what a lovely time we had at the third festival of brown. the exhibition continues until november 12th, but for now the workshops, concerts and events are over. a big thankyou to all those who gave workshops (in ceramics, painting, photography, dance, etching, jewelry, papier-maché, cooking, baking, metal-work and animated film), participated in them, and staged events and interventions throughout the festival - there were moments of unpredictable magic all week. thanks as well to the ecomuseu and to the câmara of montalegre for their support and assistance, for the use of the ecomuseu, the huge and extraordinary space of the multiusos, the student accommodation and the grounds of the castle.
on monday we had a meeting which although short was too long, and a meal in a restaurant which was also too long and was put to shame by the food prepared by the participants throughout the week. we were therefore late for the press conference which in any case we did not want to do, at which orlando alves of montalegre town council sat with the organising committee of sabine portela, zé teixeira, maria carvalho and peter pick and gave a speech about inclusivity. there was an eloquent response from the floor by ícaro pintor whose contributions throughout the week are worthy of particular mention. when asked to say something peter pick asked "can we go now?" and the representatives of the press who we had already kept waiting looked justly furious.
we began to unwrap the works contributed for the standing exhibition and made a start on arranging them in the exhibition space. unfortunately, no sooner had we set up the first room than workmen arrived to sand and varnish the floor.
on tuesday the workshops started huddled separately within the enormous multiusos. maria carvalho and georgina queiróz oversaw the ceramics in which individual pieces by each participant were designed to be assembled into a tower, and sabine portela the painting. tomás dias began with the very popular etching workshop and carried on indefatigably it seemed virtually 24 hours a day. the painting workshop started with the fundamentals of stretching and fixing the canvas, and was later to include the manufacture and use of the ancient medium of egg tempera. rita miranda, ran a workshop in jewelry-making using wire and wool which produced intricate and stylish results. that evening peter pick was brought 3 enormous cakes (as it was his birthday, he informed everyone) and was forced to deliver a heartfelt speech which (it seemed) contained only the words "really wonderful". unseen by nearly all, pedro braga organised wonderful food for all participants on a very limited budget. by thursday people were arriving from porto, having heard that a cheap and delicious meal was available.
the stop-motion animation workshop, run by tânia duarte with assistance from quico serrano and ícaro began the next day, and besides that tânia and quico filmed almost everything that went on throughout the week. nigel french arrived, fresh from handing in his m.a. project to conduct and friday and saturday's photography workshop. gitte ernst held a workshop in baking honeycake, which i can tell you was delicious.
on thursday horst stricker initiated a very popular metal-working workshop with two portable forges which continued the next day. horst was kept very busy trying to control a large number of participants all holding red hot metal bars which they worked into some surprisingly delicate shapes. in the evening, after yet another lavish meal 'meshmass' (richard miles: guitar and effects; and peter pick: laptop, alto saxophone and vocals) played in the great hall of the multiusos in almost complete darkness. they played for about 3 hours. quico helped them, playing keyboard. ícaro showed films on one wall and intervened in the audience. there was dancing. peter was wheeled about on a trolley by nigel, first playing the saxophone, but then screaming and dragging people out of the crowd. later he went out again with ícaro's megaphone, and ended up singing apparently in welsh. the sound was projected down from the ceiling and filled the aircraft-hanger sized multiusos like a ghostly and pervading presence with assistance from josé alves' p.a. (get better soon, josé!) after about 2 hours there was something of a chaotic period when the microphone was taken over by a succession of impromptu vocalists (among the best were ana lousada and carolina teixeira) and then richard's effects broke down (there was a screw loose - wouldn't you have guessed?) before control was regained and meshmass played us out. it was an extraordinary event full of unexpected theatre and even some music. there are photographs on the montalegre website (link below) but these are taken with flash and so do not convey the atmosphere, although it is wonderful to see them.
on friday nigel conducted the first part of his photography workshop and the standing exhibition was prepared - again. the opening ceremony began with an extraordinary performance and installation event conducted by ícaro and included performances of 'things to say about brown' in portuguese and english, sara leite sang a beautiful unaccompanied 'summertime' with a hint of fado influence and bruna martins performed a brilliant ecstatic dance to the accompaniment of clapping and bells. the whole event was surprising and well received.
saturday saw the conclusion of the photography workshop, and in the evening the company gathered within the castle walls to watch as carlos neto carefully managed the firing of the paper kiln. this wigwam-like structure of paper, stones and clay was filled with the products of the ceramic workshop and fuelled by wood. at first it produced huge quantities of smoke which filled up the castle and eventually the entire valley, attracting the bombeiros (fire brigade) who arrived in a land rover, but were persuaded that no harm was being done, except perhaps to people's washing and drove off again. eventually, as the clay inside dried and georgina queiróz patched up the holes that appeared in the skin of the kiln with liquid clay in paper the temperature was increased and bright flames shot out of the top. handfuls of salt were thrown in to appease the angry gods. ines vicente (with some help from zé and the crowd) gave a performance of a short piece by italo calvino, and bruna, carolina and joão soares performed a sort of shadow-show against the castle wall, making clever use of found lighting. on sunday morning the kiln was opened revealing a collection of beautiful pieces, subtly transformed by the fire. those belonging to the workshop were assembled into a tower which can be seen in the foyer of the ecomuseu, together with the results of the painting, etching and papier-maché workshops (special thanks to orlandina pinto e teresa pedrosa). later in the day short films shot at the festival were shown, and the advertisement 'spot' for the festival of brown 2012, made in the animation workshop concluded the programme.
there was a lot of hugging, and then gradually, we all went away, tired, and happy, and well fed and a little sad, and smelling of smoke.
thankyou all of you. we will remember this.
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