A Look at the Portuguese World

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The cultural machine

Written by  yvette vieira fts carla bessa e vanda conceição

Luís Ferreira is the young artistic and cultural director of the municipality of Ílhavo, who has a vision of the culture that goes beyond merely scheduling events, intends to create a project that encompasses all the arts in its various forms and involves all types of public of the County.

Since you are a programmer of culture in Ílhavo you have been promoting four spaces in the county.
Luís Ferreira: More than programmer of spaces, I am artistic and cultural director for the municipality, from that perspective we are open at Gafanha da Nazaré, Ílhavo and Vista Alegre. They are places that are directed to various phases of the creative and thought culture, the perspective of creation and the more classic programming. These are spaces that are developing different dimensions and involving all that territory. Our motto is the day-to-day culture, this practice of daily contact that we want the population to enjoy and the relevance of the project to the local and at the same time at the national level.

Let's address the 23 miles, the online page itself states that it does not want these spaces to be dynamized as mere cultural centers. What do you mean by that?
LF: What has been done so far is a form of bourgeois culture that has created specific houses for the enjoyment of culture and we believe it goes beyond a handful of shows. Culture, as advocated in the human rights charter, has to have concrete effects on people's lives, has to help with learning, specialization and the promotion of encounters. It is a form of identity creation and expression of a particular community. It is from this perspective that we are working, cultural centers often legitimize themselves as centers of power and the rest is wrong, create very difficult postures in which people cannot speak or eat, or can't, can't and can't again. It is all this logic in which there is a certain posture for culture that has to be demystified, it must be daily. In the past, culture marked work rhythms, meeting times, ephemeris and festivities, we want more moments of inclusion and not that the public has to pause in their life to go see culture because it can ot be seen, She makes herself, participates and gets involved. And from this perspective we believe that the logic of the cultural center creates this strange connection with the territory, often the culture can happen in the periphery, by the freedom that is given and the lighter expectations that we have about this creative process. So this is a dynamic that has a lot of theoretical and practical and is not easy. It is much more difficult, but we believe it is the way, or maybe we will note that the children will have more interesting report cards, there will be more school success, or they will not feel abandoned, all those flaws that we see in contemporary society could be minimized, Because we have a cultural project that integrates and involves and makes realize the relevance of culture not as a luxury, but as an essential good.

More than once he mentioned that there are four different spaces, with diversified audiences, so how do you make interconnected programming taking into account that they are also multidisciplinary spaces? How was this differentiation and jointness made in programmatic terms?
LF: Here the question is terms in consideration that despite being part of the same project, different areas of the creative and cultural process work. In the background are complementary, they do not compete with each other, to create is a path between them. In the first space we can have a junction of criticism and thought, support for research, thinking about culture in its embryonic process. In the Gafanha of Nazaré Arts Factory we have a space of creation, residence and workshop. In the creative dock of Costa Nova, we will have a space to support the international creation, with projects more linked to the festivities of summer, while in the Lab of Arts in the Vista Alegre Theater the programming is more of winter. In the Cultural House of Ílhavo there is a more eclectic program, we have a large auditorium where we both have projects in an ante-premiere, or exclusive, as international projects and basically they complement each other, taking into account the technical characteristics of each space. We have auditoriums with 300 places, others with 500, but also areas prepared for the training area, which is a very important process and that happens in the Laboratory and Gafanha of Nazaré where we have several workshops of metal, wood for creation in the visual arts, as for associations that want to work and make scenarios. All this is complemented in a global project that would not make sense, in a county with 40 thousand people, if the four centers worked and did the same.

How do people submit their projects? Or is it the programmer who goes looking for these groups? How does everything work?
LF: It's a mix. We have a programmatic line that interests us and we will look for projects that benefit and contribute to this project. But we are always open, we receive a crazy mail for proposals of both residences and projects and we are evaluating and managing not only according to our budget, but also with the spaces and their relevance in this context. At the moment we are putting together a new system of artistic residencies in Gafanha da Nazaré, it is almost full for this year and in 2018 we will launch a contest model so there will be room for the most emerging artists to compete and benefit from the fantastic technical conditions we have to offer.

How many artists have registered for residences and laboratories this year?
LF: At the moment we have more than 20 projects registered.

And are they only national artists or also outside the country? Since this project has an international component.
LF: At this moment they are all national, since we are joining a new international network, more oriented to the space of Costa Nova. We felt that it is pertinent to create this international dynamic and focus on this look at Ílhavo, but since this is a longer process, we started with projects at the local level and we also want to support national creation. But, soon we will also have the international creators to promote this meeting between national and foreign artists, the public, the local community and who visits us.

Are artistic residences only in the area of creation for exhibitions and potentially theater, or are they open to other types of arts?
LF: They are very open, we have residencies in the performative, visual and design areas, as they are projects financed exclusively by the muncipality there are always counterparts for the territory. Artists in residence perform performances, open rehearsals, or perform shows in order to involve and integrate the community in this process. It is very important that artists create this dynamic and this contact with the audience and with the difference, so everyone will be more available to meet each other. This quarter we have five residences and all of them share a training that is open to a show and are almost all in the performing areas, but then we will have several workshops working in the visual arts and design, it is a very extensive field, programming. This year we have cinema and guided tours for the architectural heritage, what we want is that everyone can find a place in our project.

There are four spaces in different places and with different audiences. What kind of people visit these spaces and what has been the feedback?
LF: For example, yesterday we had the premiere of the solo concert of Luís Martinho, of Deolinda, at Teatro Vista Alegre and we had a full house, there was a conversation later, where people could ask very interesting questions, since he has a contemporary academic background that is very different from the work that develops in the band, there was this contact in relation to what it does to the ground and in the Deolinda and the result gave to realize that the project makes a lot of sense for the territory. People had many doubts and wanted to get closer to the work and the disciplines and we had from national programmers to perceive this ante-debut, like the neighbors of the own space. We want to demystify this look that this is not for me is for the other, for the intellectual. No, there is room for all, we have to create the right conditions for people to participate and not to get into the projects with the idea that this is not for me. The public has all the capacities to decode, interpret or enjoy the artistic proposal.

