Escola ao lado |
School next door, 2018
50 Golborne Gallery, London

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When the artistic gesture becomes vernacular gesture

The notions of nativeness and domesticity, spontaneity and belonging, necessity and sharing are intrinsic to the vernacular. At a junction in which the future and the speculative occupy central places in contemporary thought, Rita GT focuses on a vernacular present built not only upon ideals of proximity, neighbourliness, urgency and priority, but also on a location that does not fit into a global-ness that is weakened by excessively broad categories: north, south, east, west, centre and periphery. The absence of an aesthetical orthodoxy and the urgencies of the everyday (dis)orient Escola ao Lado [School Next Door]. The Portuguese artist’s itinerant school and exhibition is shown for the first time in London with Learning from Golborne, a lesson that reflects on, and with, the Portuguese migrant community living in that area of the city.
Recent years have been marked by a boom in the discourse about migratory phenomena, the so-called refugee crisis and the emergence of new migration typologies, notably in the arts, in academia and in the media. However, in this exhibition, Rita GT examines what she has learned about migrations from Golborne. In Golborne, a London street near renowned Portobello Road market, live a relatively large community of Portuguese emigrants. The older members of this community had left the country during the so-called (in Portugal) colonial war to avoid being drafted or to escape the dictatorial fascist regime known as Estado Novo (New State). 

Migration and escape
The colonial war is an historical episode that left one of the deepest imprints in Portugal’s recent past. The conflict, opposing the Portuguese state and independence movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, began in 1961 and raged across these three different theatres of war until 1974. Because of its impact on the lives of the Portuguese, the colonial war was, in and of itself, the main cause of the so-called Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, which brought an end to the authoritarian fascist regime that ruled in Portugal and fed the defence of its sovereignty over overseas territories.  
The regime, led by António de Oliveira Salazar, turned Portugal into a place where it was difficult to live. The hyper-conservative society promoted by Salazar and his propaganda machine was watched over by the political police – PIDE–, the media were subject to censorship and young Portuguese forced to leave the country to fight in Africa. At the same time, most of the adult Portuguese population was illiterate or had but the lowest education level, in line with a policy that was part and parcel of the regime’s control apparatus. 
The few who had access to school were faced with a crystallised institution fully controlled by the regime. School manuals included, for instance, The Lessons of Salazar – illustrations synthesising the ideological triad God, Fatherland and Family. These remain as unfinished episodes of recent Portuguese history, which are crucially important to think contemporary migratory phenomena, both involving the Portuguese and occurring in Portugal. 

The work of gender 
The various works that constitute the first lesson of Escola ao Lado are the result of the (un) disciplined methodology that intersects practices and knowledges, and of an apprenticeship ensuing from GT’s stay in Golborne Road. For the most part, this stay was spent sitting at a table at Café Lisboa, learning through conversation and through the stories she heard. These conversations were complemented by other methods of investigation, both plastic and involving historiographic revision and demographic research. 
While today Portugal is already (also) a country that receives emigrants, in the 1960s-70s it mostly witnessed the departure of its populations in search of better living conditions. Given the low educational level of the Portuguese, men worked mostly in construction or as unskilled workers, while the women, whose access to school was even more limited, did menial work in private homes or in the hotel industry. 
Precisely transversal to Rita GT’s work are gender (discrimination) issues, which emerge in the first lesson of Escola ao Lado. In the series of photo-performances that she carried out in Golborne Road, the artist puts on an overall which reads ‘Mulher a dias [Journey woman]’. ‘Mulher a dias’ is colloquial Portuguese expression referring to a woman in charge of domestic services (tasks that are always and only performed by women) in private homes and is paid by the hour or by the day without the right to any type of labour contract or bond. Made worse by gender, the precariousness of this situation is exposed by the artist and feminist. 

