John Romão
Diretor Artístico

Invisible Present

Favouring a programming identity that is based on crossings between artistic territories, between languages and geographies, between times and spaces, BoCA is presenting its 4th edition with a programme that spans 30 cultural, heritage and natural spaces in the cities of Lisbon and Faro over the course of 6 weeks. Between theatres, museums, cultural centres, heritage spaces, natural spaces and nightclubs, we have gathered around the title Invisible Present artists, thinkers and communities who mostly present new creations commissioned, produced or co-produced by BoCA, affirming the biennial as a space for the circulation of new ideas, images and discourses that show the polysemy of the present.

We inhabit a present characterised by the vertigo of speed, which itself generates invisibilities that allow our gaze to detach from the human, in other words, that allow the possibility of ignoring freedom, justice and equality. That which is only visible if we allow ourselves to see and care, committed to the present.

In one of Pasolini’s most beautiful short films, “The Sequence of the Paper Flower”, we see the central character dancing and walking to a limit, the one that prevents him from continuing on his way without realising what is really happening around him: is there room for innocence, ignoring the pain and violence of a world in constant change?

Migratory movements, historical erasures, extractivism, racial and gender violence. The Invisible Present blurs geographical, physical, temporal and identity boundaries, giving visibility and a voice to those who have not had one. It finds in tradition a form of resistance, of a way of feeling that passes through the entrails, to which we are viscerally linked, beyond speeds and times. And we hear, powerfully, an echo of ancestry to which we return and which vivifies its presence today.

Inhabiting borders

As part of BoCA’s deviant identity, in which we invite artists and thinkers to create projects in other artistic territories, we present philosopher Paul B. Preciado‘s first two forays into the stage and cinema. Preciado on stage and in the cinema. At Culturgest, we see his staged reading of the biopolitical text “Can the monster speak?”, by a group of five trans and non-binary performers. We preview Preciado’s first film experience in Portugal, an adaptation of Virginia Wolf’s work, “Orlando, my political biography”. A film that questions who are the new Orlandos of contemporary times and invokes historical Orlandos who fought for recognition and visibility.

Crossing different identities, the humanity and closeness proposed by director Marcus Lindeen leads us to inhabit a kind of human amphitheatre, with performers who could only have been chosen by someone with an eye for cinema. The shows “Orlando & Mikael”, which takes the film “The Regretters” as its starting point, deals with the choices and impacts of gender reassignment, and the show “L’Aventure Invisible” questions the stability of our identities.

Continuing her research and historical speculation around queer identities, Odete has teamed up with French light designer Caty Olive for the start of a project that evokes the castrati and explores their vocal and aesthetic universe. A project that aims to valorise the vibration of voices that inhabit territories that cross between states.

At the National Pantheon, in a single performance, there is a show that also brings together two artists for the first time, saxophonist Bendik Giske and dancer and actor Romeu Runa. The immaterial heritage of Runa’s body language, in its usual dialectic that combines vulnerability and viscerality, is placed in dialogue with Giske’s vibrancy and resistance, in a creation that evokes the memory of the writer Samuel Delany, whose work imagines queer futures through Afrofuturist science fiction.

Equally crossed by the boundaries between genders, roles, languages and emotional states are the characters in “The Talking Car”, inside an unstoppable speeding car that addresses its passengers. With a cast made up of Albano Jerónimo, Bartosz Bielenia, Íris Cayate, Aaron Ronelle and Vera Mantero, the original text and staging by Polish visual artist and director Agnieszka Polska marks her theatre debut, one of the main productions commissioned by BoCA.

Hypervisible bodies, gestures and words

Paulo, the mercenary Salomé Lamas interviewed in “No Man’s Land”, is now in the Church of São Pedro de Alcântara. He tells us his story of the violence in the colonial war, transposing the objective, factual and paradoxical testimony that echoes in a sacred space into an invisible present.

