For Portugal’s participation in the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, the artist Joana Vasconcelos and the curator Miguel Amado will present Trafaria Praia, a project in which a cacilheiro, or Lisbon ferry, is transformed into a floating pavilion and artwork. The commissioner of the project is the Direção-Geral das Artes, a Portuguese state agency operating under the auspices of the Secretário de Estado da Cultura, Governo de Portugal.
The Trafaria Praia project addresses the commonalities between Lisbon and Venice, cities that both historically played roles in broadening the European worldview during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It looks at the contact zone between them today by considering three aspects they share: water, navigation, and the vessel. Vasconcelos sets up an allegorical correspondence between the cacilheiro, or Lisbon ferryboat, and the Venetian vaporetto. In Lisbon, the cacilheiros are a familiar sight on the River Tagus, carrying commuters to the city. They have blue-collar and middle-class associations, and thus have become politically charged social symbols.
Portugal does not have a pavilion in the Giardini, so, rather than seeking a venue elsewhere in Venice, Vasconcelos and Amado decided to bring to Venice a cacilheiro, the Trafaria Praia, and present it as a floating pavilion. It is intended as an idealistic gesture—a metaphorical circumvention of the power struggles that mark international relations today. The Trafaria Praia will be moored next to the Giardini’s vaporetto stop and will sail around the Venice lagoon at regular intervals daily.
The ship has undergone major transformations. Vasconcelos is covering its outside with a panel of Portuguese azulejos (hand-painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles) that reproduces a contemporary view of Lisbon’s skyline. This work takes its inspiration from an azulejos masterpiece, the Great Panorama of Lisbon, which depicts the city before the earthquake of 1755. On its deck, the artist is creating one of her signature-style environments of textiles and light—in this case, organic forms made of crocheted fabrics and LEDs—that will envelop visitors in a womb-like atmosphere. On its quarterdeck, she is installing a stage in which various Portuguese art-related public programmes will take place.
Vasconcelos is a commentator on the real. She investigates the present through a critical reading of Western mythologies and iconographies. She explores mainstream values, habits, and customs in order to examine personal and collective identity with respect to gender, class, and nationality. Her practice involves appropriating everyday objects and meticulously re-elaborating them, often calling upon artisanal techniques affiliated with female labor and employing craft-related materials such as textiles. In the process, she assigns new meanings to the items she transforms, reflecting on the tensions between high and popular culture, the private and public spheres, the local and the global, tradition and modernity.
Vasconcelos (b. 1971) lives and works in Lisbon. She has exhibited regularly in Portugal and abroad since the mid-1990s. She has had key solo shows at the New Art Gallery Walsall, UK; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon; Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark; and Château de Versailles, France. Key group shows include the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; 51st International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia; Frac Île-de-France/Le Plateau, Paris; Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; and Palazzo Grassi/François Pinault Foundation, Venice. Her artwork is represented in many private and public collections, including the Fundación Helga de Alvear, Cáceres, Spain; François Pinault Foundation, Paris/Venice; Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, Paris; and the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon.
Miguel Amado (b. 1973) lives and works in Barcelona and Lisbon. He has been a curator at Tate St Ives, UK; Fundação PLMJ, Lisbon; and Centro de Artes Visuais, Coimbra, Portugal. He has had key curatorial fellowships and residencies at Rhizome at the New Museum, Abrons Arts Center, Independent Curators International, and the International Studio & Curatorial Program, all in New York. He has also curated exhibitions and projects for institutions such as the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon; apexart, New York; and Frieze Projects at the Frieze Art Fair, London.
1 June–24 November 2013
Preview: 29–31 May 2013
Opening: 31 May 2013
55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
Participation of Portugal
Viale dei Giardini Pubblici/Laguna di Venezia
Photo: © Modernism.ro