BREAKING UP THE MOLDS OF TRADITIONAL MUSEUM

Progress to make art accessible to the public, overcome barriers and break down formats becomes more evident when we move in the field of urban creation. This discipline evolves in the thin line that separates the manifestations as true artistic expressions or as acts of vandalism, in spite of the fact that social valuation of these works has considerably moved forward. Contemporary art continues to be the natural field in which stronger and more flexible channels of communication between citizens and artists are woven.

‘Voltagem’, by Tétis & Hazul, in Alfândega da Fé

The project "Public Art" of the Electricity Foundation of Portugal (EDP) responds to this sort of utopia, whose essence consists of revitalising recondite villages and filling them with plastic proposals. Cemeteries, power stations, barracks, water tanks ... are the canvases scattered throughout the country willing to contribute to a transformation that actively involves all agents.

'Mar', by Priscilla Ballarin, in São João da Ribeira

The novelty of this project lies in the fact that all the artistic proposals are previously approved in assembly by the people who live in the place. It is an example of a collaborative initiative that involves locals with creators and tends to build solid bridges of communication, so that mural art is no longer seen as the burst of a furtive artist who clandestinely wants to leave a mark on someone else's property to understand the vehicular role that a plastic work can have for an entire community.

Intervention in the dam Bemposta, by Pedro Cabrita Reis

João Pinharanda, in charge of this macro project, and with a wide trajectory in the museum sphere, recognises that the initial challenges were many. In the first place, a drastic change in the game of "who is who" in the art sector and in the redefinition of those stereotyped roles of the curator, the museum director, the artist and the visitor. All that wouldn't have worked in a proposal like this, where the key is to give the floor to the people and put the work at their service.

Wall by Samina and Alecrim on an electric unit, in Assentiz (Ribatejo)

Each area of intervention has a fairly modest budget that does not cover all the costs of the intervention, materials and artists, but the aim is to achieve collaboration from everybody and to articulate creative processes that involve the community. The commitment of the artists to the proposal is unconditional. And that of the host towns as well, who host artists during their work stays as visitors of honour. An exchange experience in which everyone learns and builds. By 2020, EDP will have reached 40 Portuguese municipalities.

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.