Fátima, José, Vicente - Residir (PT)

Artistic residency in Porto, 2021


Betina Juglair

6/24/20213 min read

The Residir project holds artistic residencies connecting art and community in the city of Porto, Portugal. The 2021 edition selected 10 artists and focused on two regions: Bonfim and Campanhã.

My approach to the residency in Campanhã was to feel the São Vicente de Paulo territory, which was a former social neighborhood. Through knowing former residents and diving into their stories and their family albums, we got to know more about the neighborhood.

Constructed in 1950’s, São Vicente de Paulo had hundreds of people living there in a very simple yet honest and affectionate way: despite the poverty, people would know each other's entire families, engage in each other’s lives in a daily and genuine matter, create nicknames, hold festivities together, celebrate grand moments like weddings and births, etc. People were close and lived like a big family, with the closeness and the disputes that came with it.

Social problems existed in the neighborhood, like poverty and substance abuse, especially with alcohol (that got worse over the decades), but the City Council started treating it as a bigger social issue than it was and used it as a pretext to demolish the whole neighborhood in 2007. In previous years, people were being evicted and forcibly relocated to other regions (sometimes really far away), weakening the friendships and social ties forged in the neighborhood. The few people that were still living close to São Vicente de Paulo watched the demolition with heavy hearts and tears in their eyes.

In 2021, in the very same month we were doing the residency, I came across with some protests from its former residents because of the approval of a new project of family housing for the very same place; but the housing wasn’t affordable at all and didn’t have the former residents as a priority. Actually, the reallocations were also strategic, since Campanhã is becoming a point of interest - due to its great access to highways, the main train station and the new bus station, but also because of the privileged view of the river.

While Porto progresses towards international recognition and tourism flourishes, the people who helped build it are left behind; there is no public interest in creating a social solution to the growing housing problem, which nowadays is reaching unsustainable levels. The territory is never neutral, and we are dealing with real people, with their stories, families, joys and bonds.

My artistic work in the residency was deeply touched by and connected to the history of São Vicente de Paulo, specially through the lives and experiences of Fátima and José, former residents. With much appreciated generosity, they shared their personal albums of their lives in the neighborhood.

Fátima’s and José’s pictures were connected with each other and to the different temporalities of the neighborhood, in which Vicente himself is also a character: ever since its construction, then when it was filled with life, until the present moment, after its demolition in 2007. The neighborhood has memory, it has stories and it has life, and the current emptiness of space is only superficial and does not correspond to a void in memory.

From the stamping of these images on fabric, there are manipulations with colors and patterns, lines connecting memories in an installation reminiscent of a clothesline. The family album is at the same time something private and a shared experience, and the pictures displayed as a part of a drying rack point to a common and domestic object.

Exhibition History: “Fátima, José, Vicente” was at CRL (Porto) at the Curva exhibition, to mark the end of the Residir program, between October 9-23, 2021. It was at the Bonjóia Athletics Cultural Center (Porto), on October 24, 2021, through the Erre Project (CRL). Finally, it was exhibited at Espaço Mira (Porto) at the event: “Archive, space and memory: conversation with Betina Juglair and Flora Paim” on December 2, 2021.

Technical Information: 14 pieces of variable sizes, 2021. Mixed media, printing of photographs on fabric, interventions through cuts, threads, fabrics, pins and needles.