Villa Bidão

"Villa Bidão" (Shanty town) is a serie whose theme is the slums and comprises a set of sculptures which follows the line of Carlos No’s recent works in which he seeks to draw attention to certain aspects or situations of the present-day world that arouse feelings of revolt or nonconformity in the author.

Always starting from provocative themes, this set of sculptures tries to evoke the idea of a shanty town as a place unsuitable for habitation – a cluster of improvised and fragile dwellings, with no infrastructures or basic sanitation.

Using materials which we recycles and/or transforms, according to a logic of construction identical to that of his referents, yet without ceasing to create new lines of interpretation for the proposed theme and through a critical and incisive approach, Carlos No tries to denounces some of the negative traits of contemporary societies, addressing issues such as those of poverty and exclusion, consolidating a path related with the problem of economic and social asymmetries and the impact of these on the lives of billions of people who, in the great majority, are deprived of minimum standards of living such as the right to decent housing or other things essential to life, like access to drinking water.

“Villa Bidão” is therefore a series that seeks to question concepts such as territory, house, poverty and exclusion.

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OH HOUSES HOUSES HOUSES

We're always coming back to the issue of housing because the key question is: where will we live?

And people are moving from one place to the other, endlessly repeating:

where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live? where will we live?

People carry things, suitcases, backpacks, trunks, they catch flights, buses, lifts. People set up temporary houses in the outskirts of more or less peripheral centres, which they immediately leave for others, as temporary as they are. People are told that they have been discontinued, made disposable like furniture which was once made for life and now only lasts a season. People eke out a living from odd jobs, fixed-term contracts, seasonal occupations, subsidised training courses, ad hoc invitations, unpaid internships, the gig economy, while moving from one place to the next.

Coming from the most remote places, people travel across the seas or over mountains (and once again the aeroplanes, the buses) and head to the metropolises where over half the world's population lives, which is incredible when you think about it – kilometres of fields and mountains and valleys and steppes without seeing a living soul, ghost towns, villages with old people in nursing homes, nursing homes with more life than town squares and schools, endless monocultures, overgrown vegetation on the roofs, inhospitable lands here and there.

And the big city is encircled by growing rings. Hilltop shanties arise, looking like bookcases – or piles, or mounds. Or else land is stolen from the seas and streams are ravaged, where the little houses on stilts, shamelessly, gaze at us like little sparrows. Where will we live? They ask. And their question contains the unfulfilled promise of the water that someone carries in deep-blue drums, but also of the town squares, the streets, public transport, the hospital, the school – for all: a collective promise.

“Half a year and the employee changes,” the girl behind the counter at the (previously state-owned) bank in its main branch in the city centre tells me. But in the meanwhile the bank has changed name, changed owner and changed hands. And the girl now sells insurance at the next counter, which means she was lucky because she didn't even have to change office or her morning bus – only phone number and company, and the name tag where one can now read the word fidelidade written alongside her name, Gabriela Espanca. “Are you related to [the poet] Florbela?” “Yes, indeed, we belong to the same family, people of the south. Rugged heath bursting into bloom.” And voila: once again the beyond-the-metropolis reaching the metropolis. One of these days we'll all be here, living in the peripheries. In the city centre: banks and tourists.

Ana Bigotte Vieira
Lisbon, May 2014

(Translation: Miguel Moore)