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Interview with André Sousa and Mauro Cerqueira, members of Uma Certa Falta de Coerência

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La belle revue —» Could you describe in what context was created A Certain Lack of Coherence and why, according to the situation of Porto art scene, did you decide to get involved in that space?

Uma Certa Falta de Coerência —»  Uma Certa Falta de Coerência (A Certain Lack of Coherence) opened in early 2008. Back then, Porto's centre was far from being a major touristic attraction. The location is a very ruined shop in Rua dos Caldeireiros, 77. The space is made of five rooms that flow, one after the other, in a very organic way. No wall is straight, no texture is slick or homogeneous. The smell and temperature are not much different than a cave where someone tried once to live. These characteristics were decisive for the origin of the project, to reveal the state of the city, and allow artists to challenge, and be challenged by such a space. At the time, several of the city artist-run spaces had just closed down. With the same spontaneity that one can bring an end to projects like this, we've decided to open a new one.

The project was named after a book by Jimmie Durham where one can find the text "Artists must begin helping themselves".

Uma Certa Falta de Coerência is an artist run, non-commercial gallery and non-funded project. Our project has neither legal identity, nor record in the States' paper. We are not a registered association, we have neither bank account, nor fiscal number and we have no contract with the landlord or collaborators.

We are aware that this project exists in the continuity of an artist-run spaces history, not only in the the city, but also internationally.

L.B.R—» Would you agree that there has been a revival of the “artist-run spaces” (which is definitively not a new concept) all over the world those past ten years? I believe their activities are mandatory to revive an art scene, and put a geographical place back on the map. How would you apply this thought to a city like Porto mostly known in the art world for the Serralves Foundation?

U.C.F.C—» There is no revival at all. There is more information circulating and we are much more aware of the amount of artist-run spaces (in their very different shapes and scales, geographies and economies). It is true that certain projects can be highly inspirational for coming projects. It is also possible that nowadays there are more artist-run spaces in the world than ever, but so there is more everything.

If one takes the artist-run initiatives as a cool revival, a trend or a way to bring focus into a place, then its thinking is wrong. There might be many reasons to bring up a project, as there are attitudes and ways to run it. We believe, and expect, that artist run initiatives happen because of a need among its actors and the community. Very often, it all happens in a very closed circuit and artists, producers and public are the same people. It is all about the real spot, not about the spot in the map. This is the way an art scene starts to exist, or easily extinguishes.

It is not the single presence of an institution in a place that produces an art scene. Just because there is an artist run space does not mean the art scene is more interesting. The thing, or the scene, or the city, has to have multiple layers and actors otherwise it is just a poor city...or scene, or thing.

L.B.R—» How would you describe Porto’s art scene compared to Lisbon?

U.C.F.C—»Take the New York and Los Angeles scenes as an example and transpose it to the Portuguese scale (laugh).  We just don't know which city corresponds to Porto or Lisbon.

There are wide open channels between the two cities and we don't believe in closed art scenes. It has more to do with one’s network, and so for Uma Certa Falta de Coerência, "its scene" is partially overlapped with "the scene" of many other cities.

At the same, when comparing artistic productions and social relations between the two cities, one can also find walls and cleavages − politics and aesthetics, economics and bureaucracy, Lisbon is sunny and bright, Porto is cloudy and rainy, but this means little. Or not. Lisbon is paved with "calçada portuguesa" which is decorated and can be very slippery. Porto's main texture is granite, a rough stone that produces friction and easily wears out the best shoe´s sole. Palaces and wide streets are also more common in Lisbon. Yes, it is possible that these characteristics shape those living there, and the way they relate.

L.B.R—» What major changes did you perceive in Porto those past ten years? How does this affect the way artist do art and the public see art there?

U.C.F.C—» All changes in ten years.

After 2001, the city faced twelve years of an anti-cultural investment from the City Hall. The following Mayor, with a low budget and better design, managed to bring a much more dynamic attitude to the city − here's a tribute to Paulo Cunha e Silva (1962-2015), deputy for culture.

Another major change came from abroad as Porto became a hot destination for tourists. The once empty and depressed old city center became packed with hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants and gourmet shops − closing many local and traditional shops. Some praise this new lively city, and some feel sad, as knowing that a change was urgent, the "Harry Potter meets Port wine" theme park was not the best solution. Gentrification is taking place and we took part of it. Much has changed since we open at Rua dos Caldeireiros − neighbors, business and street pavement.

Among the many tourists we find some who, knowing nothing before, don't fear to enter our gallery space. Some engage with curiosity. We have no stats' records but the number of visitors might have not changed. We didn't dare to start taxing entrance or raising prices.

Porto is now branded as "cool", and young people is settling in Porto, or at least, not wishing madly to leave. But the city is wider than its center and you can still find depressed areas.

All this affects the artistic production, but in which way, we will only realize this later.

L.B.R—» Why, as individual artists, did you choose to stay in Porto?

U.C.F.C—» There is such a sense of belonging that makes "the choice" not a choice, that it comes with no need to justification. In the same way when one chooses a big city to live, no one asks for a justification. The possibility of existing places where the presence of an artist is taken as weird or in need for justification is scary. Often, the "why not?" is more interesting than the "Why?".

—» Porto

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