Romaria da Autogénese was developed in collaboration with fellow Porto-based artist João Sousa Cardoso. It was an artistic research project undertaken in Vitória, an old neighbourhood of Porto. This project marks a turning point in the artist’s career. Previous projects had already been politically and socially motivated, but this was the first time the artist explored the possibilities of a participatory practice and worked closely with a community. The experience with this project made the artist decide to relocate to the Netherlands as the country has a strong tradition in socially engaged art.
Over a period of nine moths both artist weekly visited Douro Litural, the cities oldest folk dance group based in Vitória, to study their relationship with the neighbourhood and to understand why people would put such a great effort into keeping tradition alive. The artists also went to rehearsals and accompanied the group on their travels when performing elsewhere in the country. Everything was visually documented and videotaped. Halfway through this process the members of the group were interviewed about their motivations to belong to such a collective, their wishes for the future of the group and the alternative methods that the group used to survive with little money. At the same time the artists also researched the neighbourhood, connected to its inhabitants and studied their routes and routines.
The project was completed with a happening on the streets to the soundtrack of The Astonishing Urban Fall, involving both the community and the dance group. Performance artist Silvestre Pestana, poet Regina Guimarães and two national boxing champions from Vitória also participated. During this happening the artists presented two films and the publication they made that included interviews with the individual group members that documented the below the surface activities of the group in order to exist such as their involvement in alternative economies, the importance of travelling and the creativity and imaginary that went into the costumes.
The starting point for the happening was a local gallery. The first performance was by the Marianors: a marching band made of sailor men and children. After sunset they started playing their drums and lead the public from the gallery to the square where the first film was shown. After, the public walked down a street where music was playing loudly from the windows. The composition was a mix created by electronic group ‘The Astonising Urbana Fall’ using the voice of the singer from the folk group. At the end of the street artist Silvestre Pestana presented a performance with neon lights. After the performance, the public would naturally keep walking down the street and up the stairs leading to a small square where two boxing champions from the neighbourhood started their match. After their match finished, the spotlights were turned off and music sounded again from a narrow street a bit further down where neighbours were showing two meter long posters from their windows with flowers printed on them; a tradition in that street. At the end of that street was the central square of the neighbourhood. At the centre of the square stood a large table covered with a tablecloth made by elderly ladies from the community. Her food was served to the audience. While people were eating a poem titled ‘In Rome, act like the Jews’ written especially for the occasion by Regina Guimaraes, sounded through the speakers. After the dinner finished, the table was cleared and used by Douro Litural as a podium, performing for the first time in their own neighbourhood. After their performance the public was invited onto the podium to dance with them. After the dancing calmed down and the music ended, the second film was shown to conclude the happening.
Amateur video of the happening ST Hi8 4:3