Floating Artwork by Joana Vasconcelos

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Portuguese, Paris-born contemporary artist Joana Vasconcelos was selected to represent Portugal at the 2013 International Art Exhibition – Venice Biennial La Biennale di Venezia. The artist displayed a one-of-a-kind project called Trafaria Praia; and transformed a ‘cacilheiro’, or Lisbon ferry, into a floating pavilion and artwork. Curator Miguel Amado explains that the work addresses the similarities between the two cities in question – Lisbon and Venice.

The piece gives a contemporary view of Lisbon before the earthquake in 1755

It examines three specific similarities that the geographical locations share: water, navigation and the vessel. The work was intended as an idealistic gesture on behalf of Joana Vasconcelos; a metaphorical circumvention of the power struggles that mark international relations today. This is a common practice for the artist who often appropriates everyday objects and meticulously transforms them. The ferry boat was coated with a panel of tiles which show a contemporary view of Lisbon, making reference to the Grande Panorama de Lisboa by Gabriel del Barco (dating from 1700). The piece aims to give a contemporary view of Lisbon before the earthquake in 1755. The blue and white tones will continue into the interior of the boat, where the textile installation will occupy the whole deck. Tentacles of blue and white crochet will turn on and off slowly, giving the visitor the sensation of travelling in the interior of a ‘living organism’ according to Vasconcelos herself. Vasconcelos covers the outside of the cacilheiro with a panel of hand-painted blue and white tiles reproducing a contemporary view of Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake, and taking inspiration from a key piece of Portuguese tile-work from the eighteenth century, the Great Panorama of Lisbon. On the central area of the ship’s deck, she created an environment based on textiles and light that recall typical works of hers, consisting of coloured, organic forms hand made in crochet and other fabrics which incorporate LEDs. These pieces appear from the walls and the ceiling, creating an atmosphere and an experience that is both intellectual and sensorial, and give the visitor the sensation of travelling in the interior of a ‘living organism’ according to Vasconcelos herself.

As of April 26th it will be on permanent display, and will once again navigate the waters of the for sightseeing cruises. It will be docked for visits between Ribeira das Naus and Cais do Sodré, and cruises from Comércio Square to the Tower of Belém every day except Mondays.

About Joana Vasconcelos: She has exhibited regularly in Portugal and abroad since the mid-1990s. In 2012, she became the first woman and the youngest artist ever to present her work at the Palace of Versailles in France. Read her interview about Lisbon here: https://cityguidelisbon.com/2014/03/12/joana-vasconcelos/