The pedagogical drive in contemporary art 
The educational installation or predisposition in (contemporary) art is neither new nor original. Numerous artists have already addressed this pedagogical drive resorting to various strategies and approaches, from radical pedagogy to anti-schooling activism. Aside from the fact that, in its association with the concept of originality, the new is an irrelevant characteristic in contemporary art, the school institution still plays a fundamental role in social and cultural structure. In this context, to insist on artistic pedagogy is still relevant in the domain of ethically oriented artistic production. 

In Escola ao Lado, each lesson corresponds to a different exhibition-installation prepared according to different processes, based on dialogues and apprenticeships of the artist with the communities in the vicinity of the itinerant school’s location – the vernacular present of peripheral zones. The various valences of the school– performative, expositive, interventional, recreational – are ransomed into an horizontal structure of participation. In this sense, the positions of pupils and teachers may alternate in order to avoid generating fixed hierarchies in the production of knowledge, steering clear of the rigidity of enunciating subjects and the reproduction of themes. 
Sou um instrumento (poros sintomáticos) [I am an instrument (symptomatic pores)], a performance by Rita GT with Nigerian singer and composer Keziah Jones, is an example of that. In itself, the title is ambiguous. While on the one hand I am an instrument may point to the instrumentalization of subjects by authoritarian forces (for instance), on the other, it contains in itself a counter-discursive potency, everyone’s ability to be a subversive instrument. In this performance, both GT and Jones dress clothes made of sound speakers from which the artists’ textual and musical compositions are projected live. The tiny perforations on the speakers are reminiscent of pores, whose secretions, although beyond our control, are essential to maintain the balance of the human body. The clothing used in the performance will be part of the exhibition, along with the resulting sound. 

Itinerant collaboration  
This school echoes with many voices. Aside from a programme of informal talks with George Shire and Yvette Greslé, the work Laringite – Vozes Invisíveis [Laryngitis – invisible voices], developed in collaboration with João Gigante, records the voices and stories of Portuguese emigrants residing in Golborne. Many of these voices are imperceptible; like disembodied tongues, these voices find shelter inside ceramic larynxes and tracheas. The larynx and the trachea, among other functions protect the vocal chords and the airway that allow us to have a voice. Therefore, the tables of Escola ao Lado (whose first version was designed in collaboration with Miguel Dias Coutinho) are occupied by voice shelters. 
In Portugal, the school is still one of the most problematic institutions in its relationship with, and description of, the country’s colonial past. The same is true of migratory phenomena. Several activists and researchers, such as Joacine Katar Moreira or Mamadou Ba, have drawn attention to the need of an urgent intervention in Portuguese school programmes so that the nature of the colonial past might be recognised in its aspects of violence and slavery. At the same time, migratory flows are approached from a simplistic standpoint, i.e., from geographic coordinates or empirical data that exclude systemic issues such as racism, xenophobia or sexism. It is necessary to rethink the school, to find alternative formats and to localize it at the very same time that it becomes itinerant. 
After London, Escola ao lado will travel to Viana do Castelo, GT’s hometown, and to Luanda, where the artist lived from 2012 to 2015, keeping the reflections on migration as a palimpsest, which will be the core of the entire process, each lesson preserving something of the previous lesson. The generated knowledge will be in itinerancy with the school, which will be reconstructed and adapted at each location. The performance-gestures and activism-actions of Rita GT will also engage with many places, so as to learn from them. With Rita GT we know that the artistic gesture is also vernacular. 
Ana Cristina Cachola 
March 2018 

OYINBO, 2017
Iwaya Community Art Festival (ICAF)
Lagos, Nigeria 
Artistic Residency


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“Regardless of where many of us believe we land - in that field encumbered by not too much baggage or entirely too much - we all come from the same place, which is a road rutted by experience so banal, nearly remarkable, that memory tricks us into remembrance of it again and again, as if experience alone were not enough. What are we to do with such a life, one in which we are not left alone to events - love, shopping, and so forth - but to the holocaust of feeling that memory, misremembered or not, imposes on us?” 
― Hilton Als, White Girls

