Lara Seixo Rodrigues

Illustration by: Avgvstv.z

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes

lara seixo rodrigues muraliza lata65

Occupation: Urban Art Curator & Producer

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – Tell me about a moment in your childhood that was particularly important to you.

I don’t have any specific memory. When I think of my childhood I think of Covilhã, in the mountain, little more than that, which is already a lot, because actually I grew up in a store, in the middle of the countryside, in a bakery, going to the mountains, with my farmer grandfather, so it’s a mix with a lot of good things.

2 – Tell me about someone who has been really important to you.

The first one is my grandfather, who lived in Argentina. In the 1940s he went there alone on a ship, and the way he told these stories inspired me a lot. His moral standard is very interesting, for people to respect you, you have to respect them, and looking at the whole context of my life it’s very important to have this notion, because sometimes I forget. Another very important character was “Pippi Longstocking”, because it’s fantastic to be young and realize that there is someone like that and that she is a woman, a child and that she lived in her own way, so free from everything and all conventions.

Then I came across very interesting people, like my master of architecture, Manuel Aires Mateus, who was very important. I studied architecture just because and he taught me what this passion for architecture was, the look, feel, architecture is not just about windows and doors, my first year was spent talking in the cafe, going to the dance, plays, reading books, it was related to sensations and living space, not just being closed in a room. That is why I always say that my work as a curator and producer has a lot to do with architecture, because it has a lot to do with this way of reading everything around you that he taught me.

In this area there is an artist who once told me something that stayed with me, because I was not yet working on it 100%, it was the C215, when he was in Lisbon. He asked me to do the production of his work and one day we were going in the car and he said “Are you aware of the responsibility you have?” and I laughed and I said, “Yes, I don’t know, but let’s see”. And it’s incredible that this is something that has always been with me, the responsibility that you have when proposing things in a public space in which it will be lived, experienced and seen by hundreds of people, and you have to be aware that you are messing with their lives, that the view from someone’s window will never be the same. There is a responsibility in this, to propose things, and put artists to work with people’s lives. I never regard the things we do as mere decoration.

The humility I find in many foreign artists is incredible, something that is sometimes lacking in Portugal. Sometimes you are even afraid to bring in some artists, because you doubt if we will be at their level, etc., but then you discover that they are so humble.

I am very inspired by people. In Estarreja, in 2017, I was told about a person who made clogs. Suddenly you are with a lady, who at the age of 14 lost her father, and she started making clogs and made thousands throughout her life, a 92-year-old woman with a giant life, an amazing life story, incredible energy. Meeting people like that is extraordinary. In 2017, the person I asked Vhils to create on the wall, Dona Florinda, has a very inspiring life story. So, I am always inspired by super anonymous people who transform me.

“The city belongs to everyone and I think that this is missing from people, realizing that they own the public space, which does not mean that there is total freedom for everyone, only that it has to be mediated.”

3 – To whom do the streets of a city belong to? Do you think they belong to those who live there or who pass there?

Everyone. And what is interesting in the city is this, you who live, live in one way on this street, those who pass live in another way, those who make laws on this street have another way of seeing this street and all of that is what makes the intricate that it is the urban space. The more layers you have the better, you have spectacular neighbors, you have a neighbor who is always complaining, you have the dogs, the cats, the lady who feeds the cats on the street, this is the city, otherwise you will have a clean city for the tourist, the perfect neighborhood city, which doesn’t exist. The city belongs to everyone and I think that this is missing from people, realizing that they own the public space, which does not mean that there is total freedom for everyone, only that it has to be mediated.

It has been very interesting to work in many cities, to arrive in a city that is stagnant, where people are unaware of these various layers and we are able to correct and propose things that will help those who live there, because they have a formatted vision, and many times there is something obvious to do and someone from the outside needs to come and propose it, and I find it very interesting. We, in Portugal, have a lot of stigma and prejudice in relation to those from the South who are going to work in the North and vice versa, and this is something that hurts us. There is a lot of our small neighborhood culture, why do these artists and not the artists from each city, or why do we call foreigners and we don’t work only with Portuguese people. I think now people have started to understand this more, but the interesting thing is to mix it all up

4 – How can we use your wisdom from the elderly? What have you learned the most from them through your “Lata 65” project?

I have learned a lot in fact, on a human level. One of the reasons why I make Lata 65 has to do with precisely this, when we finish the workshop we feel that there is a big interest, that there they learned and you end up really happy, that you gave and received a lot, and sometimes you did not give as much and you receive, because it’s an age group that has very little attention, care, few activities directed at them and spaces to be creative. With children it was the opposite, I always felt that I was wasting time, you are trying to motivate them and most, with some exceptions, are not interested, they think they already know everything, and with the elderly it’s the opposite, they are thirsty for learning and for discovery of themselves. It’s a generation where there is curiosity, something I don’t see in today’s children, they think they already know everything.

I have learned to work with 80-year-olds who are still young. We talk a lot, because the workshop is based on talking and listening and you hear a lot of life stories, ugly things and you learn all that.

5 – Since Covilhã is a city connected to the textile industry in a very intense way, at least a few years ago, do you think it influenced you to create the projects you created?

 

In addition to being from Covilhã, I’m from the mountain and that has a great influence on my way of being, as well as being from the countryside. The fact of having grown up in the countryside, of all the limitations that you have at all levels, cultural, school, experience, music, everything, increases curiosity, wanting to know and discover more. It’s impossible to say that I can separate my way of working and seeing the world with what I am. Obviously, getting out of there, traveling, being here and realizing what is good and bad about being outside transforms you every day in your way of looking at a particular territory you are working on.

