Art in Landscape of Beira Baixa:
Cortiçada Art Fest (2019-2020)
Farol dos Ventos
Serra das Talhadas, Chão do Galego, Proença-a-Nova
Farol dos Ventos (Wind lighthouse) is a distant view signal in which a coloured cable artwork hints at a delicate movement. Located in the extreme of a mountain range of Proença-a-Nova, next to a historic cave and to a recently built hiking trail, this lighthouse signals times of changing and inclusion times.
Parque da Carvalha, Sertã
Véu (Veil) is a 12m synaesthetic installation with mirrored curved slates in apparent suspension through which visitors can walk. Located over a dam in the centre of the small village of Sertã, it is basically an artwork that dialogues with the historic environment and its natural features, encompassing the elusiveness of fragmented perspectives and void reflections.
Ribeira de Oleiros, Oleiros
Moon Gate is a 2m circular installation of apparent changing colours and transparencies. Seeing it emerge along the river path enfolds visitors in an experience of both delusion and desire, offering an approach to contemplation. The lighting at night reinforces this artwork’s magnetizing power.
CORTIÇADA ART FEST ORGANISING TEAM
Art in the landscape of Beira Baixa is a project co-authored with Sofia Marques de Aguiar.
Sofia Marques de Aguiar is an architect and artist with extensive experience at the intersection of various plastic arts. There is a permanent trait of diversity and experimentation in Sofia’s creative world, which depicts a careful sensitivity to composition and the aesthetic experience. She is the founder of the Fábrica de Artes Cubano (FAC) in which she developed an intense creative activity with interdisciplinary artistic teams strongly committed to social and community integration and cohesion.
MAG, Marta Aguiar and Mariana Costa, develop design projects and produce works whose purpose is to arouse aesthetic interest and dialogue through appropriation. These works have specific sites as premise - built spaces or landscapes - and their transformation recreates a sense of belonging. As an architectural and urban planning company that deals with transforming sites and landscapes, MAG-Marques de Aguiar develops each project according to a method based on objectives, individual responsibilities and co-creation.
the history of the project
COMMISSION AND PROGRAMME ANALYSIS
The Cortiçada Art Fest project follows a strong wish from the municipalities of Proença-a-Nova, Oleiros and Sertã to reverse the desertification of the countryside by making a consistent wager on culture.
Our proposal was defined together with the municipalities in a long process of analysis and reading of the cultural landscape. The collaboration resulted in a proposition that exceeded the programme's scope and positively surprised the client.
A PROPOSAL FOR THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF BEIRA BAIXA
In this ‘humanized landscape’, in the words of Orlando Ribeiro and Ilídio Araújo, the issues of abandonment and the ecological catastrophe of cyclical fires are in contrast with a scant population, urban experiences, a strong cultural programme and a growing interest in nature tourism.
The “Cortiçada Art Fest” proposal aims to develop an identity and a sense of belonging to the wider community in the areas of the three municipalities. The final object and modus agendi is fulfilling a roadmap that includes 5 works of art in the landscape in a process of involving populations and institutions.
The structure of the Cortiçada project is based on the region's heritage. It takes into account the growing nature tourism – climbing, walking trails and tracks -, the dynamism of local associations and their cultural programming and, above all, the feeling of belonging that we found deeply rooted in the locals and in the many who return “back to base, or back home”.
The work method includes promoting engagement actions associated with each step of the process of implementing the art itinerary in the landscape. This set of actions developed alongside the populations over the course of 12 months set the stage for the works of art: it provided a collective experience of the landscape anchored in the region's potential.
The process of selecting sites promotes the community's collective interest in what they see as “their” territory (taking the term ‘community’ in the broad sense, to include those who live or lived, those who visit, work or exert their action there).
The places we looked into punctuate geographies of a diverse kind- mountain, river, village or town - and that show different values of landscape – linked to legends, secular transformations of mineral and agricultural exploration, and design of the public space.
PROJECT AND PRODUCTION
The design and production of each piece of work was developed in co-authorship in an articulated process of continuous adjustments. With the aim of ascertaining the aesthetic experience of the work of art by the observer, up until the final stage of assembly, we adjusted the specific place of assembly, developed the project or conceptual production in detail and refined the relationship of the piece with the materials experimented.