A video-performance made in Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront Community, one of the largest low-income communities of Lagos, Nigeria. This community comprises of settlements on land and lagoon with diverse population of Egun, Ilaje, Ijaw and Yoruba extractions. Its economic structure revolves around the use of water predominantly for fishing, wood logging and boat making.
Armed with two megaphones with a looping spiel, as a street vendor, the artist runs the dirt roads. Dressing in white, evoking purity, embodying a saviour position, this body shouts and proclaims in Yoruba the possession of all kinds of medicinal plants for all kinds of healing. The artist walks under a soil made of layers and layers of information, history, traversing centuries of colonial past made of pain and suffering. 
The woman's body, white, Portuguese therefore privileged, shows itself in a place of exhibition and facilitation, bringing the discussion of a colonial legacy that does not obliterate racism and slavery. Through her passage, Oyinbo (Nigerian Pidgin, Igbo and Yoruba to refer to caucasians) is the world shout it at her.
RitaGT
​2017

Return to Earth (I'm a Blackstar), 2017
Solo Exhibition. Performance. Porto. 

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Return to Earth

Return to Earth evokes a return to earth in every way: to return to the land where I grew up and I graduated, a constant return to the earth that makes me feel good and happy, that inspires me, but also a return to the earth more conceptual or spiritual, Where the awareness of the use of Clay and elements of the earth becomes essential at this stage of my artistic study; A return to the center of the earth, the core, the essential.
Also essential in my artistic practice is the evocation and thinking of collective work, where a group of people creates something in a confluence of energies and intentions.
This project, like the previous ones, summarizes in a certain way an ongoing journey, the various places by which I transit, as well as, the marks that continue to build me as a woman, mother and creative.
I do not care to talk about the places themselves, but about the journey and space between places and memories.
RitaGT 2017
   

EU em Angola, 2017
Instituto Camões de Luanda

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Eurwanza
   
Eurwanza portrays a fictional love story between Miss. Rita and Mister. Macuta. Rita travelled from Portugal to Angola in 1860, where she met Mr. Macuta, who had just arrived in Luanda from Lunda Norte in the far interior. They fell in love and, against the will of many, married and had a child - the Eurwanza. Eurwanza was a well-placed “mulatto”. He became a successful man, warrior, intellectual, and artist. He had five wives, three black Benguela and two white, one South African and one Portuguese. They all lived on a large farm in Kwanza Sul and had ten servants trained in the art of serving. Eurwanza became soba of the region and famous in those times and named one of the first notes of the country after him, unknown by many but mentioned in several stories. The true struggle of Eurwanza was a struggle of love, abolition of slavery and racism, so he dreamed of having many children and living in a large community that works in cooperation and racial harmony.
Thus formed a large community with followers from around the world and especially from Europe and Angola. Its successors, travellers and open-minded people, have spread the heritage of the love and art of Eurwanza through all the lands in which they have gone on to live. This community lived under its own rules, its own freedom and rights, and used a single currency of exchange: The Eurwanza.
This coin symbolises respect among human beings, whether white, black or mestizos. In a year unknown to date, a major malaria epidemic killed almost all the members of the Eurwanza community. Bitter years of war and prejudices have passed between people. Until finally a descendant of Eurwanza appeared in Luanda, telling the story that had become a legend from far away.
In January 2017 during the increasing financial crisis, Eurwanza was declared a currency that strengthens “political dialogues and develops more active political cooperation within a transparent currency framework that defines a set of principles, objectives and modalities that will govern relations between Angola and Europe.”
RitaGT
2017
   

Give us pause #actions on a global flatness, 2016
Conexões femininas exhibiton at Banco Económico, Luanda

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Gives Us Pause #There Is No Meaning If The Meaning Is Not Shared

