Universidade Católica's Escola das Artes was invited to present a project during the celebration of the Dia da Universidade Católica Portuguesa. Set to happen on the 5th of February, 2016, in Lisbon. The art installation presented in the atrium of Cardeal Medeiros' auditorium, came to be through the collaboration of two of Escola das Artes' professors, along with a team of students from the Master Degrees in Conservação e Restauro, Gestão de Indústrias Criativas and Som e Imagem.
The day of the university represents a festive moment to envision the future. It is during that same day that the PhD students whom have finished their studies receive their diplomas.
The context of the intervention was defined, in a institutional and circunstantial sense. Now the origin of the artistic intervention was to be defined, it's primary source.
Among the themes proposed to Escola das Artes, the theme of Papa Francesco's 2015's encyclical letter — Laudato Si' — On Care For Our Common Home, was chosen. This text, already refered to as Environmental Encyclical, would be the starting point, and inspiration, for the work.
The title that would later come to be — hic et nunc or aqui e agora (here and now) — is intertwined to an existentialist perspective, in a way that may appear inadequate to reference an artistic intervention spawning from the encyclical letter. However, in the restlessness that emerges, and the preoccupation with current events, the text acquires an unexpected turn, close to the state of the world and its problems.
Manifest-like, in the urgency of the appeal towards the change of the status quo, it is also intimate in its invitation towards the change of the Human themselves. In this duality its position is revealed: ecological perspectives are bound to the social perspectives of the world. There will be no change in attitude towards nature without a change of our social behaviour, and there will be no profound change on these two levels without the inner commitment of the individual.
Small excerpts of the encyclical letter were inscribed in the verse of Baltazar Torres' watercolours and distributed among those whom where present. The word was, among the other resources, the least costly and the most valuable.
Creation and Evocation Process
Through the simultaneous corporeal presence of both natural and artificial materials, and the envrionmental and social issues raised by the aforementioned letter, the installation would adopt an evocative character of the signs that refer to the phenomena described therein.
Work began by surveying the numerous situations listed in the letter and observing the world around. A recent storm had ravaged the beaches of the northern coastline and a walk by the seaside meant the direct confrontation with the tides of rubbish that bring to shore the waste and detritus of a consumerist society, trained in the fleeting use of goods and their immediate disposal. Materials that would be used were collected. Small branches, stones, shells, fragments of plastic, parts of toys, lighters… This debris gave rise to a shadow theatre, projected by a battery of obsolete overhead projectors, educational materials barelly used by the University. This strategy made reference to the spirit of the text, by reusing for artistic purposes what is available, in an attitude that stands up agains the disposable culture that we cultivate.
Other issues were directly raised, such as environmental degradation, the extinction of species and dysfunctional cities. Nature survives today in artificially maintained landscapes, packed into large seed deposits, inaccessible in places from which human presence is meant to be excluded.
The archive functioned as a model: transparent bags featured reproductions of extinct or endagered species; dozens of small plaster houses, of standardized features, built chaotic clusters, mimicking the normalization of edifications; camellia leaves — collected from the grounds of a public garden — were lost, crushed between the walls of the uniform housing complex.
On one of the human figures sculpted in bronze, a metal rod was struck in a previously programmed manner, producing a sound and rhythm like a bell, anthropological instruments that call for blessing or announce catastrophe. A set of disposable protection masks, linearly exhibitted, allowed for the programming of a synchronous, luminous and sonorous path, a reference to the hospital environment and the monitoring of dying lives.
The accompanying video that documents the creation proccess was premiered at the University Day celebrations of the 5th of February, and presented in Porto, on the 12th of April 2016.
Free translation into english by the author. Original portuguese description by Laura Castro.
FFP masks in a sequence, retro-illuminated by a beeping red LED. An evocation of the lifeline machines.
A motorized rod hits a sculpture of Baltazar Torres. The rhythm is a direct reference to toque de finados, a church's bell toll announcing death. A sort of self-flagellation of these ecological troubles of ours.
A row of overhead projectors illuminates the presentation space. The beach retrieved materials, both natural and human-made, contribute with their colours and silhouettes.