And if it is through the word that we believe (or not) in the images that we see, with justice and politics in a pact in which they protect the invisibility of that mercenary until the end of his usefulness, António Poppe‘s new creation, “Em Voz Alta”, is also born from the spoken word and an immense immaterial archive of words that Poppe keeps in his memory, but also from scenographic objects, to create a project that is a descendant of opera, the opera of memory.

Based on the words of Julio Cortázar and his short story “Las Babas del Diablo”, musician and visual artist Pedro Alves Sousa premieres his first opera at the São Carlos National Theatre. In “A Vaia Viva”, with an operatic singer and three reel-to-reel cameras, the artist reconstructs a narrative from photographic memory. Whether in the words of this fictional character, Robert, or Paulo, in Salomé Lamas’ film, the veracity of the real remains.

Along the lines of memory and the celebration of figures who have become invisible, inscribed in an important legacy, Pedro Alves Sousa presents an installation at MAAT inspired by the life of saxophonist Jerry True, proposing a sound and physical experience, in an almost industrial dimension. In Faro, in the Jardim da Alameda, the string quartet of the Orquestra do Algarve will play three pieces by the award-winning American composer John Luther Adams, not only in memory of a departed friend (“Three High Places”), but above all celebrating the beauty of landscapes and natural elements (“The Wind in High Places” and “Canticles of the Sky”).

Supernatural is the beauty with which singer-songwriter Marina Herlop presents the concert “Pripyat”, with its vocal acrobatics, invented language and synthesisers, which will take place in two heritage sites, the National Pantheon (Lisbon) and the Ruins of Milreu (Faro), with the collaboration of fashion designer Constança Entrudo.

The invisibility of memory is inscribed in the present by more than thirty young visual arts and music composition students in the “Corpo Visível” project, which celebrates 100 years since the birth of Mário Cesariny. Playwright, actress and director Keli Freitas is coordinating this creation that crosses music, performance and visual arts based on Cesariny’s poem, also crossing the geographies of Lisbon and Faro, the Lisbon School of Music and the University of the Algarve, the MAAT and the Faro Municipal Museum, which are hosting the concert-performance presentations.

From the invisibility of our identity that virtual space provides, Ana Borralho & João Galante premiere their new creation, “Chatroom”, at Teatro do Bairro. The audience is invited to exchange messages with each other, reflecting on presence and absence, self and other, vulnerability and empathy, while the line between virtual reality and the physical experience in the theatre becomes increasingly blurred.

The absolute present of tradition and ancestry

At the São Luiz Municipal Theatre we premiered a concert that brings together intensities, harmonies and acoustic resonances from different families: the traditional strings of the viola campaniça, with Os Moços da Viola Campaniça, from Castro Verde, and the precision with which Frederica Campos, from Porto, plays her harp, come together in a set of emotions that awaken us to a telluric and ancestral pulse, supported by the words of the traditional Alentejo songbook.

Lisbon, as a city of mixtures and intersections, becomes the stage for various traditional and ancestral practices that inhabit the public space, which claim the “absolutely present” as the unity of the present, the future and the past, embracing the co-existence of plural identities. This is the case of Mexican artist Héctor Zamora, who, inspired by one of his country’s oldest trades, the “globeros”, sellers of colourful balloons, pays homage to the informal economies to which many people are subject in order to survive. In Lisbon and Faro, we’ll find migrants selling large sets of mirrored balloons that fill the sky and our gaze, forming words that allude to migration, their dreams and desires, but also reflect the prejudices that these bodies are subjected to.

Walking through the centre of Lisbon’s streets, as a vital gesture of survival, of reterritorialisation of the invisible places that the city contains, we will meet Cape Verdean ceramicist Jacira da Conceição with a pot on her head. Her walking performance “Insularity” invites us to reimagine the past (and tradition) from the unity of the present, which is made by walking collectively.

