Monday, 10th of September
Where are you? I can hear you ask. And you are not talking about the name of the town, you already know. Why have you gone to the place where you are? Life brought me where I am, I could say. I have been invited and I decided to come. Sometimes we know we decide to go where we go and not elsewhere. We constantly decide. We mostly don’t know. Would knowing the reasons why I came tell me why I am here?
Why did people settle on this “bigger mountain, the newer”, Montemor o Novo at first? Later generations would investigate. Find historical reasons. Political reasons. Economical reasons most of the time. Strategic reasons: it would have been because of the potential of the land, because it is safe up there on the hill, you can see the surroundings, the dangers from far away. How conscious are we of our present time interpretation put on the past? How can our present movements be explained by the past? How far do explanations make us understand?
Why has Rui Horta responsible for this place for more than a decade come here? Because the convent was falling apart and the town didn’t want it to become a hotel as many monuments in this country do, to save it? To continue his choreographic work? For his children to hear his mother tongue?
Since he took up the convento da saudação it has become a major platform in the artistic landscape. For dancers and actors, also for performers, musicians, writers and more, technicians, cleaners, helpers, visitors… The following years have decided on why he had come: all those who innovate somehow their practice in Portugal have gone through Montemor, Tiago said. Tiago coordinates. He gives a structure to these two weeks, a rhythm to the different initiatives, a frame as a proposal. He gives this spirit to the morning meetings as seriously as he can turn a situation upside down, jump into a contradiction with words that then lays on his stoic face whilst all the others start to laugh. Why has he come to act the part he plays?
“The place is there for you”, for these artists who are together, Rui Horta says, smiling with green awoken eyes and it felt as if he were grateful, as if we could be part of this for a while. As if he understood the meaning why we are here now from the present.
Why have the artists come? Because they knew the place before? Because they didn’t know it? Because Portugal is a good destination in September? Because they wanted to escape where they were? Because they want to work in a different context? Because they want to question their practices? Possibly meet their peers? Because they had been dreaming to be in o espaço do tempo one day? Because they were invited and like the person that invited them? And what about those who would have wanted to be there and couldn’t come?
We need intentions to go with. They give us some indications. They let us go. Elsewhere than we thought, mostly. I can see how people hold back their expectations here, how they wish to project something new, how honestly they deal with the unknown.
Initiatives came in the morning. Projects proposed to the others, written on the wall and developed one by one. Projects arisen from present experiences and mutation to the new environment: record details, all different surfaces of the convent; imitate nature like the symbiotic relationship between the cows and the white birds seen on the meadow on the way to the farm the day before and see what we can do with this; show fragments and separations that we are and live in at all times in different layers…
Everybody went his way in association with another.
During the afternoon I crossed a group of dancers in the town garden. An old man lent me his pencil to take notes. The pencil had marks on its point: it was sharpened with a knife. Men and women sit on separated benches. They sit there as if they knew each other from school and had stories to tell when they grow old, daily stories of this town. There is an empty pavilion in the middle of the garden, in the middle of ongoing music diffused, some radio channel. People with their hats and walking sticks leaning on the bench in the shade chatting besides the music in the pavilion suddenly became witnesses of the new scene: three young dancing women and a group with recording tools. Children joined the space with their bicycles, curious about being seen; in a twinkling of an eye they were on stage, demonstrating their agility. Driven by our eyes in awe, they made a performance, climbing and jumping from the pavilion, seriously playing with their little brawny bodies, proud to be in the middle of the unknown audience they imitated and observed warily. They looked at our recordings and started again – all of the sudden took their bikes and left the place with innocence. A new story of the daily life took place in town they may tell their parents when they get home. The three young women danced and danced, trying one way, then another, stopping and starting again with a new sequence. Then they filmed. Behind the dancers the powder rose into a cloud lit by the evening sun. They laughed, packed and left. I went back to the old man with Miguel’s help. Francisco was the owner of the pencil and he told the story of his tool that he needed to mark wooden pieces; he used to make tools for the farm works. A tool’s tool became another tool’s tool so I could write to you now.
Why have the three dancing women come to the garden?
What would the people sitting on their benches have understood?
What do we understand from new sets inserted in ongoing patterns?
What does the aesthetic experience provoke?
It could initiate the question of sense.
The idea of this little abstract I saw in the garden was to make a story that starts as a documentary and suddenly changes into fiction. It is less about the narration but rather about the question behind it: how fiction is nourished by the perception of the world and how imagination could change it in return. The question is about this passage and what is does. The initial idea came from Jacinto’s experience, from his writing and reading and questioning life I guess; it would have been modified by the improvisations, by the wind that became the messenger of paper flakes they filmed.
Meanings would eventually come later.
How valid are our intentions to give our actions their meanings when the meaning comes after our actions?
From all the perceptions, thoughts and feelings I went through today I could only tell you a short page. Tomorrow I will chose another way, tell you about what I will have learned.