Where do we belong? This is one of the questions that many of us keep asking ourselves. Us that keep experiencing and learning what are the territories that are kept alive in our hearts and constantly asked where are we from? What does exactly mean belonging to a place? 
Does it really exist in a world that insists in flatting itself by the power of globalization? 
The art project Give us pause #actions on a global flatness (2016) by the Rita GT, forces us to reflect on these interrogations by approaching the in-between’s concept. A project that summarizes an on-going journey, whereas the several places that she transits, as well as, the marks that keep building herself as a women, a mother and a creative rest. Nevertheless GT does not tell us about the places itself but about the journey and a space that bridges places and memories. Francine Sterle affirmed, that what she saw depended were she where, in this context, so what builds them and how we deal with the feelings and definitions of where we should belong too? The multilayers that underneath this issue offered by GT´s project can be also correlated with the simple fact of survival, a real human necessity that somehow in today´s times has intensified by the need to subsist in an exotic capitalist society. Additionally, this context intensifies if we add the condition of being a female artist in a capitalist market that is clearly a patriarchal system, as Micol Hebron argued in the article “Tallying art world inequality”.
 
In this project Give us pause #actions on a global flatness consists of an art installation composed by a perfomative video #building healing processes and various photographs that resulted from GT’s performance made in Viana do Castelo (Portugal) and #yemaya power a set of several Jerricans that lay on a colossal wallpaper in which GT imprinted a long statement about the issues of belonging in a globalised reality. The first, a video-performance #building healing processes, where Rita GT is followed by a group of traditional Portuguese drum players in a procession inside of an abandoned warehouse in which the sound loudly reverberates in an empty space. Marked by the repetitive sound rhythm the artist carefully builds on the top of wood pallets a significant pile of dried ceramic bricks to later jump from an industrial forklift and unmerciful destroy it. In this performance we could take the drum players and the contagious noise as the multiple influences that surround us from birth to death, which somehow can impede or induce us to take an action to reclaim ourselves from the so called ‘global multicultural mainstream’. Here GT simultaneously embraces and accepts her multicultural and individual heritage influences in her life and work, that can be perceived by the subtle chosen of objects that play a key role in this performance, as is the red terracotta gourd belt inspired on women from the cultural group Bena-Lulua [Bena-Lulwa, Angola] on the top of a sterile white jumpsuit that she carries in her waist throughout all performance action. The presence of women is also manifested in the 20 porcelain Jerricans´s installation titled #yemaya power by its designation but also by the objects, materials and connotations associated with the modes of production and use of the object itself. The title of this ceramic’s series, originally comes from the Yoruba deity's beliefs, yemaya means today Goddess/mother of the oceans, nevertheless used to be a river goddess of the Ife religion in Nigeria; but when her people were hoarded onto the slaves ships to the Americas, this goddess also follow them across the oceans, becoming also known as Ymoga, Iamanga and Balianne.
Inês Valle
2016

   

We Shall Overcome!
    

There are words that mark historic moments and echo them through new times, whenever they are evoked. They are words that are joined together with simplicity, creating short phrases that take on their own aura. Each time the meaning of these messages is called on; it is because there is a path to be carved out. To change the present and carve out new directions in the future we need to understand and learn from the past – these are the temporal bridges that make it possible to go forward over turbulent waters when it no longer seems possible to reach the other side.
 
We Shall Overcome! is an internationally recognised message that originated in a late-nineteenth century gospel hymn, ‘I Will Overcome Someday’. In 1948, the hymn was adapted by the North American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who published the protest song ‘We Will Overcome’. The song became widely known in the 1950s and, at the end of the decade, was appropriated by the civil rights movement in North America, becoming the anthem of this movement during the 1960s, with the title ‘We Shall Overcome’. The slogan was used during the Selma to Montgomery marches in March 1965; sung by Robert F Kennedy in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle; spoken by Martin Luther King in his last speech before being assassinated, in 1968, and then chanted by more than 50,000 people at his funeral; adapted to the Czech language during the Velvet Revolution in Prague and shouted by thousands of people in Wenceslas Square; and adopted in India in countless situations. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen are just some of those who have produced versions of this anthem.
 