Also specialising in the creation of ceramic sculptures, which link indigenous ancestry to a contemporary time and mood, Tucuman Gabriel Chaile is designing one of his biggest projects. In front of the Tagus River, in MAAT’s Praça do Carvão, he brings into dialogue two different objects that look at each other: a ceramic kiln in homage to Alcindo Monteiro, murdered in a racist crime in 1995 in the centre of Lisbon, and a sculpture consisting of his self-portrait. Chaile is, as always, open to dialogue with the other, activating in the space the combination of the practical and utilitarian dimension of the kiln and a series of actions that constitute a public programme (food, debates, music, film screenings), with the aesthetic dimension of ceramics that allude to indigenous America. The invisibility of structural racism is summoned by Chaile through a visual and utilitarian device that is open, inclusive and participatory.

From Porto to Alcáçovas, to Faro and Lisbon – these are the routes that percussionist and sculptor João Pais Filipe and choreographer and dancer Marco da Silva Ferreira have taken to create “Terra Cobre”, an installation and performance whose starting point is the rattles of Alcáçovas, recognised by Unesco as Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and which questions the cultural and historical properties of the objects through music and dance.

The becoming of history – reconstituted, reimagined, questioned

Violence and extractivism make up the landscape of the Pará region in the Amazon. The film “Fala da Terra / Voice of the Land” by Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, developed in partnership with the theatre collective Os Banzeiros do Povo, made up of activists from the MST (Landless People’s Movement), presents a historical and theatrical reconstruction of the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre, which took place 25 years ago in that territory. Presented at Cinema Ideal and followed by a debate with the artists, “Fala da Terra / Voice of the Land” gives a voice to those who are the protagonists of the struggle and resistance in the Amazon region, invisible to the spotlight of power, a struggle for rights, land and healthy food.

Also involved in breaking the silence and making a dramatic period in Portugal’s history visible, “A Revolta do Milho” is also a historical recreation through theatre. Taking place in 1942 in the village of Vale da Pedra, near Leiria, the show tells the story of a group of local people (12 men and two women) who were arrested and sentenced for the crime of sedition, spending a year in Peniche jail, for opposing the delivery of 1000 kilos of corn to the Farmers’ Guild, at a time of famine and crisis in Portugal. Actors, amateurs and the community of the village of Vale da Pedra have come to Lisbon to present a historical document of Portuguese identity that has only just come to light.

Motivated to contribute to an effective change in people’s lives by making issues of social and political justice visible, in the film “The New Gospel” director and film director Milo Rau tells the story of Jesus through Cameroonian political activist Yvan Sagnet, who fights for the rights of illegal agricultural workers in southern Italy.

We already know that history is not fixed and is inscribed in the memory of the body and spirit, and as such the sacred, like tradition, is a space for continuous interpretative fluctuation and questioning in the light of the time and subject we inhabit. Brazilian creator Gaya de Medeiros enters one of the most sacred dance pieces of the 20th century, “Café Müller” by Pina Bausch, not to recreate it historically but to question it historically (with the same questions that Pina used in her creative process), in the light of her queer identity.

In other geographies, questioning the capitalisation of empathy and extractivism, the artists Julian Hetzel and Ntando Cele bring to Lisbon and Faro the show “SPAfrica”, which focuses on the transaction of resources between Europe and Africa. In the play, bottles of water imported from South Africa are returned, as a bargaining chip, filled with the tears of European citizens.

The image moved by the body; the body moved by the voice

In a historic event, we are teaming up with Queer Lisboa and the Cinemateca for a retrospective of the cinematographic work of Yvonne Rainer, one of the most influential choreographers and dancers of the 20th century, a founding member of the emblematic Judson Dance Theater collective, which revolutionised dance and the performing arts in 1960s New York. The seven films on show are extraordinary narrative, visual and experimental revelations, long-form objects on the issues that Rainer deals with in dance as a choreographer: they talk about feminism, are politically committed, address power relations, propose a critical view of the class divide and deal with all representations and the respective abuses, violence and prejudices to which they are subjected, be it gender identity, racism, ageism, ageing… Yvonne Rainer’s visionary approach echoes an Invisible Present that creates parallels with issues that are at the centre of political, social and artistic debate today. So we brought together Gisela Casimiro, João dos Santos Martins and Jorge Jácome for a conversation moderated by Claudia Galhós, after the screening of the documentary “Rainer Variations” by Charles Atlas, to investigate the impact Rainer’s work has on Portuguese artistic practices.

