Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa, 2015, Lisbon
Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa is a recent cultural project of contemporary art, based in Pombal Palace in O Século street, Lisbon, and aims to propose new curatorial directions and production of contemporary culture. It is a non-profit project with limited financial resources devoted to experimentation. This experimentation involves curatorial options that change according to the existing context and depend on the artist’s proposal, funding and its framework within the space.
Pombal Palace is a seventeenth-century building that was the official residence of the Marquis of Pombal. This building has a complex plan because it has been subjected to countless uses and tenants since its construction. It has a remarkable symbolic value since it represents the staging of the political aspirations of an enlightened man who had a political and aesthetic project for Lisbon and his country, after the 1755 earthquake.
The Palace features a rhythmic and austere facade which contrasts with its extravagant and sumptuous interior. The monumental staircases and halls are accompanied by a view of a theatrically Baroque garden. Unfortunately, the successive uses and occupations, along with its consequent fragmentation, reduced the indoor area by approximately two thirds.
The remaining space was also, over time, subject to emergency interventions in the structure, thus leaving incomplete the work of beautification on the interior, hence the feeling, when we enter the building that something hasn’t been done, a sense of ruin. It is in this fragmented and incomplete space that Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa exists since 2009. This occupation began with the introduction of electricity and water and later we started working the suitability of artistic projects to this defying space, which is a fascinating and also challenging task.
After being asked to develop a research project based on the Palace, the artists begin a negotiation process that goes beyond their personal artistic research and that involve a particular spatial reality. The palace with its history and successive layers of materials, presents challenges to the development and installation of artworks: unstable walls, uneven floors, warped windows, the dialogue between interior and exterior space, the seasonal lighting, the ceiling-height, the angles of the walls that are never regular, the humidity which interferes with electrical equipment and materials of the artworks and ultimately the marks left by previous uses of the past and works on the palace. Therefore, after the initial amazement, it’s usual to witness a crisis during the artistic process that is easily solved by a curating strategy that relies on an effective dialogue between with the artist and our team and that is essential to carry out the execution of the artwork proposed for the palace.
The palace has, in fact, a very strong presence and is of vital importance for the development and consolidation of the creative process. During the course of projects, the negotiation is diplomatic and flexible, but at the same time very demanding as the Palace requires some work method that can respond to the heritage preservation issue while developing new languages in contemporary art. The artistic residences at the Palace were born with this negotiation process and the resultant artworks make us think about the continuing challenges of inhabiting a XVII century building. In this sense, the palace is the senior curator and the curators and resident artists are its assistants.