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Round Table

The FELIZES DA FÉ and the HYPERDADA movement

Miguel Wandschneider Gilberto Gouveia Miguel Vale de Almeida Alberto Pimenta
Rui Zink Paula Coelho Nuno Antunes Eugénia Mota

Participants: Miguel Wandschneider  (Art Historian); Gilberto Gouveia (FF); Miguel Vale de Almeida (Antropologist); Fernando Aguiar (Performer); Alberto Pimenta (Writer); Rui Zink (FF); Leonor Areal (Videast); Paula Coelho (FF); Nuno Antunes (FF); Eugénia Mota (FF); Adelino Tavares (FF), Teresa Pereira (FF) and Rigo 99 (FF)..  

Miguel Wandschneider — FF are kind of like a UFO in the history of Portuguese performance. Felizes came about doing performance on the streets, or a happening on the streets.

Gilberto Gouveia — What we did is more of a happening than  a performance, I think that’s the difference.

Miguel Vale de Almeida — It has a clearly a happening; I mean, it happens, it ends, and it’s over.

MW — I was including “happening” in the history of performance.

Fernando Aguiar — In a performance, you always kind of know how things will happen. A happening is exactly the opposite. Usually, all there is is a basic idea that’s developed by several people and you never really know how it’s going to end. And I think felizes were a borderline case.

MW — Most of  the Felizes’ activities were more a happening than a performance, in my opinion.

Alberto Pimenta — Oh, I don’t know, it depends on what you call a happening. I think felizes aren’t really a happening, because happenings, the first ones, the classical American ones---they came from America, let’s be honest---were individual. A happening was an individual thing, not a collective thing. Their work  was closer to theater animation than to a  happening because they were a group.

GG — A happening itself happens usually as a rupture from artistic tradition. And our intentions weren’t at all artistic.

Rui Zink — All it takes for the event to happen is us being there. I don’t really like using the word “happening” because it sounds a lot like franchising, merchandising, or coffee-break, and I think the Portuguese language is rich enough that we can use Portuguese expressions.

MW — In the mid-eighties--when felizes arrive on the scene--there was a tendency to abandon performance. FF actually appeared at the end of  one cycle, and at the beginning of another cycle which would develop in the nineties.

RZ — Felizes are unavoidable in that context. They were the source.

FA — Yeah, actually, that’s interesting.

RZ — It’s like the Tagus river. People may not like the fact that its source is in Spain, even though it ends in Portugal. Felizes are the source of performance in Portugal. They are Spain, in a way.

MW — In that way, FF were a UFO, a UFO which became a catalyst for a new kind of performance in Portugal, which ended the history of performance.

FA — Well, performance has had its ups and downs in Portugal in the last thirty years or so. And when it’s at a low point, so to speak, people have the tendency to say that it’s over. But actually it continues. Every year there are new performances..

MW — Nowadays people talk about performing arts but you can’t talk about performance, because performance, in my opinion, even if one or two people do it in Portugal, is over.

AP — No, performance isn’t dead at all. Maybe it’s less surprising or suspenseful, maybe some performers are  uninteresting, but performance isn’t more dead than  theater is. Theater, which began twenty-five hundred years ago, also didn’t die. It went through different phases.

MW — Performance is finished. It may rise again, but it’s finished.

Leonor Areal — Well, don’t fight, lets change subject. Anyway Felizes don’t match these criteria...

MW — First of all, I don’t think you can understand FF’s work without knowing that Felizes have very diverse artistic backgrounds in terms of creativity and expression.

MVA — Above all, it’s a game of words and meanings where they challenged common sense and the truths behind language.

MW — There was obviously a play on literal meanings that was very, very well executed by FF. This is where I think Rui Zink played a very important role.

MVA — That is what characterizes his humor, especially when he speaks--and even in writing, which is quite original--his humor is based on telling a joke without acting like he’s telling it.

MW — Their performances  were always very theatrical with a very clear and controlled visual side.

RZ — Felizes’s artistic philosophy is that aesthetic acts should involve everyone, especially people who don’t know they’re being involved in an aesthetic act

MW — I don’t think there are many precedents in Portugal for the work of FFs’. Again, they’re like a UFO.

Paula Coelho — I don’t know if we were a vanguard movement or the opposite, a preservation movement.

AP — Felizes joined a trend for street theater  that has a very long history. It goes back to the middle ages...

Nuno Antunes — You know, I never really knew what FF were because when I arrived on the scene they already existed.

RZ — Felizes’ roots are the roots of 20th century art.

MW — From the early seventies onwards most performers were from the fine arts. In the early eighties, this vanguardist paradigm, which had dominated the previous decade, was challenged.

LA — And, in the late eighties, Felizes da Fé created Hyperdada movement, based on the Dadaist movement of the twenties.

MW — FF are obviously partly Dadaist, even if no longer neodada, because neodadaism was something of the late fifties, early sixties, in the realm of contemporary art. But the influence is definitely there.

MVA — Yes, but you’re the one calling them that. I don’t think FF call themselves Dadaist, or say that’s what they’re trying to be.

