[3]

Critical, interventionist and humanist artist, Rita GT addresses the status of women at the centre of factory production, drawing attention to the secondary role they occupied in factories, in the métier of painting, regarded as delicate and less important work, associated with feminism and gender issues. In a symbolic representation of female factory workers, Olívia Pimenta, former employee of Fábrica da Meadela, is the central character in the video work bearing her name. Mestre do Ramalhete – a benchmark drawing and painting of Viana do Castelo’s ceramics – was at the opening of EDITORIA, joining the performance that brought together the artisan and the artist, manually painting the blue ramalhetes on finished pieces, vases that are now part of the exhibition; at the same time, Rita developed her performance with sprays, opposing the artist’s gestures to the mechanic work of the factory workers. The five posters of Dumping Series, 2023, placed on the wall, were also sprayed by the artist during the inauguration. They are unique pieces, archive images that the artist has recovered and manipulated, working on the idea of memory and continuity.

One of the interesting aspects for the curator, reminiscent of the exhibition’s title, Dumping, is the question of the work’s merit: between that which is an object that the artisan paints in the factory and which is not an art object, and the objects that were appropriated by the artist in the old factory, which, when manipulated with paint, blue gain a value entirely different from manual work.

Conceived and developed as a scenographic site, according to an experimental logic and open reading, the exhibition-installation reveals a story that is being told, where the visitor is a performer. From the moment we see it from the street – through the shop window of the old shop that EDITORIA occupies – and enter the venue, we witness a staging through an exhibition design, leading us through the memories of the former Fábrica da Meadela, recovering its former symbolism and iconography. The curator and artist have created a hybrid space, between workshop and studio, that takes the factory’s history through the recovery of elements and utensils from the old factory premises, resembling the craftswomen’s painting work. On the floor we see unique moulds that will never be produced again; the jar with Olívia’s brushes and the blue paint of her knowledge and craft; the trestles and wooden boxes to carry ceramics and the wooden shelves where the porcelains were kept; in Dumping they display the artist’s pieces and the video work. By presenting a shop window and being EDITORIA at street level, there was interest in creating a relationship between project and public from the outside. In this sense, we underline the curatorial option of using a pre-existing structure in the shop window as a stage, arranging twelve trestles from the old factory – interesting structures from the perspective of the industrial design of the time – at different heights, and where we see some of the artist’s works in this sort of hybridity, again associated with market value issues of the different pieces.[4]

We emphasize the importance of ceramic production and of Louça Regional de Viana as a regional identity element, preserving the legacy of the ceramic industry of Alto Minho, as well as the material and immaterial memory of Fábrica da Meadela and its historical archive. All these are essential elements of this exhibition, which the artist materializes in a non-verbal work, drawing attention to this legacy and history that cannot be neglected.





[1] We recall Unearthing (2021), a vocal and movement performance in the old crockery factory in Viana do Castelo, the city where Rita currently lives and works.

[2] Quote from the curator’s speech during the exhibition guided tour on April 29, 2023.

[3] Quote from Rita GT’s speech during the exhibition guided tour.

[4] Quote from Paulo Mendes’ speech during the exhibition guided tour.

Mafalda Teixeira, Master’s Degree in History of Art, Heritage and Visual Culture from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. She has an internship and worked in the Temporary Exhibitions department of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. During the master’s degree, she did a curricular internship in production at the Municipal Gallery of Oporto. Currently, she is devoted to research in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art, and publishes scientific articles.

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