Porto / Visões Úteis / 20-23 September 2013

For our fourth workshop of the PACE Project, partner Visões Úteis, proposed a development in our reflection about how we – theatre makers – can/should approach current political/economical/social questions on stage. In previous meetings we had debated the question of how to bring the financial crisis onto the stage. In Dublin we also dedicated some time to the subject of personal and artistic engagement and responsibility.

And in Porto we took that debate further and linked it to the artistic object itself: by meeting with people for whom the stage just wasn’t enough – and who had decided to take more immediate, practical action to change their world – and by experimenting with Visões Úteis’ method of transforming “here and now” data into performance material.

The city of Porto welcomed all the teams with the promise of sunny days. We all met friday evening for a welcome reception in Fábrica Social, the main venue for the workshop. All the logistic questions were solved on the spot, the ice was broken and everybody was ready to work the next morning.

Saturday morning, 21st September 2013

WORKING SESSION 1 - Give up your country and design a new one: : First contact with the working methodology of Visões Úteis. Building on a previous performance experience (Nióbio, 2012), we will ask you for a reflection on how to build a brand new country just for the members of your team. 

All the morning topics were set within the frame of Visões Úteis working methodology, a Post-brechtian theatre, fusing arts and political issues. Always with a shared direction.


The sharing of the local working methodology took the teams to question what can Performance Arts actually do: report, represent, register, change? Should theatre be a research, an educational tool or a logical, functional art?


The discussion had the participation of younger local artists (from Porta 27 Theatre Company and from the local partner Education Service) who did not hesitate to face the team members with a different genarational approach to the subjects. And at the same time we all had the chance to deal with a performance experience, already tryed on stage by Visões Úteis, and dealing precisely with the different cognition potencial in different generations.


The experiment opened new topics such us: solving conflicts, the stage not being enough, not voting (refusing to belong to an incomprehensible social body), Information vs Art, Political theatre vs journalistic and  theatre  inside and outside the community. All of them synthetized, in the end, by the local researcher and critic Jorge palinhos.


And to make more sense of the final topics we also had the chance to meet, during the weekend, some of the members of the local community: a group of women, between 60 and 80 years old, leaving in Visões Úteis' neighbourhood; a group always fighting social/gender exclusion through the local partner's Community Performance Group.

Saturday afternoon, 21st September 2013

WORKING SESSION 2 - Put it all together now: Using the material researched and collected in the previous session the teams will put the new countries in performance.


In the afternoon all the theoretical approaches tryed in the morning were put to test in an exercise, inspired by a previous performance of the local partner, in which all the teams were asked to put a brand new country in performance. 


In the evening we all got toghether for dinner in a very well known and tipical local restaurant. We were still expecting to have a special guest for dinner: Catarina Martins, a former member of the local partner, who gave up the performing arts for politics; she is now the leader of one of the portuguese  parties represented in parliament. Unfortunately, Catarina has a last minute press conference and she can not meet us. But we are promised another example (of leaving arts for politics) in the next morning.


Sunday morning, 22nd September 2013

WORKING SESSION 3 - In the mood for some morning hacking?: We will meet Ricardo Lafuente and Ana Carvalho who will give us a close insight on hacking strategies and their relation to information, participation and democracy.


Quite a surprise the sunday morning session: Building on the idea that perhaps the stage (the art, we mean) may not be enough, we had the chance to meet Ana Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente, digital artists, who choosed to become hackers.

Ana and Ricardo introduce us to Manufactura Independente (their company) and to several of their ongoing projects such us  Libre Graphics (a magazine, editred by them,  dedicated to free graphic software), Demo.cratica (interface designed to remove obstacles to the transformation of data in  information) and a community wireless system (designed to set Porto free from corporate interests conected with communications).


We were also introduced to the huge differences between fiction (the representations of hacking in movies and media) and reality (for instance white hat hackers and black hat hackers). Ricardo and Ana told us about several international situations (NSA big data and Tor Project) and demonstrated to us the difference between  dissuassive interfaces and persuasive interfaces, using examples from the portuguese public admnistration (nice infographics, but totally wrong information).

The session also worked as a first introduction to the contents in the next Visões Úteis performance upon which the afternoon session would be build.

Sunday afternoon, 22nd September 2013

WORKING SESSION 4 - The Secret Files: And now, in a never attempted PACE session, we were asked you to give a input that Visões Úteis could try to use on stage in their  next performance (a co-production with the National Theatre of Porto, in november). The performance would be focused, precisely, on the use and manipulation of information (exposed by Ricardo and Ana in the morning)

And again, just like yesterday afternoon, all the teams were asked to put in  performance a sort of “reciprocal surveillance system”. The idea was to to see if all of us, working upon the topics of the local partner next performance, could teach them other ways to deal with the contents already choosed by them. In the end Visões Úteis' trainers say the new inputs will probably be integrated in the script they are writing... but we will have to wait for November to check it out.

We end the meeting, in the evening, around a table of a local restaurant, responsabile for the design, in the 60s, of one of the most important examples of the local gastronomy, we can even say cultural identity. And we are already talking about the next workshop. See you all in Sweden!

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