The FELIZES DA FÉ
and the HYPERDADA movement
Miguel Wandschneider (Art Historian); Gilberto Gouveia (FF); Miguel Vale de Almeida
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
MW — There is political
work that consists in using parody of political events and formalities to
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, ,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
da Fé is an adolescent phenomenon.
FA — When
people reach their thirties, they start worrying about other things and having
MW — They
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
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
RZ — It’s
enough to say that Felizes da Fé are the Felizes da Fé.
NA — That’s
all you can say.
the 3dr of july 2000
by Rafael Gomes]
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