I’ve been here just three weeks and begun a journey that already feels as if it is one that is not going to end anytime soon.
Since I left Portugal, I have realised that the opportunity to be part of Liverpool Biennial would be the greatest challenge I ever faced, not only because I could finally make regular use of my rusty English skills, or even try to survive for the first time away from my parents’ house and friends’ comfort in a foreign country, but mainly because I would be part of an expressive international contemporary art festival, with social and cultural relevance to the city of Liverpool and arts world. With such power within an entity and huge curve line for learning, I can’t feel less than excited for being able to contribute freely with my ideas and skills. And just by looking back on my first three weeks I can assume that the five months I have left as an intern will after all be extended in time and constitute a lifelong experience to retain for my professional and personal life.
Who am I, then? I am Hugo Mamede, 22 years old, fresh from a Communication and Culture course in Lisbon and with a passion for street photography, street art, street protests, and any other kind of spontaneous and honest expressions. I have worked for a year in journalism and am now trying to pursue a professional path in the cultural sector.
I thought it would be a good way to introduce myself by answering some of the questions I’ve received since arriving in Liverpool.
Hi Hugo and a warm welcome to the Biennial team. Can you tell us more about your first three weeks at the Biennial?
The first word that pops up to my mind is cold, although, according to some person I talked to on the streets, this is in fact “warm” compared to the temperatures of last year. Nothing that one extra sweater and a warm closed jacket won’t solve.
The second word that pops up is warmness, as contradictory as this may sound. In fact, I am surprised with the hospitality, good manners and lovely smiles of the Liverpudlians. If this is a weapon to fight the gloomy cold weather, it is working.
What are your impressions of Liverpool and its cultural scene so far? How does it compare to Lisbon and Portugal?
The approach of organisations from the city of Liverpool to culture is somewhat different from the ones in Lisbon, and that can be seen quite clearly when comparing the financing structures of both. The first relies on significant support from public funding to create high quality and rich programmes – the National Museums Liverpool group comprises eight important free venues that follow this scheme – whilst the second has a significant part of its museums and art galleries’ exciting programmes based on funding from private foundations. Both cities seem to me boiling in creativity, and both face different problems. Maybe the best approach would be trying to develop with more enthusiasm a mixed funding strategy for even better results.
You name street art, photography and protests as something that inspires you. What projects or artists have made a difference to you in the past?
Referring again to Lisbon, for the last couple of years, a street art movement began to rise with so much expression, creativity and quality that I was amazed. Vhils is one of the obvious names, also Pantonio, or the Arm Collective. It can be a kind of unauthorized protest, the most selfish attempt to disseminate one’s art, and courageousness, honesty and disquietude raised to the maximum exponent.
In the photographic universe, Paulo Nozolino is a source of admiration, as well as the canonical Cartier Bresson. Recently I also found a lovely amateur blogger and street photographer based in Berlin – Klara’s Street – which I recommend everyone to follow!
What do you hope to have achieved, personally and professionally, by the end of your time at Liverpool Biennial?
Essentially I hope to achieve a broader critical perspective on the creative organisation’s way of working. I want to learn how an international arts festival is produced, how artists are approached, how the creative choices within the programming are made, what financing structures are used, how the networking between organisations is promoted.
Personally I expect to reach new levels of independence, autonomy, awareness and broader my horizons. Some achievements are already in progress and the changes seem tangible, I hope it continues like this.