31 May, 2020       LISBON - MAX. Mostly sunny with a shower or thunderstorm aroundº, MIN. 17º

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Folders  |  Contemporary art plays with four centuries of tradition!
Contemporary art plays with four centuries of tradition!
Claire Baudoin
Contemporary art plays with four centuries of tradition!
Four young artists – the oldest is only 34 – shed new light on the venerated urban lifts of Glória, Lavra, Bica and Santa Justa in Lisbon, all invented by the Portuguese engineer of French origin Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard (1849-1914).

The Lavra lift: A VIAGEM
The artist Vasco Araújo was stuck by the high, often blind walls that unfold during this short journey, thus providing no distractions for the passenger’s gaze. The passenger is therefore forced to enter another notion of time: introspection. He is forced to contemplate and question his big journey, the journey of Life – his life. The artist renders this concept tangible by writing sentences on the walls that border the lift: literary references, from the Greeks and Romans to Shakespeare and Fernando Pessoa: « Ah! Os caminhos estão todos em mim» (all journeys are within myself). The passenger reads the sentences as the lift ascends, as if engaged in silent conversation, as others look on…

The Glória lift: IN.TER.SEC.CÃO
It was with a system of cogs and water counter-weights that this lift started operating in 1885: when the tank in the top carriage is full, it goes down the 265m. slope. Conversely, the empty tank in the bottom carriage makes it climb effortlessly to the top. This system of attraction, balance and opposition of forces impressed Susana Anágua (destined by name, agua is the Portuguese for water!). She focused on that magical, fleeting moment of balance during this mechanical exchange just as the two carriages cross each other. At that precise moment, a flash goes off at body level which lights-up a few paving stones covered in fluorescent paint. But the recent bad rain has caused the paint to start flaking.

Note: the only lift still in operation in the world to use this hydraulic system is the one at the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, in Braga.

The Bica lift : ESPECTRO
Alexandre Farto’s bright idea was to cover the two yellow cabins in mirrors. They thus become the reflection (spectrum = vision) of the everyday life of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants — a mix of school children, students, workers and retired people just going about their business. When the sky darkens, and night falls, they go home and lock themselves in just as others, from different horizons, take possession of the area, keeping the neighbourhood alive until daybreak. The mirror-clad lifts take a snapshot of passing images. They have, to some extent, become a sort of silent movie screen. This can also be a good way of preventing graffiti on the carriages!

The Sant Justa lift: Querido(a) Passageiro(a)
Invented in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, this vertical lift tower makes going from Baixo to the Carmo easy. The passengers moving from one area to another constitute a temporary community, irrespective of their origins, cultures or life experiences. They are placed in a confined area with practically no view on the outside world. The artist Susana Mendes Silva underlines these characteristics: she makes the most of the sudden awareness of each actor, the passenger, observer and ‘other’ by creating a dialogue with these few words « Querido(a) Passageiro(a) » (dear passenger) written on the windows in different languages.

These four artistic creations are part of the Carris project called « Carris Arte em Movimento » (art in movement). We recommend you try these contemporary experiments and experiences that will run until 30 June.

Claire Baudoin
Professional guide

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