Official Portuguese Representation at the 15th PQ23 – Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space

The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space is a highly significant and diverse exhibition that showcases stage design, scenography, and theatrical architecture. It provides a prominent international platform for the participating artists to showcase their work.

The Quadrennial is scheduled to take place from June 7 to 18, with the theme Rare. The event’s objective is to display artistic expressions that establish a connection between humans, the environment, and time. The museum features two primary exhibitions: Countries and Regions and the Students. These are competitive in nature, with artistic projects from various countries and regions being evaluated by curators from different nationalities. The program not only features sections that correspond to the exhibitions, but also includes eight additional sections that have been curated by the Quadrennial’s international team.

The Directorate-General of Arts is curating the Portuguese Official Representation at the 15th Quadrennial, which will consist of two separate projects. Scenographer Ângela Rocha has been selected through an official competition to represent Portugal in the 2023 edition. The jury for the final part of the contest comprised Patrícia Portela, Thomas Hal Grey, and José Capela. Rocha’s curatorial exhibition project consists of three distinct exhibition moments. Metade Dos Minutos is an interactive art installation created by the artist and curator. It is part of the Countries and Regions exhibition, which explores a post-pandemic future and emphasizes the importance of touch and time. The installation features excessive textures and visual stimuli that encourage visitors to actively engage with the artwork. Through this experience, visitors become active participants in the exhibition. This installation incorporates the works of plastic artists Diogo Costa and Telma Morais de Faria as part of its effort to promote a plural future. Ângela Rocha has created Mirabolante, a participatory activity that complements her installation and aims to represent Portugal through the collection of “rare visions” from library users. These visions include predictions of the future, omens, wishes, utopian and dystopian messages, images, or objects. The “gift machine” is staged as a crystal ball and placed in the exhibition’s leisure area. Visitors can collect a transparent capsule containing a “rare vision” from the machine. Engaging in this activity ensures a future that is both collaborative and tangible, allowing us to envision and bring to fruition our aspirations.

Ângela Rocha serves as the curator for 1:20, an installation created by Rita Lopes Alves. Alves has previously worked on set designs for various shows by Artistas Unidos and other companies, and was responsible for the set design of the last play directed by Jorge Silva Melo, Vida de Artistas. The installation is titled A Magia da Escala and is part of the Fragments II exhibition. The artwork 1:20questions the essence of the event it is presented in, by pondering what is left and what remains once the shows have ended and the exhibits have been taken down. This piece showcases an authentic fragment of Rita Lopes Alves’ workbench. It contains all the evidence of the show’s development, including postcards from Jorge Silva Melo to Rita, as well as clues from various shows that she worked on throughout her career. This work is both substantial and symbolic.

HODO: The Resting Assembly, curated by APCEN (Portuguese Association of Scenography), is another project representing Portugal at the Quadrennial. It was an invitation extended by DGArtes to APCEN to participate in the Students exhibition. The objective of this project is to engage students from across the country and incorporate various forms of art, including scenography, displaying the creative abilities of young artists and scenographers. APCEN formed a curatorial team for coordinating a project that lasted for over a year. The team consisted of members of the association, including Sara Franqueira (the president), Ana Paula Rocha, Filipa Malva, and Inês de Carvalho. The project was diverse and provided a range of learning opportunities through meetings between students, teachers, and schools. This activity had three crucial moments that resulted in its outcome. The effort Os Espaços Admiráveis was developed by students from seven different schools between July 2022 and January 2023. Each course and institution were invited to create their own unique space or place as part of the project. Out of the forty undertakings submitted to APCEN, twenty-two were selected to move on to the second phase, known as Os Tempos Extraordinários. This took place from February 3 to 5, 2023 and involved a regional meeting held in Évora, which was supported by the University of Évora/School of Arts and SASUE. During this phase, the twenty-two students had time to collaborate and generate new ideas. From this group, eight more students were chosen to participate in the next phase of the process, Os Lugares Únicos, which took place from February 17 to 19, 2023. During the final stage of their program, the students participated in a national residency held in Ílhavo at Fábrica das Ideias, with the support of 23 MlLHAS. They collaborated with the curatorial team selected by APCEN and created an installation called HODO: The Resting Assembly, which was showcased at the Quadrennial. This project encompasses three significant dimensions that address various challenges. The initial challenge aligns with the artistic vision of the Prague Quadrennial. It aims to address the modern scenography landscape and advocate for it, as well as stage and performance design as a collaborative space for diverse skill sets. The goal is to create immersive experiences that engage the audience as active participants. The second dimension pertains to the exploration of a concept that is closely attached to the theme of the 15th edition of the Quadrennial – Rare. In the Students section, this concept was further developed as Rare Stories of Unique Places. The notion of Rare is often associated with distinct or unusual locations. Another idea associated with the PQ team is that these Unique Places of student representation could serve as a platform for creating a community that brings together local ideas, culture, and knowledge, which would be of interest to everyone.

According to Sara Franqueira, the president of APCEN, this project offers several benefits. It provides a platform for students, young professionals, and teachers to interact with each other and also facilitates collaboration between different schools. Additionally, it offers the opportunity for students to visit Prague and experience its diverse and multidisciplinary international environment. From APCEN’s perspective, another significant aspect was the opportunity to delve into a less explored dimension of scenography. This involved working on the procedural side, which is less concerned with defining a final product and more devoted to creating models through a procedural approach. Regarding DGArtes’ support for Portugal’s Official Representation at the Prague Quadrennial, it is worth noting that the budget for the country’s participation in this event has significantly increased. In fact, it has risen from €99.000 in the previous edition to €195.000, which represents a 148% increase. An additional sum of €50.000 was added for the “Students” exhibition, which was curated by APCEN.

Jini Afonso completed her undergraduate education and Master's degree in Philosophy at NOVA University of Lisbon, has a post-graduate degree in Information Sciences from the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies, and a Master's degree in Curatorship and Art Criticism from the University of the Arts London, Chelsea College of Art & Design. She has been involved in projects as co-curator: Brilliant Sound at Late at Tate, Tate Britain and One Night Stands Projects (1,2,3) at Wimbledon College, London, and as assistant curator: Project Flags at Kunstfack School of Art and Design, Stockholm, Berlin Fair of Contemporary Jewellery and the project Impressions on Contemporary Jewellery in Nuremberg. She was director of the Documentation Centre at INETE, a trainer in Communication and Information Management at the same institute and a Philosophy and Psychology teacher in different Secondary Schools. In India, she trained in Yoga at the Yoga Vidya School, the Kundalini Course at the Agama Yoga School and did a specialization in Meditation with Dev Narayan; and in Switzerland she specialized in Yoga Therapy with Doug Keller. In Portugal, she did the Introductory Training to Somatic Experience by Somatic - School of Body Psychotherapies, the Diploma and Expert Courses of Clinical, Transpersonal and Regressive Hypnosis by Transpersonal International and the Training of dISPAr, ISPA's Theatre Group. Jini is a hypnotherapist, trainer in Clinical Hypnosis, Yoga and Meditation teacher and Art critic. She is particularly interested in the theories of Performing Arts (with emphasis on Physical Theatre and Improvisation), Psychodrama, travelling, poetry and photography.

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