Condominio Festival – portuguese homemade culture

  1. What was your inspiration for starting this project?

It all started when one of us, one day saw a poster in the streets of Amsterdam where it read something like “theatre+ concert at Paul’s house”, following the address. Those lines worked out like a “click”, and the thought was, “wow, it is possible to present artistic proposals at someone’s house?”. From that to the concept of CONDOMÍNIO Festival it all happened very organically. After some thought and research done, and after coming to the conclusion that it started to be common, in central European capitals, to open someone’s house to present projects and show stuff, a group of three people were united with the aim to make it also true in Portugal. But it was not only about the houses: together we developed the concept of the festival, which focus was in bringing the local community together in a place where they could discuss interesting topics in an informal and personal way, while at the same time rediscovering Lisbon through its private places and giving the opportunity to emerging artists (or just people with ideas) to present new projects in an uncompromised and friendly environment. We do it during one weekend, two or three times a year, and each day takes place at a different house, turning what is private in public for one day. This concept and identity is growing and evolving at each new edition, taking inspiration from the city, moved by the wish to discover more and more houses and the wish to connect more and more people with similar interests, as well as to promote ideas and actions that we consider of benefic for the general public.

  1. Why did you choose the format of apartment exhibitions?

We don’t consider the apartments only, but the private places at large: it could be an apartment, or a house, an atelier, a basement, it could actually be a hostel and we actually already  did  it  in  an  associations’  garden.  We  privilege  the  private  space  for  various reasons: it is a place where most of the people can not have access in normal conditions; it is an informal and personal space, because it has the objects and identity of the people who lives in there; it is always a surprise when we enter the space (especially in Lisbon, which has a very specific architecture and urbanistic conditions); it tells a different story about the city, one that we can not know by walking in the streets; people tend to feel comfortable at the private space, happy and secure, while discovering hidden private gardens, wonderful river views from the window, fireman stairs at the balcony or an empty communal courtyard, many different aspects that make you more aware of the city you live in, of its many opportunities and blessings (especially today, that Lisbon is turning into a “tourist  trap”,  those  views  and  elements  remind  us  about  the  city’s  beautiful  natural identity).

  1. Have you heard about some similar projects in Portugal in the past or in some other countries?

We know about other projects in Portugal that use private spaces to present artistic proposals, but we don’t know any that uses it as we do. Meaning that, for us, the focus is only one house for one entire day (afternoon and evening), where different projects take place (exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, presentations, communitary dinner, workshops…). What happens is that people tend to stay, spending the time at the house, meeting friends, having a drink and basically enjoying the space while watching those several projects.

The similar projects we know about, in the sense they also use private spaces and their venues, are actually festivals that last for two or three days, once a year, and that divide its activities for many different spaces (some of them, private ones), where the projects take place simultaneously. Examples are Caldas Late Night (in Caldas da Rainha), Guimarães Noc-Noc (in Guimarães) and Festival A Porta (in Leiria).

Outside Portugal, we don’t have much information about specific projects of this kind. We now that there is some projects like this in Spain but we don’t have much information.

  1. When did you started? What was the cultural context in that period?

We started thinking about this idea in 2013, but the first edition took place only in May

2014, with a group of three people at the organization. After the second edition, we started to be four, and nowadays we are five and did seven editions so far, in Lisbon. A different team is using the same concept and turning it into practice in Évora (a small city in Portugal).

I don’t know if the cultural context was much different back then, from what it is now, but one of our motivations to start the project was to filling the lack of a place in the city where to present new ideas in an informal way, where everyone could do it, independently of its background or cv, where the art could mingle with “normal life”, with political discussions, biological alimentation, veterinary talks or home-made beer. We hoped that CONDOMÍNIO could be this place, where everyone could experiment, find solutions and meet like-minded people, and we think it is, even when it takes place only twice a year.

  1. How do you choose the artistic content? Are you working with performers with experience in site-specific art? The festival is international?

For each edition we make an opean call where everyone can presente his/her project. Then we make a selection based on the relation with the space, the quality and originality of the idea. We always privilege projects that present alternatives ways for living in the city, exploring the concept of community, envirolment care, sustentability, etc. We try to have a multidisciplinary programation, which includes music, dance, theater, performance, film or video sessions, installations, exhibitions, readings, shows and workshops. We have the goal of showing emergent artists and projects that present new proposals in urban, artistic, social or cultural level. So there is space for people that have already experience in site- specific art as well for the ones that are trying out or are able to adapt their project to a different space. Furthermore we ask our permanent partners to suggest one project/artist for each edition. We give priority for the local projects/artists but we also enconrage projects coming from other cities and countries as long as they are relevant for the local community.

  1. The audience pays ticket? How did you manage economically this project? How do you fund the works? Where do you find sources for a festival with small audience?

The festival does not depend on financial support or subsidies, existing thanks to the volunteer work and the dedication of its team. Although maintaining a free entry policy, we sensitizes the public to the importance of the contribution through money donation. For the festival to be sustainable, there is also a bar with drinks, snacks and dinners. The food and drinks are offer by the biologial supermarket Miosótis, which is our only sponsor. All the amount raised through the revenue obtained is evenly distributed by the Hosts, Projects and Organization. We do not fund the works, but normaly we try to support some of the cost with the money that we made in the previous edition.