Eugénia Mota — The Hyperdada movement was one of the things that introduced something new to our society in the last ten years. Because, in general, we’re all  copycats, we learn through imitation, and we came to show what it is to imitate.

GG — A kind of never-ending, self-perpetuating Dada, which can’t be understood or classified.

MVA — It’s not just dadaism. It’s taking the best modern traditions, those that you can transfer to the end of modernity, to  post-modernism.

AP — Well, I really don’t like the word post-modern, because it’s a word that puts an end to things. It doesn’t even got a name, just a prefix: post. That means what comes after. Now, what comes after is everything. So if we accept that post-modernity encompasses everything, then obviously FF, as well as all artistically political movements -- FF-- are post-modern too.

MVA — Yes, I mean, post-modern doesn’t mean anything. I’d say contemporary, end-of-millennium.

MW — Provocation, parody, the short-circuit in people’s heads, in their routines, cliches, and fixed ideas, was fundamental in the work of FF. And that provocation can clearly be attributed to... to dadaism.

AP —That’s completely absurd. First we had post-modernism, now we have Hyperdada. First of all, the Dada movement had absolutely nothing to do with politics. It was entirely literary. As far as I know the same doesn’t apply to FF. Second, Dada was never out on the streets. They performed in rooms or published its work in magazines. So I don’t see how the two things are related.

Adelino Tavares — It’s the Portuguese version of... of... of, uh, of Dada alcohol.

FA — Although, as far as I know Dadaists were much more anarchistic than FF. In that sense, FF are better organized, and even better behaved, you could say.

LA — I was the only person who knew how to photograph and film, so obviously, I was always given that job, in the background. Which is still important, because a lot of things are determinedbehind the scenes.

PC — Yet the founding of Hyperdadaism effectively occurred when, in 1984, Rui Zink organized the Pornex 84 exhibit.

MVA — Yes, without a doubt, that’s how it all started. Oh yes, I’d say that Pornex was the very precedent for Hyperdadaism. And I remember it as a very, very, very, very important thing. Especially because it was done in a university. It was done at the end of that period--you could say during the hang-over period--the end of political activism related to the 1974 revolution.

MVA — And also the fact that it was done in a university where you expect pornography to be analyzed as a social phenomenon in and of itself

LA — There are some things that I shouldn’t bring up, but the truth should be known some day.

RZ — There’s no reason for false modesty. False modesty turns into the worst possible arrogance.

LA — Pornex, for example. Pornex was an event that I organized, that I organized, with Rui Zink, but he got all the credit and I was left in the shadows.

NA — It’s nice to see how modest we all are in FF. None of us has taken credit for the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, for instance.

MVA — The exhibit was a happening in and of itself. A happening in and of itself. Which was: suddenly you had a college exhibit on pornography. It’s kind of like defending Cavaco.  

MW — There is political work that consists in using parody of political events and formalities to address politics.

GG — What I wanted to do was something less serious than usual.

GG — The creativity came from that, from not being serious. Ever

MW — There is something intrinsically provocative in the work of FF.

MW — I think people often failed to understand...

GG — They can’t tell the difference, they don’t understand that it’s fiction, , theater, make-believe...

RZ — And the shock often came from a lack of understanding, of communication

GG — We understood that communicating with people was impossible.

.RZ — But it was a lack of communication that we wanted to incite. Because communication existed; what didn’t exist was explicit communication. And that provoked different reactions: people were asking: what do they want? what don’t they want? what are they doing here?

RZ — The point wasn’t to make people ask what we wanted from these demonstrations, but what they wanted, what they were doing there on the sidewalk at that time.

RZ — Basically we wanted to awaken in people a conscience of self, of their daily life. We wanted to show people the senselessness of their bland routines, and make them ask “what am I doing here?”

MW — I think that the work of FF was obviously a joke in some ways, but it had a serious side.

AP — Felizes da Fe put people’s minds to work, thinking about things that they usually don’t think about.

GG — And at the time we thought a lot about how easily we would make it into the papers.

MW — FF were a bizarre, eccentric movement, for  mainstream journalism, and they’d get on the front page, or page three, or the back page, with a huge picture, because it was something unusual happening on Rua Augusta.

GG — The fact that doing something silly got us on the front page of daily papers, got us interviews, photographs, and more exposure than some politicians, is subversive, in a way.

RZ — There are those who think that we’re neo-post-dadaists, or that we have an anarcho-pop aesthetic. I think that the essence of felizes can be found in the Roman circus... when Christians were fed to the lions.

AP — That’s the point. And I think there should be more groups; it’s a shame there’s only one.

AT — There was a void from 1990 to 94, and the void was filled by FF.

MW — In the nineties there was an increase in groups of street performers.

RZ — Lots of groups popped up, descended from Felizes, which started using the street as a stage for their shows. Public street performances in Lisbon became commonplace, almost fashionable.

NA — The other groups were always struggling in a crusade for something. We didn’t really know who they were fighting against, but we could see even from their faces, that they were fighting against something.