With regard to the site, we adapted the work to the specific character of the site, and fine-tuned the strategies for improving the surroundings, adjusting perspectives, points of view and the approach and touch to the work. In terms of the development of the work, by taking the project to new depths and manipulating materials, we rationalised aesthetic values and implemented rigorous quality solutions for permanent works. Experimentation led us to explore the aesthetic potential of the finishes and the relationship between light and matter until the final assembly stage.
ENGAGEMENT ACTIONS: INSTITUTIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Engagement actions – or community actions – have the twofold benefit of identifying cultural values and transmitting pedagogical information. Recording and interpreting places and works of art was a “challenge” that the community (both resident and displaced) warmly accepted and took it to the next level by getting the younger generation on board, who in turn incorporated it in their activities at “Centro Ciência Viva e Floresta” and “Férias Desportivas”.
The Associations (photo with Ana Louro, Sobral Fernando) play a major role in identifying, recording and promoting memories and legends of these places; they guide us through the tales of those who experienced abandonment and change. The Bibliomobile is used by Nuno Marçal to support the most isolated of the locals.
ENGAGEMENT ACTIONS: LOCAL EVENTS
Our understanding of the landscape grew with the participation in events and ancient practices such as olive picking, village festivals, exceptional celebrations, workshops and games organized both by us and by the scouts of the village of Sertã.
CONVERSATIONS THROUGH THE OPEN WINDOW OF LANDSCAPE
“Conversations through the open window of landscape” results from the need to reinforce the engagement through digital means due to the pandemic and to put in perspective structural questions of the project (the place of art in the landscape and the deepening of a sense of belonging to a territory).
The invitation was sent to renowned professionals from different areas of art, landscape and culture - Camilo Rebelo, Laura Castro, Hélio Loureiro, Marta Cruz, David Viana, Inês Cardoso - to share notes of a broad reflection on social media.
VISITS TO THE SITE
Live visits to the site where the artworks are set are an engagement and promotion action led by the people who are already involved in the process - associations, institutions or all those in close proximity - and people who, by virtue of their connection to the region or professional reasons, influence the regional community and its diaspora. Thus, the extended community has the opportunity to follow the progressive development of each of the works of art.
Using digital platforms, we launched “Challenges” to interpret each of the works of art in the landscape. The poems, paintings, photographs and drawings that followed share understandings of the works and their places, associating legends and memories, geographic and ecological characteristics, aesthetic experiences and artistic concepts.
Through actions with the Centro Ciência Viva e Floresta and “Férias Desportivas”, or by spontaneous participation, the challenges were a revelation, as places were appropriated, with changed names and new metaphors and representations.
RETURN OF THE ARTWORKS TO THE POPULATION: OFFICIAL OPENING (CORTIÇADA ART FEST) (Cortiçada Weekend)
The inauguration was the moment that signalled the return of the artworks and art itinerary in the landscape back to the populations:
Indeed, a sign of integration in the region and in the sites of the Itinerary, through the programme of workshops with artists and artisans in the region and concerts taking place right next to the works of art.
But it was also a sign of how important it is to articulate long-term cultural strategies (as mentioned by Américo Rodrigues and Suzana Menezes), the actions of political decision makers (which transpired in the words of the mayors of the municipalities) and the consistent grounds of artistic projects and landscape intervention.
RETURN OF THE ARTWORKS
Once the art itinerary is finished, the work returns to the landscape inhabitants. One presencial event with talks about the work, celebrated with a lunch provided by the Village Association and with municipalities participation.
The presence of external observers - Laura Castro and Nuno Grande – enabled the Cortiçada project to be ‘read’ in the context of other artistic projects and landscape intervention.
During the on-site event of project delivery, the official openings and in other moments after the completion of the works, flyers were distributed containing notes on the aesthetic intentions and understandings of the site, the choice of materials, installation and maintenance challenges.
In parallel with the development of the remaining works, plans were made to suggest improvements to the trails, the site and the surroundings, with the aim of guiding future interventions in the landscape.