At Wool and the other things we organized there, we are inspired by the importance that Covilhã once had in history and that it does not have today. It’s frustrating for us, it’s frustrating to continue doing a project that we have a clear sense of the importance it has, with governmental institutions on our side thinking that it’s very important, large, medium-sized local companies that do know the contribution that the festival gives the city, because what we do is work for the city, promote the city, in the territory and outside of it, because it is the promotion that we manage to do, but it’s frustrating when every year it’s a struggle to get funding, but it was always like that, it would be great that it changed. This motivates us, because we designed a project that takes a lot out of it, honoring it and it was the first project that I was involved in, and in fact it has been a little bit the mold and perhaps the only thing that I will repeat in the various places, and that in fact is always different, which is to honor, to honor the known, the unknown, everything. Through art you can tell the history of the city, the daily life, the legends, popular sayings, everything.

6 – How can urban art reduce the difference between human beings? Like the example of Setúbal, Bairro da Bela Vista that with the dynamism created through urban art had many people visiting.

 

I think urban art is a very powerful tool for transformation at various levels. It arrives with great naturalness and ease to anyone and any social strata, anyone can go on the street, look and feel interested in knowing more or not, there is no boundary like entering a gallery and trying to perceive the object. The interesting thing about urban art is that the artist can even do that with a purpose and history behind it, but you can read something completely different and be valid in the same way. We must not forget that, mainly two years ago, there was a boom in festivals and mainly urban art in Portugal is a fashion and is considered a decoration. Then, when you enter a territory that is a social neighborhood, it has to be worked on differently. What happened in Bela Vista in Setúbal is what happens in many other neighborhoods and what also happens is good and bad. You have many social neighborhoods where you only put artists to paint there to bring a new image to the neighborhood, but then you don’t work the people who live there, you don’t work with that community. Unfortunately, there are many examples of these. I haven’t been to Bela Vista, so I can’t talk about this case.

In the projects we have, we always try to make this relationship and work in several ways. Only the artist’s contact with the community creates relationships and then it has to do with the choice of artists, there are some who don’t know how to deal with people, so we don’t put them to work in a social neighborhood.

Sometimes when people see these cases, such as Bela Vista, they are curious to go there and forget that it is a social neighborhood, they stop thinking that it may or may not be dangerous, therefore, you can break many prejudices that exist. Lata 65 has a lot to do with this, with the prejudice of old people not going out on the street, not knowing how to paint or use tools. We have shown that this is not the case and that prejudices are really only in people’s minds. Urban art has this capacity for social, cultural, economic, tourist transformation, etc.

 

“On social media, photos are often shared without the artist’s name, whereas the rest of the structure, promoter, organizer, etc., never exist. There is a lot of information that is lost here, people are not even interested, but they should be. When the artist is going to do his work there is already a great work done behind the scenes and the credits have to be given to the entire structure that makes this possible. Urban art for me is to work in public space, to go there and see.”

7 – To what extent has the digital world changed our awareness of urban art? Through the digital world, instagram becomes a gallery on your mobile phone. Do you think it transformed urban art itself?

 

I think that more than anything else it transformed the way of promoting an artist, meaning that the artist no longer needs to belong to a gallery or an association to promote himself, he has his own networks and he promotes himself in them, and there are several artists who do this very well and who promote themselves like this. This changed all the dynamics that existed in the market. When the artist manages to promote himself directly for sale or commissions, there are structures that also have to be transformed. I think that the artist doesn’t have to be a blogger, or youtuber, or commercial, meaning that you have several artists that are very good, but they get lost in this endless number of characters that a structure has. It doesn’t have to be the artist thinking about what I’m going to post today on social media, negotiating this, replying to emails, etc., but many artists live in the illusion that they can do everything. What happens in reality is that many possibilities pass by because you don’t even waste time with them. What I know the most are artists who don’t even reply to emails because they think “oh, this doesn’t matter”, but maybe it’s the thing that matters the most. That is why it’s important to have structures behind that do this job and that have the functions and availability to analyze everything that comes to you and choose which will be the best path and projects, and in that way the social networks have changed a lot of things.

The perception of urban art was mediated, fashion comes from there, from Instagram, for example, but this is actually nothing, you don’t feel, you don’t go to the place and you don’t understand the scale of the thing. I think people live in a lie. I’m always an apologist for going there to see, obviously you cannot go everywhere, but whenever possible I like to see to understand, and since it’s my environment, because I am an architect, I am aware of the dimensions of everything, something that other people are probably not.

On social media, photos are often shared without the artist’s name, whereas the rest of the structure, promoter, organizer, etc., never exist. There is a lot of information that is lost here, people are not even interested, but they should be. When the artist is going to do his work there is already a great work done behind the scenes and the credits have to be given to the entire structure that makes this possible. Urban art for me is to work in public space, to go there and see.

8 – What is the Portuguese urban art for you, how can it be defined and characterized?

 

I don’t think you can do that. There are artists who manage to pour that in their work and Diogo Machado/Add Fuel is clearly anexample. You have other artists who do it in a subtle way, like Mário Belém, the way he works with popular sayings and human figures, they have a lot of Portuguese identity, but in general it’s impossible to say “oh yes, this artist is Portuguese”. I am now remembering Mário Belém when he went to Paris, he made a Portuguese expression, but written in French. I know he is Portuguese, but maybe whoever goes there will think he’s French because that is written in French. In the same way that I look at many international artists and I can’t say it either. For example, now we are working with a Spaniard and I would say he is from Miami and he is not. We are living in a very universal world and urban art is a very universal movement, so it’s almost impossible to do that.

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