  1. How you gather the audience? What kind of advertising do you use? How many spectators you count per edition?

Our main advertising support is facebook and our website, but we allways distribut posters in key places, like bars, associations, cultural institutions/schools. In every edition we also try to build a relationship with the institutions and associations of the  neighbourhood,  which  help  us  on  the  advertising  among  the  community.  Our permanent partners also take an important role on the disclosure of the festival. For each day of festival we have around 70/80 spectators.

  1. What is the relationship between performance and audience in a private space comparing with mainstream stages? How do you consider people you interact with?

Even before we answer this question we would like to enlighten than Condomínio presents more than performances. Here we’ll talk about performances in a less strict sense. Any performance gains a different shape in a given space where is presented, being a stage or not. In a private space, also because the technical conditions are limited, sometimes  the  performers  have  to  do  big  adjustments  to  the  space  existent.  This adaptation fosters a different esthetical approach that focus more on the content and less on the spectacularity. The private space boost a closer relationship between the audience and the performers not only because the space is smaller but also because becomes more intimate. We collected already some testimonies from the audience concerning this issue: the closer physical space is the more accurate their senses (more than just visual contact) and sensitive perception is. It’s easier to the audience to contact and get to know better the work of the performer. It’s more natural and desacralized than a stage, a conference or a concert room. In cinema and literature where usually you don’t have contact with the author, here it’s easy to contact directly. It puts both on a common basis: spectator and author. The roles of giver and the receiver are on the same level of importance.

As hosts we try to stimulate an informal environment where share is the main gold.

  1. All the flats that hosted performances were inhabited? Why that?

Usually we choose flats that are inhabited, that had already a life with its memories, stories and personality. Any project presented in a place with this conditions is already another thing. We find it challenging for the projects to present in unusual environments, that will question their ability to present only in controlled environments like a conference room, a white or black box, a stage. But it happened already three times to choose places that weren’t flats: an association for rehabilitation and urban regeneration, a youth association and a public washhouse. Both proposed to us that we use the space in order to trigger it so it would be known for more people in the city.

  1. How you choose the hosts? Are the portuguese people open to open their houses for performances?  Do  you  have  long-term  collaborations  with  some  of them?

In our experience, we have been really lucky to have proposals for each edition. In each edition we received 5 to 6 houses proposals, but of course not in the beginning. The first two places were friend’s houses that liked the project and let us do it.

After that we started to make an open call not just for projects but also for flats/houses, that is published in our site and facebook page, as well we print billboards and post in the city. We arrange an encounter to visit the place and to get to know the hosts. On this day we clarify their ideas about the festival, how it will work, when they’ll meet the projects that they’ll receive on their house. This visit is also important for us to understand if the festival fits regarding to the space, accessibility, relation with neighbours and housing conditions. After we visit all the houses proposed we choose two houses for each edition. People go really  easy  with  engaging  themselves  into  the  festival  offering  they´re  houses,  but sometimes there are some hosts that when the actual experience starts to happen start to be a litle bit nervous, what is expectedly normal and we have to be prepapered with that. The long-term collaboration with some of the hosts happen sometimes, but not as hosts anymore. We collaborate with them in other ways, for examples, sometimes they want to propose a project for other editions or helping in the organization. For us is important to explore different areas of the city and to offer to the public the possibility to get to know different spaces everytime.

  1. 1 What is the best outcome of this experience? And what parts you didn’t enjoy?

We think meeting all this new people with diferent aproaches throught out life, it sounds cliché but its an unimaginable source of knowledge and also to break out the barrier and not to be afraid of literally entering in somebody’s room. Getting to know amazing projects and to be able to give the people the possibility to show they´re art in an informal, unexpected and free way. But the best think is to see that after participating in the Festival, different projects/artis (that meet on the festival) get toghether to build a collaboration/partnership. Until now, we know about around 8 different collaborations that were born after meetings in CONDOMÍNIO.

There is some logistics, production work, e-mailing that can be hard and consumes a lot of time.  As we develop the project in a volunteering way is specially difficult to find the time between our main work. Sometimes just to find a meeting day for all of us five is an headache.

  1. Is it worth it? It will continue?

Yes, it will continue. We start to recieve more an more emails, from people we don’t know, asking when the festival will happen again or just offering their help, so that shows us that this is something that people need and miss and that makes it being worth.

  1. Should art be linked with a place where artist lives?

It is not an obligation or it shouldn´t even be a rule but it is an interesting exercise. But it depends on the artist work, the concepte behind, the target audience. But definitely there should be always alternative spaces to show art outside of museums or theater houses.

  1. Is there any follow up after performances? (people mingling, talks between artists and public)

Since we have around 15 different projects taking place at each house, staying there from 3pm until 0am, usually there are plenty of time for people to mingle and talk. It happens in a very natural way, artists and audience are very close, and they tend to be together before and after the performances. At dinner time, everyone is united around the same room, tasting the same food! Probably it is thanks to this talks taking place after presentations that many different collaborations among artists are born in CONDOMÍNIO.

  1. What do you think homemade culture (performance art and theater in private spaces) brings new in art? Is it the apartament a rich medium to produce a different type of art?

The simplicity and naturality in communication with an audience from different ages (from children to adults and older people). The proximity between audience and artists. The connection with the “real life”. The concept of collaboration instead of competition. The necessity of adaptation to a specific and more intimate place gives an opportunity to the evolution of the work and increases its meaning. We don’t know if any of this is new, but for sure it is valuable.


interview by Jean-Lorin Sterian