RZ — These groups take themselves too seriously.

RZ — And they usually pile on the symbolism, invoking chemical and alchemical elements--earth, wind, fire, water—in a somewhat tedious way .

NA  We never really figured out who or what we should be fighting,

RZ — Felizes never went into earth, fire, water... We never used symbolism because Felizes were symbolic themselves. All acts are is symbolic, you don’t need to stress that. When you stress that an act is symbolic, you’re being redundant. And I think that’s the big difference between Felizes and the others.

RZ — Felizes’ demonstrations are, by definition, spontaneous. They’re demonstrations in which we get together, and, without rehearsing, just with perfect  improvisation, we make it happen.

NA — For the first week we discussed ideas. Discussing ideas was our priority.

RZ — It was self-organization.

Teresa Pereira — I remember the day before, we made posters and /had a meeting with everyone, to figure out what we were going to do. But it was a very improvised thing.

PC — Of course, we only organize things, then spontaneity takes over.

GG — We’d all meet up an hour beforehand. There was always lots of paint and paper...

RZ — Each one wrote whatever slogans they wanted on a sign.

GG — Everyone had ideas for slogans.

EM — It was like an explosion of ideas that came from no one in particular, but from everyone.

NA — We performed with over half an hour of rehearsals a few times! From buying everything, to reaching the venue, to having a few beers and the brainstorm, all took half an hour.

MW — Felizes da Fé had an excellent knowledge of different artistic backgrounds. They brought together codes of visual, theatrical, verbal, and literary expression.

NA — So everyone was really impressed with our effort: how could we do in half an hour what most people did in two weeks? It was amazing!

RZ — We had a basic idea and to that we added a number of concepts. We used the accumulation technique and piled several concepts onto the basic idea.

MVA — He presents the concept, which contaminates people like a virus, and they develop ideas, but they also develop defenses, and through that they reach a consensus about what needs to be done.

From then on, everything should be slightly anarchical, not very well planned; not rehearsed, in the strict sense.

MW — The Rua Augusta shows had a structure that was previously determined by the group, but then there is a lot of the unexpected and spontaneous during the performance.

LA — And there’s a strange driving force…

MW — Rui Zink’s exhibitionism...and his knack for verbal spontaneity were a driving force behind Felizes da Fé’s demonstrations. Actually, he was in charge of the megaphone.

AP — I suppose he was the group’s  cheerleader, if you want to call him that, it’s better than leader.

NA — Eventually there was a leader. There was a leader because without a leader there’s no... there’s no... order.

PC — Felizes da Fé didn’t have a hierarchy because it was spontaneous. Right? We were talking about the group’s spontaneity a little while ago. Spontaneity begins there: the hierarchy was spontaneous.

MW — I think there must have been some internal democracy, open vote, democratic centralism...

Rigo — The demonstrations were organized through dialogue, and decisions were usually made unanimously.

MW — Felizes da Fé were political, I think, without constantly making explicit the political dimension of their work. It was visceral. .

NA — At the demonstration in favor of Dr. Oliveira Salazar, there were left-wingers there, right-wingers, even centrists.

RZ — Felizes moved so much to the left that they made a circle and ended up on the right.

LA — Despite its popularity, the group ceased all activities.

AP — That’s normal... I wouldn’t call it decadence, they had their life period, like any organism.

NA — Never in the history of art did a useless group work for so long.

FA — I think it has to do with the growth or development of people.

GG — There was a growth, and growth always creates problems.

MVA — I have the feeling that it had its day.

GG — At one point, Felizes da Fé started performing by invitation. It ceased to be an interventionist group.

MW — Felizes da Fé is an adolescent phenomenon.

FA — When people reach their thirties, they start worrying about other things and having other interests.

MW — They over-work themselves.

FA — Others get married, have children, women in particular...

MW — And then you can’t keep perpetuating these things for ever.

GG — Felizes began to transform themselves into something else, an animation group.

RZ — Besides that, there was an external factor. Street performances became more common in the city.

When something becomes banal, Felizes leave, there’s no point in staying.

GG — You can’t say it’s over, it’s more in hibernation.

MVA — I don’t know if Felizes da Fé still exist.

FA — I think they disappeared, at least I haven’t heard of them recently.

NA — Felizes da Fé appeared and disappeared. That’s perfectly natural.

MW — I think Felizes da Fé correspond to a phase in each member’s life.

LA — I think this discussion is becaming sterile. If they finished or not, that’s what we’ll see later. The thing that maters here is talking about what are the Felizes, or were, it’s the same.

AP — Felizes da Fé are defined as Felizes da Fé and as what they’ve done. And what they’ve done is usually enough to describe them. Nor is there a better description  of  a work than the work itself.

RZ — It’s enough to say that Felizes da Fé are the Felizes da Fé.

NA — That’s all you can say.

Lisbon, the 3dr of july 2000

[Translated by Rafael Gomes]

Please send your questions on this discussion to roundtable@felizes.com . They will be answered in one hour.

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