day one, friday
the festival opened with a brief introduction from sabine portela, the now traditional reading of 'things to say about brown' in english and portuguese (the latter version read by the heroic maria carvalho) and a short speech by the representative of the câmara municipal of montalegre, fátima fernandes. there were a surprising number of television and radio crews present, and sabine and maria were each interviewed several times. even peter pick, who is too stupid to speak portuguese was interviewed, and when asked if there was anything else he would like to say replied 'no'.
the exhibition, which continues until december the 15th over four floors of the ecomuseu, features work in ceramics, painting, sculpture, installation, photography and fabric, and some things that are not quite any of these, or are a combination of several. it contains work by 39 different artists and was duly explored, enjoyed and discussed by the gathered people
there was port wine and small nibbles which tasted of lentils and possibly olives. i did not get enough of these. there was then music from laptop, tenor sax, trumpet and percussion, involving young musicians josé alves, and simão and tomás ferreira. this was surprisingly successful considering that the musicians had only two sessions to become accustomed to each other, and people sat, listened and even clapped. the slideshow of photographs from four continents was shown.
day two, saturday
the programme of workshops began, with shari baker and mark sullivan initiating their gruelling (for them) and popular and rewarding (for participants) series of video and audio experiments. the aim of these workshops was to encourage the participants to explore new ways of working with and new ideas about video, audio and their combination.
rita miranda, who had already prepared the ground in a literal sense, digging and hoeing the area she had claimed for fornos na terra began this very intriguing and popular workshop in the morning. participants watered a small square of ground, buried a foot, or sometimes a hand within it and waited until it solidified, then removing the foot (or whatever part of their anatomy they had immured) and leaving a hollow space which was then used as a mould for a cast in plaster of paris. when these were recovered and washed the resultant objects were both surprising and delightful.
a bus was organised to take people to the casa do capitão, salto, where ícaro had set up his exhibition/installation/experience equilíbrio. he gave a short talk and played a video before releasing the assembled multitude into the outside world where the various arrangements of sticks, blocks, nails and and stones awaited. an enchanted couple of hours ensued, in which the assembly reverted to childhood, playing with great concentration and seriousness, balancing the various pieces in various ways whilst being hampered by a tricky wind. enjoyment and even delight were widespread, perhaps universal as person after person attempted to achieve a moment of perfect equilibrium.
after the mass return from salto there was a 'fashion show' - desfile de roupa - featuring the clothes made by meg (maria eugénia gomes) and fatima gavinho, which were worn with charm, humour and elan by brave young volunteers. this was followed by the showing of the programme of videos which featured work by shari baker, shari baker and mark sullivan, peter pick, and rita miranda. some applause was heard, and this series of videos should be played at intervals throughout the exhibition for those interested.
in the early evening, trepidatious but obedient to their schedule, mark sullivan, peter pick and the heroically creative ícaro began jamming with laptop, guitar and voice in the projection room, but sabine appeared and said everyone wanted to eat, and jamming would be better done outside, and later. the participants looked worried and reluctant, but headed off to the restaurant anyway. pick complained about how his laptop wouldn't be audible without amplification, and mark looked even more doubtful than before, adopting the gait of a sulking bear. nevertheless they reconvened at about 9.30 on the terrace, which was now illuminated by paper-bag lanterns. mark gave a learned disquisition about these, which he claims are in use at mexican funerals, but we just think they're pretty. there followed an hour and a half or more of quite sublime participatory music-making of which i am most proud. in this time the entire gathering contributed to the ongoing improvisation which was initiated by peter pick, whose contribution was soon transcended by that of carolina teixeira, and adorned and supplanted by ícaro (vitor pires) while mark sullivan returned from his long shambling walk to play a borrowed 3/4 size classical guitar with skill, intelligence and determination. my heartfelt thanks go out to all present - i do not think anyone there did not join in at some point, in some way, and their mere presence was telling. we came there with nothing and made something good. it is my view that there is no higher form of creativity than that.
the feeling after the saturday of the festival was exceptionally good, even the recalcitrant doctor pick smiled and talked to strangers like a human being, and everyone went away happy.
day three, sunday
sunday began with joao sá leading his eco-arte experience, which involved a ritualistic engagement with leaves and stones in an open air setting just below the castle. blindfolded participants were carefully led to a walled area where they chose and arranged stones, periodically called to rest and centre themselves by the ringing of a small bell. those involved seemed to find it a rewarding experience, and the arrangements of stones and pebbles surrounded by leaves that were left by the process were themselves an attractive testament.
in the early evening shari baker and mark sullivan, beset by technical difficulties involving a projector which would not recognise the laptop showed a video compiled from the contributions of the participants in sopa da pedra, most of whom bravely contributed some live improvised soundscapes as the tension mounted.
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