In the vicinity of the National Pantheon and even in a time of pandemic, Lisbon thinks and acts on its public space. These days, in plain sight, the artistic intervention of Alberto Rodrigues Marques, Henrique Palmeirim and Hugo Castilholinks the concepts of art, sustainability, creativity and innovation and aims to raise awareness of urban, climatic and local circularity challenges, taking art as a communicating action and enhancing the involvement of communities in causes that belong to everyone.

The intervention of this group of artists recently graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon, is part of SUSHI, a climate adaptation project that involves six historic centres in Southern Europe, with the Lisbon team consisting of Lisbon E-Nova and by FCT/UNL. The project covers the historic area of Alfama and Graça and is focused on solving the environmental and socio-economic challenges that have led to a process of gentrification, desertification and de-characterization of the neighbourhood. The Lisbon City Council and the São Vicente Parish Council are natural partners in this project in which dstgroup assumes the role of patron, integrating its brands MOSAIC and zet gallery, with the latter being responsible for artistic coordination and communication.

In the framework of the Paris Agreement (2015) on climate change, 197 countries committed to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Part of the measures goes through mitigation plans that are related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, we know that more than half of GHGs – 68% – are related to food and material production systems: 29% related to the production of industrial products; 20% with the production of food and forest products and 18% with the construction of buildings. It is in the awareness of this reality and believing in the potential of the circular economy to face climate change that we take symbolic advantage of these facts to design an artistic intervention that unfolds in four acts.

SÃO VICENTE CÁ FORA is thus implemented through this ExPlan which aims to boost public space, in close dialogue with the community of residents, homeless people and tourists who inhabit it on a daily basis, more perennial or ephemerally. The artists, represented by zet gallery, are thus aligned with the objectives set out above and with the global Lisbon Green Capital European program and it is in this alignment that we propose four key activities: explanar (explanation), extender (extend), extrapilhar (extrapolate) and expectar (expect).

In explanar, the action starts from reading the concept: explaining something, explaining it in detail, making certain material flat or clear. Symbolically, using scaffolding provided by dstgroup, the installation surrounds the source of the Calçada do Cascão staircase, which constitutes a new terrace, that is, a new meeting point (although conditioned in the times we live in) for the different members of the community. The scaffolding was painted white and covered with pieces of advertising tarpaulins, now reused, which take the form of maximized garments and adjusted to the artists’ plasticity.

The objective is to encourage the gathering and sharing of second-hand clothes, reducing production and the impact of the textile industry. Symbolically, a connection to clothesline is also established, a sustainable form of day-to-day management, in contrast to more technological solutions, which constitute an identity mark in several cities and in particular in historic centres such as Lisbon, such as Alfama.

It is from these new terraces that we start for the second action, extender, which considers the set of streets and alleys of Calçada do Cascão as a giant clothesline of these pieces of clothing suggested by an artistic intervention. The action requires the collaboration of the community in providing support points for this large clothesline, using its windows and balconies, that is, the existing structures. From the big clothesline, we started an action that listens to the neighbourhood, using the trapilho (strip of fabric) to design functions or infrastructures that the community is interested in seeing altered or built, such as a handrail to support the elderly or a basketball basket that makes the delight of the younger.

The third act, then, is extrapilhar and is the last of a more ephemeral nature, since the action ends with a more perennial inscription. In a walled façade, which can symbolize the suspended point of so many other urban buildings, our artists will tell a story and give life to the interior of a house: they will bring life to the neighbourhood, city to city.

SÃO VICENTE CÁ FORA concludes, thus, with expectar: a mural painting that recovers the white already used in the standardization of scaffolding and that later thickens with colour in symbolic elements and that try to convey some of the messages of the environmental project, itself.

On November 14th, 2020 and after about five weeks of work on the field, Alberto Rodrigues Marques, Henrique Palmeirim and Hugo Castilho say the intervention is finished. Over the course of these five weeks, making use of new technologies, Lisboa E-nova also carried out a series of conversations and workshops that addressed topics such as circularity, energy, horticulture or sustainable mobility. The initial project foresaw that this new terrace would be the privileged stage for these workshops and conversations, but with the less positive evolution of the pandemic situation, the actions were relegated to digital, leaving the artistic intervention reserved for multisensory impact and individual or pair experiments that pass by and live in this neighbourhood of Lisbon.

In the expectation of the zet gallery and dstgroup, this is another project in which we get involved with the aim of testing new forms of intervention in the polis, with art as a major focus of action that will trigger reflections on the great themes of our time.

Helena Mendes Pereira