Rita GT has appropriated the title of this historic song – the anthem of the struggle for freedom of expression, for equal social and racial rights, of pro-democracy movements throughout the world – in order to give it a new spatial and temporal dimension. Fifty years after Selma, in a museum, We Shall Overcome! finds a new form of artistic creation with Rita GT’s solo show, part of the ‘Echoes on the Wall’ programme dedicated to Portuguese artists based in other countries. Living in Angola since early 2012, Rita GT has confronted issues such as the supposed crisis generated by the fall in oil prices, the kumbu (money) dictatorship, being pula (white) or latona (mixed-race), being bumbo or not bumbo (black), issues which generate social tension. In the rest of the world, we are witnessing mass illegal migration, a rampant increase in refugee numbers, human trafficking and mass deaths. Everywhere there is a bubbling sense of discontent, injustice, of the duping of democracy by subversive tyrannies that undermine and dominate the intricacies of society, politics and economy. There is a reactivating of social drives that, in the words of the artist, ‘contaminate evolution, peace and above all Love’.
 
The conceptual project presented by Rita GT begins with the physical act of constructing the piece for the MNAC atrium, presented as a performance. This time, everything unfolds after the start of the opening event at Rua Serpa Pinto, in front of an empty wall that still holds part of the echo by Ana Cardoso, the previous artist in this series of exhibitions. During this part of the performance – which in a sense is the result of a consensual act of anthropophagy – a group of people, wearing overalls made of patterned African fabric designed by the artist, enter the museum carrying brooms and buckets of wallpaper paste. In front of the guests, the group will unroll rolls of wallpaper and cover the wall with a geometric pattern (also designed by Rita GT), a provocative interplay of positive and negative, of Greek or square crosses in white, and hooked crosses or swastikas created by the gaps on the black background. In the meantime, the Nigerian musician Keziah Jones will make a musical intervention marking the rhythm of the work.
His voice will emphasize the slogan for a group of dancers that move around outside and within the museum, to a marching rhythm, in a Japanese style, in a simple choreography of strong and repetitive gestures, evoking the freedom of expression of the body, of movement, of the very overcoming of our own selves: To Fall/ To Raise/ To Fall/ To Raise/ To Fall/ To Raise.
The artist will take part in hanging the wallpaper and, using spray paint, will draw signs linked to the concept of the slogan that echoes around MNAC. Once the performance is finished, the overalls will be hung on the wall. The video recording of the performance will be available in the exhibition space and online from the next day.
 
Thus, various aspects of the use of these words of struggle and protest are evoked, in a multidisciplinary action: music and the power of words, as they resonate within those who speak them out loud; the link established by the African fabric with black and women’s rights; the act of marching and the principle of peaceful protest; the power of the group in the importance of the struggle for rights that have been denied; the fight against entropy, cohesion through the repetition of movements and the semiotic dimension; the idea of resistance, of not giving in and having the capacity to overcome; the importance of artistic interpretation and of what should be perpetuated. As Robert Rauschenberg said with respect to ‘Signs’, his landmark work about 1960s America: ‘[The] Danger lies in forgetting’.
 
Adelaide Ginga
​curator 
    

Kalunga (on chokwe studies), 2015
(detail)
Red clay and rope
50 x 40 cm each
   

A.I.R
rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda
rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda
rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda

Axiluanda, 2014
 05'32''
In collaboration with Companhia de
Dança Contemporânea de Angola
 
   
    

Faces (Caras não Caras), 2014
Solo Exhibition at Instituto Camões,
Luanda, Angola
 
 
 
   
    

  1. Faces (Cara não Caras)
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Kalunga. Action nº2. 
Dundo, 2013
05'30''    

Fall. Action nº1. Luanda, 2013
Photograph
100 x 70 cm

 

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A.1.R. (African Industrial Revolution), 2012
UNAP, Luanda, Angola
RitaGT and Francisco Vidal
​Curated by RitaGT
Jahmek Productions

 

  1. The New Way to Wear Black, 2012
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Estudio Candonga.
A Metrópole, 2012
 06'53''
 
   
    

Estudio Candonga. Portuguese's Gold Reserve, 2011
 35'25''
Performance with Francisco Vidal
 