Involving his body in the exploration of movement, music and supported by various props, with the collaboration of Eloïse Grace Winter and Rafael de Oliveira, Herlander premieres at BoCA a theatrical concert, “Trial”, which takes us on an inner journey in search of our origins.

Also investing in the materiality of the objects, two iron arches, and in the spatial relationships between these and their own bodies, in “Um Pequeno Exercício de Composição” Vera Mantero and Teresa Silva experiment with the encounter between forms and contents, in which they themselves are inserted, generating movements and images that seem to test the proportions of the human body, on a Vitruvian scale. This transit between times and concepts also takes place between artistic disciplines, with the collaboration of Santiago Tricot. This is precisely a territory of permanent metamorphosis familiar to João dos Santos Martins, who premieres “Está Visto” with visual artist Ana Jotta, pianist Joana Sá and choreographer and floral designer Filipe Pereira. Testing new possibilities for writing movement, we find singing as a choreographic element, with the body being traversed by romantic mismatches to the flavour of romantic songs. For their part, actors Cláudio da Silva and Carolina Dominguez, with visual artist and director Pedro Paiva, who is venturing into theatre for the first time, embrace Woyzeck, a romantic anti-hero, in a new creation that inaugurates the former Armazéns Abel Pereira da Fonseca, ZDB’s new space.

The brilliance of the margins

In Faro, the challenging scale of the Fábrica da Cerveja is the epicentre of BoCA’s programme, from which a range of activities is woven, including installations, performances, concerts, films and parties, creating an ecosystem that connects the city’s cultural, heritage and natural facilities. The Teatro das Figuras, the Lethes Theatre, the Cub Farense, the Roman Ruins of Milreu or the Alameda Garden.

The Invisible Present exhibition at the Fábrica da Cerveja features installations by artists who evoke the phenomenon of migration and the representativeness of their identities: set designer and visual artist Neusa Trovoada, one of the most present voices of black feminism in Portugal, explores underground matter as a space for listening, for resistance, capable of bringing to light another possible future; Zia Soares performs “Coro dos Assombrados”, a text by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida that reflects on silencing from the political power of the voice and the cry; Tiago Cadete, with the sound installation “Concerto”, confronts us with 20 speakers pointed in our direction, an orchestra of 30 voices of migrants that the artist interviewed and that reveal migratory processes and colonial history; in parallel to the performative actions in the public space, Héctor Zamora presents us here and at the Patriarcal Reservoir (Lisbon), with those vigorous sets of mirrored balloons with words that we’ll find on sale in the streets of Lisbon and Faro, now in a kind of cemetery of dreams, expectations and broken desires, an airless “Chimera” between the wall and the floor; Rita GT‘s video-performance “Unearthing” recognises the forgotten history of women who were forced to emigrate with their husbands during the colonial period. Outside, the walls and windows of the Fábrica da Cerveja have been intervened on by the youngest artist in this edition of BoCA, João Melo / Glantosz, who with his pertinent irreverence questions his own representativeness and visibility, the margins he inhabits and illuminates with his camera.

The Factory becomes a continuous space for the production and reflection of the Invisible Present. Contributing to the same end are the debates, films and moments of creative conviviality of The Night of Ideas, a partnership with the Institut Français du Portugal and within the scope of the MaisFrança programme, which will reflect on contemporary phenomena of proliferation, such as gender, or determined by a logic of excess, such as acceleration and speed. Curated by António Guerreiro, this evening of critical reflection brings together Sinziana Ravini, P. Feijó, Cláudia Varejão, Laurent de Sutter, Jerôme Lèbre and Carla Baptista, after a lecture-performance by Paul B. Preciado.