Faces of EXD’11: Biennale Team

The Faces of EXD’11 feature spotlighted people related to the biennale throughout its duration. For the final week, we enquired the biennale team about their views and experience of EXD’11.

What brings you to Lisbon?

MC: I’ve been living in Lisbon for 4 years and applied to be an exhibition assistant here after being told about EXD’11 and the call for volunteers. So I was working in MUDE, assembling the Useless? exhibition, when Vera [Sachetti] invited me to be the international communication assistant after she saw my work in blogging and social media. I did both jobs until the biennale started, then permanently moved to the communication department.

SoB: I was born in Lisbon and have always lived here. I ended up in (experimenta) in 2008, after being invited by Rui Otero, Carla Cardoso and Tiago Baptista at the opening night of a project of theirs, a lost house.

MR: I was in Lisbon already, I was working at a design group when I realised it wasn’t the type of agency or work I wanted to be involved in. I was looking for something new  when the opportunity to work at (experimenta) came up, in February 2003, and stayed after an interview with Guta [Moura Guedes] and Pedro Gadanho.

LS: I came to Lisbon for (experimenta), I’d just closed my design company in Caldas [da Rainha], CalDesign, and received an invitation from Carla [Cardoso], who knew about my situation and experience in this type of work.

AA: After being born in Angola, I moved to Lisbon in 1977. When I was told (experimenta) was hiring and sent my application, I received a call from Sara [Battesti] to come to an interview with Sara [Battesti] and Rute [Paredes], and started working here in March 2011.

How has your experience of the biennale been?

TS: My experience was very positive. I was used to working under pressure, coming from the Estoril Film Festival, so that didn’t scare me, but the fact that I didn’t know the team did, but the experience of the biennale brought me really close to the team. It’s great to end of the opening week feeling you wouldn’t do anything differently, you gave your all.

AP: I knew about the biennale and participated as a visitor in previous editions. I did workshops, conferences, went to the exhibitions and this year I didn’t do any of that. My exhibition, Useless?, was also the last to open which caused me to miss out on a lot. What I learnt in the biennale was that I work very well under pressure, and it was a lot of pressure indeed. Maybe I could have done better, but I feel as if I’ve fulfilled and I loved the experience, it was great.

VS: I really enjoyed the experience as a whole, it was great to meet the team and the best part about coming to Portugal and EXD’11 was that I made new friends and learnt a lot as an individual. Being in the communication department felt very different to the production department, everyone was really hard at work in the office during the pre-biennale period, and suddenly there was no one there, they were all out preparing the exhibitions. I enjoyed coming to work was on Saturday mornings (since there were no weekends or holidays for us) and do something new like seeing the venue for Fernando Brízio’s exhibition – it was great to actually see it coming to life, it wasn’t just happening in my head and email inbox.

LF: I always compare this year’s experience to the last, as I only had two [editions]. The difference is for the first biennale [in 2009], I felt more expectation and adrenaline, there were a lot of problems that are no longer problems today – how to use the server, who does what, the internal organogram and people’s different approaches to work, which can all be challenging at first. I wanted to do things and prove myself [last time], and this year I felt I lacked that novelty. Even though everything is easier now, the work we’ve done weighed on me to date – maybe because of all of the problems that the exhibition (Fernando Brízio: Inhabited Designs) faced, but my evaluation of events is still a blur.

SoB: I participated in the same editions as Luís [Ferreira], and in the first everything was new and exciting too, I felt this at cruise speed, we’d go on and on and on until everything was done. I also found last time’s project, Quick Quick, Slow, more engaging – it was a bigger project, with more details, and I was so into it I think I still have all of the contents in my head today. This year there were also a lot of last minute changes to the team, the programme, the venues, so we never knew what would happen the next day, which is normal but can really wear you out. One of the best things about this association is the good team environment, very positive and solidary, with lots of cool people coming in and out, and that gives us an immense joy at work.

AA: I enjoyed working in a project of this dimension for the first time, with so many different people from different areas of expertise, I learnt a lot and gained so much baggage. Most of all, it provided us with an opportunity to meet people from other countries that live and do things differently and sometimes don’t live up to your expectations, and other times exceed them. Withall, preparing contents for exhibitions for so long and finally seeing the end result, even though I didn’t directly partake in the assembly process I felt as if it was mine, this was what we’d been working for. As a press officer, I wish I could’ve done more interviews with people that could’ve been interesting, but there was only so much we could do with everyone arriving at the same time and the opening week excitement. And, of course, the team work, the lunches and dinners at the office, everything about the process was good.

SaB: Internally, the biennale has an incredible logic that is when you’re producing original contents, you’re always discovering, it has a great advantage in which every member of the team is articulated, it’s very strong team work. The daily experience is one of learning, enrichment and cooperative work, which makes the committal, the dedication, the way in which we embrace challenges very peculiar. With the human resources at the base of the creation of an event with this array of contents, we create an impressive affinity and a cooperation, that makes the biennale a very singular and humanised experience, besides the reflective aspect in which we are involved through the whole process of generating contents. The biennale has a very expressive power to make each of us feel it as your own, which leads us to commit further.

What would you say is your EXD’11 highlight?

MR: I can’t pinpoint a highlight, as I was mostly here [in the office] but in the opening week I’d go out to see how it was going. I work in communication, we’re very close to the production department, plus this year’s Utilitas [Interrupta exhibition] was produced very close to us, with Elian [Stefa] here, but our perception is of a puzzle, and we acknowledge the contents in the form of a mixed puzzle, so the highlight is when you arrive and understand that those pieces you’d seen were assembled, and organised that way. It’s not questioning how things happened, because we were always conscious of the contents, but seeing them make sense and create a bigger picture.

TS: I didn’t attend a single opening. Like Marco [Reixa], I was always here, working in the back office and supporting everyone – even if I didn’t know what they were talking about, I needed to find out. So for me, the highlight was the Opening Week’s Saturday, when the last exhibition had opened, and the producers were as relieved as I am. The only thing I had to do was organise the list and receive the guests for the dinner party at the Town Hall, which turned out to be the most chaotic day for me, and the Opening Week Party.

SoB: Mine was the global visit of the biennale with Hans-Ulrich Obrist; he wanted to see everything and in three hours we managed to go through the four main exhibitions, in which he saw the contents, read the descriptions and took notes of everything, we then went to a designer’s workshop, he gave interviews and finally attended the Town Hall dinner party.

How would you define “useless”?

TS: I don’t believe in the concept of “useless” as people perceive it, nothing is completely useless – even useless things can be used as a terrible example.

NL: The best answer to the briefing was [Joseph] Grima’s exhibition, Utilitas Interrupta, they are really useless – structures that were never used, failed projects due to lack of investors, those are the best examples we can find of uselessness. Other than that, it’s hard for us to find uselessness in things, even staying home doing nothing has its purpose.

MC: Uselessness is a very fluid subject. Personally, I am somewhat prone to collecting myriad era objects, to which I found use for, if anything, in emotional attachment – but after reflecting on the subject, I found myself limiting my collections to objects I could use daily. So I have to say, personal as it may be, the theme of USELESS makes us rethink our outlook on objects’ value in a modern society, in our own way.