But, as we know, there is always resistance to change, even in a new artistic paradigm. So do you notice who sticks in the most is the younger audience or is it more heterogenous?
LF: It's more heterogenous. Young people are more conservative in some perspectives than older ones. They are accustomed to the immediate, or the easy and past few seconds do not like it, so they change. The new logic of communication and information has created a new inability to resist and to try to understand what this is. We are little tolerant of what we do not care for in the first few seconds, this is more difficult, of course there is resistance and strangeness, but as Fernando Pessoa said, first is strange, then it is ingrained. We do not have fireworks projects that last five years, it is a process that will conquer people little by little and they will enter and realize the pertinence of this or another project and they will stick. There are no prospects within the team that suddenly there is change and that is all fantastic but as we have well planned events we know that we are on the right track and that it will take some time until everything is working in its full capacity, even because it is a very ambitious project, almost to brush to utopia and we thought that we will need time to adapt ourselves to the return of the population.

In relation to this question, do you think that programming helps people get used to the idea of going into space? Or does it only result from the change of the cultural paradigm?
LF: I think the advantage of this project is that it meets people where they are. It is easier to transport a project where they are than to create new public spaces, and it is not only an accessible space, but also where people can gather, think and it is easier to create this reality of discussion. The advantage of this project is that is mobile, has several strands, if people are on the beach, in the square, or in the church we go there. There is this facility. Then we have other events that lack spaces and technical conditions and this is that we are multiplying the opportunities of encounter and this can help a lot. Programming is essential, but it is more about making a residence, a conversation, a show, there are several ways to create a cultural cycle that is not limited to just programming ten concerts and three or four plays and this is done. If people did not come it is because they do not connect to the culture and thus we have a list of excuses for the failure of our action. And the opposite is also not justified by the number of people, because if I wanted to organize a concert with a more commercial public figure, I have more than 10 thousand people and I fulfilled my mission. No, this project is not at first sight evaluated by the action of the public, but it is by the effect that it created in who adhered, by the communication of the territory and the indices of development that can create.

Artists with tours, in particular the theater companies already implemented at the national level, often complain that the programs are very closed and that they do not reach these spaces. And you do not come from the cultural programming area, you have a long career in the area of design. So how do you deal with these criticisms?
LF: Firstly, I think that in Portugal there are few cultural programmers and I consider that this is the real difficulty. There are many spaces around the country, with few teams and artistic directors who create identities and projects for spaces. We have many white elephants, with empty rooms, or some shows that depend on the ticket office, and that's a big problem. Then programming is choosing and this is obvious, it is necessary to know how to say no, people do not have the notion of the scale of the dozens of proposals that I receive per day, we have to select those that are more relevant to our projects and that are one more piece in the gear of what we are here to manufacture. I am not an artist programmer, nor do I care to have this link of what is right or wrong, what we have is a wider project where there is a lot more things, it is eclectic, but even so, projects that go to what we are working on. Programming everything is programming nothing, basically for me. It is an act of choice and we are here to take this position, there is a big difference between a cultural house and a room for events, are completely different things. I understand that there is discomfort, but there is also a difficulty for artists to perceive the whole of a project of this magnitude and how they can find their place in it. I, for example, in Ílhavo I cannot program the most emergent projects in performing arts, there is no context, there is no understanding, there may be in the future, but it is not because I have one play that we have to use this space, I can have others. I can ot bet on a commercial project itself and not inserts in the objectives that we have stipulated for our cultural concept and that is what is the difference. In the background we have a briefing at that moment and looking at this, we have verified that the group, or plays goes towards that meeting, or fits into the territory. It is also a project that is political, which has an ideology and we have to realize if it fits. Now, one can be against or not, we can agree or not, but the idea is always the freedom of choice inherent in responsibility, there is always debate and a discussion about it.

From the program for this year you've raised the tip of the veil a bit, but what are the big bets at the moment?
LF: We have already begun to launch the large areas, the project is creating a rhythm in the creation and formation that are more oriented. For the program of this year we want to attract international names, we are studying this point, because we have a peculiar territory, at the national level, within a radius of 30 km we have seven cultural centers working well and basically we have to differentiate ourselves from each other, not be channeling the action of each. Even because we have a lot of public, with good accessibility and people go to Aveiro, Ílhavo, Ovar, Estarreja and Águeda with spaces that work in full and in a way even unusual for Portugal. We also want to include more areas, that the creative process is exposed in the territory and we have programmed for this first quarter, Ricardo Ribeiro, in the fado, later "A servant of the devils", a “revista”. It is not a project for already with a new pre-discourse, that only selects the fine cultural lines, because later we have the "Wake up in the afternoon" that presents singer-songwriters and instrumentalists in the Vista Alegre Theater, as well as the singer Lula Pena and André Barros, at the piano. The Praga theater will premiere here and in the spring and we will have the presentation of the young creator Tiago Correia, in the Gafanha of Nazaré. There is always this balance between the more commercial exists in the choice and the more emergent also with a lot of quality, of course. In order for people to be willing and available to receive, there must also be a balance with other national theaters in order to have several projects simultaneously. Even those who live here, being supported in the places of presentation, are contributing to create a machine to promote concepts that do not stand in the way, that only exist at that moment and then die, we have partnerships with festivals in the performing arts so that the projects that have been created have legs to go through the country and even abroad.

Https://www.23milhas.pt/#overview

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