2016 represents the bicentenary of the birth Ferdinand II. Ferdinand of Saxe-Cobourg and Gotha (1816-1885), following his purchase of the ruins of the Jerónimo de Nossa Senhora da Pena Monastery, and with support from Baron von Eschwege (1777-1855), in 1838 began construction of the National Palace of Pena and a Park spanning 85 hectares. In total and complete symbiosis, for the last two decades they have integrated the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, registered by UNESCO as World Heritage and encapsulating the greatest romantic architectural landmark in Portugal. Ferdinand II – also commonly known as the ‘artist king’ – was one of the most important patrons of the arts in Portugal. Renowned as a collector, not only from the artistic panorama but also of species of flora from the four corners of the world (Nordic forests, Australia, New Zealand, North America, Brazil and…), he transformed Sintra from a rural landscape with only low level tree coverage into the lush scenario that we today encounter and rendering the National Palace of Pena and its Park into an installation established by man in permanent dialogue with the pre-existing nature.
“Point of View” arises out of the expression Point de Vue, applied in landscape architecture and interrelating directly with the concept of perspective. This seeks to set out a contemporary (but also timeless) vision on the Man/Nature binomial and, simultaneously, a cultural dialogue between them. This dialogue was established a priori by Ferdinand II at the time of his design of a project in which Art/Architecture/Nature were mutually interwoven. On the premise of providing continuity to this dialogue, “Point of View” gathers together, in the National Palace of Pena Park, 10 national and international artists – Alberto Carneiro (PT), Alexandre Farto/Vhils (PT), Antonio Bokel (BR), Bosco Sodi (MX), Gabriela Albergaria (PT), João Paulo Serafim (PT), NeSpoon (PL), Nils-Udo (GER), Paulo Arraiano (PT) and Stuart Ian Frost (UK) – for an in situ exhibition commissioned by Parques de Sintra.
Based upon the historical and conceptual assumptions of Ferdinand II, “Point of View” now endows continuity to a culturally pre-established dialogue but with a very contemporary perspective; a reflection in which the cultural and natural landscapes are not opposing but rather complementary languages as happens with the dichotomies light/dark, interior/exterior, and tangible/intangible. Transporting this discourse into the exhibition context essentially engenders an intimate dialogue between Nature and Culture. This intentional displacement seeks to play with the idea of creativity within the conditions of its remote and seminal origins and thus seeking to feed our desire for a universal language, an intelligible structure capable of spreading a collective subconscious in an era saturated with interfaces and satellites – technological, artificial –, thereby returning an emotive and contemplative experience to the universe of visual representation.
This – Man/Nature – dialogue correspondingly questions whether a moment, an epoch, in which, to a greater or lesser extent, there looms the restlessness of those who inhabit a space in which not everything may be grasped, where speed becomes proportional to forgetting in generating a condition that leads us to reinvent the way in which we read and interpret reality and in which there is debate about new forms of dialogue, human relations and processes of contemplation as well as the relationship with those features pre-existing prior to Man. This also questions that deemed contemporaneous society, controlled by artificial satellites, in which the speed of post-digital generation dictates time and artificially replaces the natural/analogic world. The frequent scroll through reality in the search for “new histories”, in which the reference to contemplation becomes lost, increasingly contributes towards the dislocation of human beings from their natural elements.
In this context, the ten artists work as agents for the re-connection and dialogue between the binomial of Man/Earth (concepts that in their essence are the same even while a notion that gains little traction in that deemed contemporary society) through a process of geographic acupuncture that thus fosters different in situ dialogues with a living organism. In this way, “Point of View” strives to celebrate and recall this correlation and the collaboration first launched by Ferdinand II in 1838 following his building of a neuralgic bridge to human cultural heritage.
Artistic Director - Paulo Arraiano
When writing the introduction for the “Point of View” Project, I thought it important to highlight the obvious yet noteworthy reasons behind the endeavor.
The first objective behind this project was to create an exclusive event in honor and celebration of 200th anniversary of the visionary and creator of the Park and National Palace of Pena, King Ferdinand II.
The second was to revive the original intent of the Park of Pena – the connection between Man and Nature – thereby enabling a more authentic and enriching experience for the visitors of Pena, by guiding them further afield into the gardens of King Ferdinand II.
The project’s aim was to bring a new focus to the Park of Pena both at a national and international level by building on the historical base of Pena and combining it with a unique contemporary art exhibit. In this manner a new discourse would be created leveraging both the ideals and values that define Sintra as a Cultural Landscape as well as the “story telling” potential of the destination.
The concept involved the creation of a series of site specific installations strategically placed throughout the eclectic gardens. This would allow visitors to explore the unique features throughout the park, as well as to appreciate the rare and precious flora brought in from the four corners of the earth, by special request of King Ferdinand II. The artistic selection took into consideration several aspects besides the obvious experience of each individual. These were the scope of each artist’s work around the Man vs. Nature theme (the common denominator that bonds this group of individuals) as well as their cultural background (respecting and honoring the multiculturalism and eclecticism found at the Park and National Palace of Pena).