Dom Dinis School, Marvila, Lisbon, 2020
M: Hey Ana, now that we’ve reached the end of the workshops, here are our questions for you. To start with, what was your vision for the initial project?
A: It’s funny to talk about “vision”, since this was the word that our whole year’s work was mostly focused upon. Actually, my “vision” was quite different from what we ended up doing. To start with, the project was based on the concept: “the camera is the body”. My idea was to think about how we could, as a group, imagine a new camera or a new way of filming based on, and through, the body, from corporeal, sensory experiences. I’d suggested to the school that we should create a partnership between the multimedia and robotics departments, so that we could co-create some kind of device that would help us explore the relationship between the camera and the body.
However, I started to realise through our workshops that it wasn’t optics in the technical sense that interested us, but rather a way of looking, being, and living in the world… Basically, a critical and collective philosophy on the gaze. I remember when I said: “It doesn’t have to be a new camera, it can be another way of filming”, I saw everyone breathe a sigh of relief. So, it seemed very natural to me to abandon the initial idea and explore this other abstract, unfamiliar, and delicate direction that we have been very slowly getting to grips with over the last few months.
M: You’re right, it was a natural change. After this change, do you think the project has met your expectations? Like, is it going in a good direction?
A: It’s strange talking about expectations, since, very often, expectations have a tendency to create authoritarian attitudes, with no room for transformations or surprises. What happens is that the reality always ends up being more powerful than our desire. If I really wanted to meet my expectations, I might have been frustrated when we decided to abandon the initial project. But bearing in mind our project’s philosophy, I’d say that this type of attitude would be the exact opposite of what we were aiming for. We spent a good part of the year talking about all the problems linked to the violence of a certain kind of human society — western, rational, colonising — that always seeks to domesticate, tame, control what they call “nature”. If I wanted to make a project that was only about my own expectations, I would be, in a certain sense, reproducing what we’ve been trying to challenge.
However, I never imagined that we would reach July 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, which stopped us from continuing our face-to-face workshops, which forced us to work remotely and make cinema over Skype – something completely antithetical to my desire to work with cinema as a corporeal and in-person artform. I think it was an unexpected year for all of us, but these challenges also strengthened our collaboration.
M: I think the quarantine might have helped a bit, it gave us more ideas, we looked at things differently.
A: Do you think so?
M: Yes, I think so. Do you think it helped or hindered the situation? Did it change something or nothing at all?
A: I think you’re right, that there was a certain degree of focus when quarantine began. As we’ve discussed several times, many people were not even able to quarantine: the “invisible” workers who continued to work, people who live on the streets, all the inequalities of the world we live in became even more blatant. But for us, those who had the “privilege” of being able to quarantine, it is as if this sort of suspension of “normal” activities, this moment of pause, also gave us a degree of concentration and an awareness. And I feel that for us, the few of us who persisted with the project, it was as if suddenly the ideas that we were working on in a very abstract and conceptual way became very concrete.
I remember the moment when you, Mário, said in the video you made: “Yeah, but the world goes on, right?” Actually, for one part of the human species things “stopped”, but we humans do not live alone in the world. We spent the whole year talking about this, about this separation between nature and culture, between humanity and the world. And suddenly the pandemic reminded us that we’re not really alone, that we contaminate one another, infect each other and live together. So yes, I think there was an interesting turning point at that moment.