Listening as an undelayable need
Sound is one of the most important elements in any environment in which we stand or simply circulate, potentially constituting a source of deep pleasure or of total discomfort and reactivity. It is a subtle, even imperceptible phenomenon at times; one which is indeed there, however, and which idiosyncratically, sometimes viscerally gets into our body, and which, for good or ill, leaves a mark. In larger cities, such as Lisbon, silence can be rare and precious. In the last few years, large cities have endured an exacerbation of noise, which has become an unfortunate banality. The sound of cities has corrupted. Maybe we have promptly realised so. Maybe we have not. When such a reality was first noticed, noise already ruled. For example, the lockdown to which we were recently subject clearly highlighted the astonishing counterpoint between noise and silence.
Awareness of sound through active listening is indeed important, since it can truly change our perception by stimulating and sophisticating it, problematising phenomena, and even changing behaviours. Associated with this issue of noise and of fostering listening, another relevant question arises. It is related to the notion of collective space—one, therefore, shared by all—and to the impact each individual behaviour can have on that scale. The need to pay heed to listening, taking art as a starting point—objects, installations, concerts, sound performances, audio promenades—is, too, an operative means to stimulate an awareness of place, the Other, and, of course, the Self. In an organic, problematising way, one departs from art to life and then returns to the former.
The Lisboa Soa event, with Raquel Castro as artistic director, is a unique initiative contextualised in this convergence of thought and artistic proposals. Focusing on sound and taking place in several venues across the city, this is its 5th edition, organised in the context of Green Capital 2020 and integrated in the EGEAC programme Com'Out Lisbon. Not only that, this year six creation grants were awarded to artists living in Portugal, who were invited to display their works. But before highlighting some of the event's proposals, let me praise the resilience of keeping on producing culture in the difficult—for various reasons—times we are living in. For four days, following the recommended safety measures, some iconic spots in Lisbon—Estufa Fria, National Pantheon, Museum of Lisbon — Palácio Pimenta, Sinel de Cordes Palace, Mãe d’Água, EPAL Terrace, among others—presented the spectator with the opportunity of bringing sound into the limelight in several different ways.
Generating intimacy and curiosity, Lisboa Soa took place among a brief display of sonic bicycles (Environmental Bike) that produce sonorities when pedalling; exploratory music performances/concerts—Vítor Rua, Sara Anjo, Luís Antero & João Lourenço, Raw Forest, Nuno Rebelo & Constanza Brnčić, Vítor Joaquim & João Silva, Angelica Salvi & João Pais Filipe, Gabriel Ferrandini, Joana Sá & Luís Martins, among other artists—or sound promenades, with Margarida Mendes or the West Coast collective; or even installations—Colectivo Suspeito, Eunice Artur, Gonçalo Alegria, Henrique Fernandes + Tiago Ângelo, Ana Água + Carmo Rolo + Ricardo Guerreiro, Nuno da Luz, among others—where sound, as is expected in this context, is a living organism and essential part of the composition. But three particular installations especially drew our attention.
Gil Delindro presented the work Fictional Forests (Sinel de Cordes Palace). The spectator is invited to enjoy a space filled with rye—a national produce selected by the artist. Rigorously and vertically arranged, spinning in smalls sheaves, the rye produces a poetic, sensitive melody as it subtly touches the surrounding microphones. Subtlety is ever more accomplished through the exceptional lighting and the subsequent light-shadow effect it emanates, creating an encompassing, strongly intimist, even hypnotic space. Conversely, Nuno Mika, one of the artists selected via open-call, built Non-Place (EPAL Garage), an excellent installation of industrial, metallic, aggressive sounds. The lighting is stunning and powerful as well. The ensemble presents the spectator with an almost potentially fictional, improbable, even frightening relationship with space; one where sound—especially sound, of course—reveals itself.
Finally, we highlight Marco Barotti's beautiful installation at Estufa Fria. Clams, as the title indicates, is a work consisting of similar shells made out of recycled plastic inside which a sound device emanates a melody; simultaneously, triggered by data collected from water quality sensors placed in the Tagus river, the shells open and close. It is a delicate, surprising work: shells communicating within a green space. In the meantime, the sun has started to set. Lisboa Soa is coming to an end. At the centre of the Estufa Fria lake, Joana Sá and Luís Martins' concert commences. Fall has started to make itself heard, too. We just need to give ear to it.
Isabel Nogueira (n. 1974). Contemporary art historian, university professor, essayist. PhD in Fine Arts / Sciences of Art (Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon) and post-doctorate in History of Contemporary Art and Theory of Image (University of Coimbra and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne). Most recent books: "Teoria da arte no século XX: modernismo, vanguarda, neovanguarda, pós-modernismo" (University of Coimbra press, 2012; 2nd ed. 2014); "Artes plásticas e crítica em Portugal nos anos 70 e 80: vanguarda e pós-modernismo" (University of Coimbra press, 2013; 2nd ed. 2015); "Théorie de l’art au xxe siècle: modernisme, avant-garde, néo-avant-garde, postmodernisme" (Éditions L'Harmattan, 2013); "Modernidade avulso: escritos sobre arte” (Edições A Ronda da Noite, 2014). She is a member of AICA (International Association of Art Critics).
Translation PT-EN: Diogo Montenegro.
Lisboa Soa. Installations views: Fictional Forests (Palácio Sinel de Cordes); Clams (Estufa Fria); Non-Place (Garagem EPAL). Photos. Vera Marmelo. Courtesy of Lisboa Soa.