This is the end of an atypical year, as these last few years have been. We never thought, when we closed the previous edition, we would have to undergo so many ordeals, and that the word resilience would become trendy.
It is said that Culture was one of the sectors that suffered the most along with tourism. Yes, I know it is true, but I have also realized the importance of solidarity in getting through the crisis that has landed in our lap. How important it is to get back to debating crucial matters – such as democracy and equal rights, like Sérgio Pelágio is challenging the youngest audiences, and António Jorge Gonçalves and LBC Soldjah are challenging teenagers and grownups.
I like to think that the pandemic was a case of Nature’s revenge, an intense spiritual force calling out, in odd ways, the wreckage we humans are causing on the planet, as if telling us that we are too many, too selfish, too materialistic; how we fear difference in the Other, how we fear non-hegemonic lifestyles, as Pauliana Valente Pimentel and
Miguel Bonneville are showing in their projects.
For a moment there, we realized how important it is to stop. However, lockdowns are lifted, and once again society forces us to join the crazy race; crazier, even, than what we had before. We keep making the same mistakes, again thinking that being productive is our purpose in life, and again, as Luciana Fina points out, we waste resources, we get tired, and wear down our time to actually live.
The essential question turns out to be “what does it mean, nowadays, to live?”. Eventually – in the face of so many ailments and horrors – we ask: what is the role of Art in all this? In what way can we say it is, as it should be, one of humanity’s top priorities? These questions plagued me – as they did the Galeria de Arte Ambulante – during this period: what role do we play, as agents, in this ill, fragile society?
But I also understood that this society puts aside all non-productive matters, all those who think too much, those who point fingers. And it was during this period of doubting and questioning that the answer came to me. We are about to explode, as a society, because we lack the courage to admit we need to properly live. To properly live means having time for leisure, time for reflection, time to commit to our role as citizens, tackling problems and coming up with solutions that won’t jeopardize the Other. As Alex Cassal puts it, to live with our wildest dreams.
For this edition our image is an exploding bomb, a wake-up call to those forgetting the ticking bomb, forgetting that the World is not immortal. We have forgotten Greta, there’s a new waste on the streets – disposable masks. We forgot the importance of looking at others, and started looking at ourselves. We went from being gregarious to being individualistic. José Jesus & Flávio Martins are calling us out.
I could go on, drawing attention to so many other things, but I’ll stop here, because meanwhile many other things have also emerged. Positive things. We have become aware of our human fragility, of our need for connection and having emotions with others, and this is the story of Carolina Cantinho & António Guerreiro, but also of João Caiano & Martim Santos.
And here is where Art plays a vital role. Without apologizing for existing, with as much right to our place in the sun, as oil companies claim, we raise our heads to say we are more, and better, than fossil fuels, and we are able to find alternatives in the politically incorrectness of art, as ZA!‘s walking tour is telling us.
This is now the 10th edition of a festival that has decided to become a biennale because we understand need to see things grow. Just like a plant, or a child, an art creation also needs to be nurtured and protected, and so we have kept with those we could support. These creations are not that many, nor are their creators a privileged few. These artists have followed a trail of critical thinking on society: art is just that, this amazing capacity of bringing together ideas, people, collective ideals, and this is what humanity needs right now.
Therefore, before everything explodes, or to make everything blow up, we want to draw attention once again to all the asymmetries on the planet. In this pandemic period, we decided to have our programme 90% Portuguese. As an independent festival, we know our capacity is very limited. We have suffered – along with the artists we support – the consequences of the lack of funding, and rejoiced when the Ministry of Culture understood this instability and increased funding for the Arts, which is, for that matter, one of the least publicly-funded sectors in Portugal.
We had to cut back on the international program, but we have not cut back on the quality of our productions. This year we focused on meeting, on the chance that each production will help us create a space where each and every spectator can find their own inner self, and their own joy. In this edition we have worked to reach for some happiness, the kind that makes us aware of the importance of living. And to realize that sometimes exploding is not a bad thing.
Now that we can go back to hold hands, we go back to that explosive saying: don’t let go of anyone’s hand! Against authoritarianism, oppression, and abuse of power, we are hosting a festival where we hope each person can see the bright side of life and understand the things they cannot do without. I’ll go first: we need to care; we need to be careful…
I worked for four years with the casaBranca team to make this project come true. I will cherish the memories of Verão Azul with my heart full of love to develop other projects, but always believing that united we are better, and I will never let go of this hand.