   
    

Procession to the Sea, 2011
 06'42''
Performance in Díli, Timor-Leste 
   
    

Agora, a Seguir e Como, 2010
with Feedback studio
(Carlos Valencia Maya and Joana Carvalho)
and Francisco Vidal
 

rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda

Performance in Eurocentric
Museums, 2009
 

Do Minho a Timor. 
From the series Made in Europe, 
10 Year Warranty, 2009

Made in Europe, 10 Year Warranty
(My Greek Friends), 2008
Collage, spray and acrylic.
148 x 353 cm

rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda
rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda
Made in Europe
Estava pronta para ir viver para Berlim.
Desde que mudei de cidade pela primeira vez, com dezoito anos, para ir estudar para uma faculdade de belas-artes, que ganhei este ritmo.
Cada vez mais imagino: como será morar ali?
Percebi- estou a precisar de uma mala nova! Não é fácil empacotar uma vida, decidir o que fica e o que vai. Fui comprar uma mala sansonite. A mala trazia um autocolante que dizia: Made in Europe, 10 year warranty. Garantie de 10 ans, Fabriqué en Europe.
Esta é e será a “bagagem” mais pesada que transportarei em todas as minhas viagens!
A cidade de Berlim tem várias camadas de história, a segunda guerra mundial é a camada mais presente, uma história constantemente a ser reescrita, principalmente por uma das grandes potências económicas contemporâneas: o turismo. Berlim é supostamente cidade das artes da Europa, Europa central, mas de facto o turismo artístico não é o ponto forte desta capital.
Aqui sinto mais forte o que é ser formada por um pensamento euro-centrado.
Gosto de sentir o peso da arte europeia. 
Mas quem inventou esta disciplina, a História da Arte?
A invenção da instituição Museu remonta ao século XIX, tempos em que grandes colonizadores enviavam etnógrafos a países colonizados em missão de trazerem para o ocidente todo o tipo de peças de arte exótica a serem mostradas nas chamadas worder rooms. Os etnógrafos influenciaram significativamente a construção da imagem de uma pratica artística, “primitivista”, realizada nessas colónias. Essas peças, por conseguinte, foram apropriadas e assimiladas pelos artistas de vanguarda do século XIX, como foi o caso de Picasso e as suas várias visitas á colecção etnográfica do Palais du Trocadéro. Foi a partir da etnografia clássica que a cultura ocidental adquiriu a ideia de arcaico, cerimónias e rituais de outras sociedades, sendo reconstruída a ideia vaga de até então, sobre o “outro”.
E passado algum tempo acontece a grande transição da arte “autêntica” ou “tribal” para arte- “turismo”. Nos tempos contemporâneos, deparamo-nos com uma imensidão de feiras de arte e bienais, em terras que nunca antes ouvimos falar! Por todo o mundo se tenta adoptar esta estratégia de publicidade propagandista através de circuitos artísticos, convidando assim um determinado público a visitar a sua terra e assim activar o circuito capital e económico.
O passado reescreve-se no presente, possibilitando um impulso artístico que será, e sempre foi utópico.
Uma evocação do passado será sempre um fragmento de um acontecimento, um acentuar de apenas alguns aspectos, uma acção subjectiva. 
Made in Europe, 10 year warranty, evoca ironicamente um passado, europeu, mas ao mesmo tempo um futuro próximo, num tempo que é o agora.
RitaGT, Setembro, 2008

Museum of Communications, 2008
03’38’’
Performance to video made in the Museum of Communications, Lisbon, Portugal
 
   
    

Studies on Portuguese Ceramic. Action nº1, 2007
13’42’’
Performance to video made in an abandoned ceramic factory in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal
 
   
    

Temptation of St. Anthony, 2007
Performance to Photography made in the Museum of Antique Art, Lisbon, Portugal

Untitled (I've Got it All)
1 + 1 = 1, 2006
Duratrans print on lightbox
100 x 100 cm

rita gt ritagt e-studio luanda