During the next ten days and nights, from 7th to 16th of July, the cultural and multidisciplinary festival Jardins Efémeros (Ephemeral Gardens) will take place in the northern city of Viseu, Portugal. This yearly event celebrates its seventh edition under the name Paradoxo, and will explore through different disciplines the paradoxes of the times we live in.
Jardins Efémeros has a strong experimental component and one of its main aims is to experience the city of Viseu through artistic, scientific and cultural practices. Creators, researchers, social workers, universities and organizations contribute to the program, which includes visual arts, architecture, sound, cinema, theater, dance, as well as workshops and markets. With more than one hundred thousand visitors in its last edition, the festival is a must for the summer, a daring peripheral happening out of the two big Portuguese cultural centers, Lisbon and Porto.

The Paradox Of Our Times

The central theme of this edition is the paradox of the times we live in. “We understand that there is an urgent need to raise the awareness of the population and the artistic community in order to build a plural, aggregate, fair, hopeful and creative world, at a time when planetary sustainability and human life are in fragile equilibrium”, explains the festival’s organization. Consequently, the pieces created for this year’s edition try to reflect on humanism, democratic values and to incorporate the sense of freedom, both individual and collective.

Once the basic principles are settled, the underlying idea remains as “what is the city of Viseu and what could it become in relation to the local, the national and the international”. For this reason, the festival includes active citizenship reflexions and social architecture models to increase its critical ability.

No need to say that Jardins Efémeros brings the population closer to artistic expressions such as sound art, installations and performances – rarely presented in public space and for free – in an attempt to democratize these avant-garde practices. Such practices are designed to interact, dialogue and transform the historic centre of Viseu and its iconic spaces: the Cathedral, museums, chapels, public buildings, gardens and plazas, materializing a new idea of garden, which precisely gives name to the festival.
Sound and music

One of the highlights of the festival is the musical and sonic program. There are twenty concerts scheduled featuring both national and international renowned artists, a sound installation and a workshop for manufacturing sound gadgets by Hugo Cardoso, with its subsequent performance using the instruments created in the workshop.

The Cathedral of Viseu, endowed with the special acoustics of the Gothic cathedrals, presents a marvellous agenda: one of the prominent shows is Statea by a duo formed by the French classical pianist Vanessa Wagner and the magnificent Mexican producer Murcof (aka Fernando Corona), one of the best artists on minimal, low density and sampling electronic music. Other performances not to be missed at the Cathedral include Christian Fennesz with Arve Henriksen, in which the legendary Austrian guitarist is accompanied by the trumpet of the Norwegian; the master of jazz and atonal music, Evan Parker, or the American musician William Basinski, creator of the masterpiece The Disintegration Loops.

Scandinavian presence in the sound part is remarkable. Croatian Love – the minimalist project of Loke Rahbek, founder of the Danish label Posh Isolation and one of the most visible faces of the Nordic scene – will be performing in the Cathedral cloister. In the same location, Norwegian composer and vocalist Stine Janvin Motland will present Fake Synthetic Music, a piece that explores and extends the boundaries of natural, acoustic voice. The Danish composer and sound artist SØS Gunver Ryberg will perform at the Museum Grão Vasco, where the public will be able to enjoy her sound landscapes created from the synthesis of processed field recordings framed in symphonic forms.
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To finish the sonic tour, we recommend the DJ sets of British Richard Fearless – founder of the band Death In Vegas – and Superpitcher (aka Aksel Schaufler), who is one of the stars of the legendary label Kompakt in Cologne (Germany).
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Visual arts

Specially commissioned for the city of Viseu by the festival, visual artists Gabriela Albergaria and Pedro Tudela have created Peça Para Perséfone. This work will transform Plaza D. Duarte into an open-air gallery where a tree – whose roots are protected – will be located on top of a podium and half of the square will be covered with a kind of carpet made following a vernacular construction technique based on clay and gravel. A complex system of material structures and visual hierarchies that define the framing of our visual field and question the idea of garden.
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Vestido a Rigor, by Pedro Rebelo and BeAnotherLab – an international collective based in Barcelona – have developed this participatory project in collaboration with Viseu’s gypsy community. The project aims at making the reality of the gypsy minority visible through immersive experiences in the Museum Grão Vasco, where an audio-visual installation that uses virtual reality techniques combined with 3D glasses and headphones will hopefully trigger visitors’ empathy towards this marginalized community.
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Another installation not to be missed is Frédéric Touchard’s 14 Estações, a video art piece composed by fourteen short films inspired by the fourteen seasons of the Via Crucis. Although it’s not a religious artwork, it’s actually spiritual and talks about the most sacred things we know: life and death. Through this series of films, the French artist combines the visible and the invisible, the natural and the artificial, the materiality and the immateriality – everything following the festival’s main theme, the paradox. A surreal, introspective experience that may change the public’s vision on life.
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Museum Grão Vasco will also host the screening of The Way Things Go (1987) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The sound component of the film will be a live performance by Die Von Brau, one of the artistic projects of Sérgio Faria. Continuing the tradition of past editions, there will be open-air cinema; only this time, focused on paradoxical issues through classics such as Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987), Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) or King Vidor's The Fountainhead (1949).

Conferences, workshops, markets and others

The Wire, an independent British magazine dedicated to music, organizes Off the Page, a series of lectures, debates and presentations on music criticism. Furthermore, there will be around twenty additional audio-visual art shows, ten theatre and dance shows, five markets with regional products, handicrafts, publications and seventy workshops thought for all kind of public and all ages.
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Jardins Efémeros will take place in several places in Viseu, Portugal, from July 7th to the 16th. You can check the complete program here.