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PONTO D'ORVALHO

Multiple perspectives on the regenerative festival that crosses generational and disciplinary borders to explore artistic, social and ecological action.

INTRODUCTION
by its curators Joana Krämer Horta, Leonor Carrilho and Sérgio Hydalgo.

Manifested as a festival, Ponto d’Orvalho investigates ways of caring for the environment on a micro scale. This chapter of the street newspaper –Spaces of Care– explores how to embed the care for ourselves in caring work for the environment and the transnational communities that contextualize these encounters.

With a focus on research and experimentation, Ponto d’Orvalho opens a transdisciplinary festival to discuss environmental action through artistic, social and ecological interventions. In its 2021 edition, to be held September 24-26 at Freixo do Meio in Alentejo, we count the participation of António Poppe, Laila Sakini, Norberto Lobo, Inês Tartaruga Água, Stav Yeini, Fábio Colaço, Marta Wengorovius, Marc Leiber, Evy Jokhova, Xavier Paes, Piny Orchidaceae, Ari.You.Ok, Fernanda Botelho, Kino Sousa, María Inés Plaza Lazo (one of AWC’s publisher) and Alfredo Sendim.

At a time of social and ecological instability, the festival welcomes a trans-generational audience that seeks to relate to the environment in a regenerative and sustainable way, through knowledge exchange and artistic and collective practices. Different artistic disciplines come together with the intention of producing transformative experiences and creating receptive modes of perception and participation.

This pages accompaign a three-day gathering, a hybrid program of arts in nature focusing on the importance of more conscious eating practices along the work of the Cooperativa Integral Minga and Freixo do Meio, with national and international artistic proposals: concerts, visual arts, performances, holistic practices, conversations, workshops, DJ sets, nature walks and a performative performance.

Ponte d’Orvalho and Arts of The Working Class have put together the documents that connect to our bodies to their surroundings. This project is supported by Montado do Freixo do Meio, Cooperativa Integral Minga, Direcção Regional de Cultura do Alentejo, O Espaço do Tempo, Arts Of The Working Class, Galeria Zé dos Bois, Zebro, AudioMor.

Photo Stella Horta 4

OVERCOMING FEAR
By building a cooperative in a rural area.

Minga Cooperative is a social economy experience in Montemor-o-Novo in central Alentejo. It is a self-financed project, which lives mainly from the enthusiasm of its members. Each member is a prosumer: they can produce as well as consume in the different branches of the cooperative. Minga is guided by the promotion of sustainable practices in ecological, economic and social terms. Ponto d’Orvalho spoke with Jorge Gonçalves, one of their main partners and president of the board on strategies of building space for sharing and care developed during the pandemic. Gonçalves has a PhD in economics and previously worked on coordinating impact studies on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Latin American countries.

Sérgio Hydalgo: You studied economics, had the opportunity to work in many different contexts and have witnessed the profound geopolitical changes that have taken place in recent years where power has become more and more liberalized. How did these professional experiences lead you to come to a decentralized, rural area like Montemor-o-Novo?

Jorge Gonçalves: When I lived in Berlin, we created a collective called Altes Finanzamt. It was a self-man-aged, collective cultural space. We clustered collectives in performance, experimental music, literature, a label, we had several personal projects, and created something called philosophical soccer. It was a very creative period that coincided with a huge rent increase in the city. I arrived in Neukölln in 2008 and obviously contributed to this process [of gentrification]. We were paying more and more rent and losing freedom. I felt that although we had created a strong collective, I could never have total control and autonomy over my life while being afraid of being without food or water, without housing – without the basis of existence. I figured I had to leave a big city and come to a smaller environment and since I’m Portuguese, I came to Portugal. As I was interested in the Alentejo region, I ended up in Montemor, where I didn’t know anyone. I also came in this attempt to access land that has more differentiated characteristics than the land in big cities. You go from Berlin to London, from London to Lisbon, and what you consume is basically identical. But I was interested in the cultural heterogeneity and the multiplicities that occur in a rural context, regardless of who’s living there. In that context there is a much stronger cultural bond and emotional relations. I didn’t want to come and create a community, because I wasn’t interested in being isolated fromthe population and so we created a cooperative, in the center of Montemor.

SH: You want to challenge the logic of unsustainable growth...

JG: The motto was to test the heterotopic society. Society is making life more and more standardized. People study and have a career until they retire. If they reach that point in their lives, they have a few years to enjoy what they produced before. I admit that there are many people who like this, and I don’t think this is a problem. I do think it is a problem when that is the only way of life possible in Western society. The opposite is heterotopia: the idea that we have lives that surprise us, that we have lives that lead us to make decisions that we weren’t expecting and to take risks and have new curiosities and explore new places, explore new knowledge. That ability to take risks comes when we’re not afraid of losing our house, of losing our basic livelihood. It is fear that is confining us to this standardized life model, and so leaving the big city was one step in a direction where we try to create structures in which we can overcome fear. Here in Montemor, that’s easier, because it is easier to buy land, have a house, have a vegetable garden.

SH: Fear, uncertainty, frustration – the pandemic stirred our feelings deeply. How has Minga tried to cope with this historical moment in the construction of a space for sharing and care?

JG: We are a channel of food sovereignty. First of all, during the first confinement we never lacked food, not even vegetables and fruits, because our farmers continued to supply. The restaurants closed and the farmers were able to sell at our store. Secondly, our cooperators in the service area are highly skilled in dealing with crisis systems. We have people who can implement renewable energy projects, reforest, make farms self-sustainable, who know how to build water cisterns. We have people who are qualified to contribute to a more autonomous, localized society. Minga has helped these people to create their own business and to stop working for others, making the system less pyramidal, less hierarchical.
Anything can happen in the international markets and of course we are going to be affected. But there is a greater resilience; the probability of a community response is much stronger here, and in that sense we will be able to continue a creative life, an artistic life, more easily than in a very big city, and that is part of what motivated me to come here. We used the model of the Altes Finanzamt, but for something that involves agriculture and other sectors, services and housing, and which tries to solve the problem in a more structured way. Above all, we want people to have low living costs, i.e. access to a house, a garden and low electricity and energy costs, so that they can have free time to create.

SH: What are the biggest challenges for Minga in Montemor?

JG: Minga itself doesn’t face any challenges. Those who face a challenge are the people of Montemor. Minga is a tool at the disposal of the people; it will have value or use for as long as it makes sense. In the Portuguese legal system it does, because there are tax issues and such for which the cooperative is useful to people. But if the laws change or if we enter the economy of the future, which is based much more on solidarity and on giving and much less on the monetary economy, the cooperative will no longer have as much use. It is a transitional element. Depending on the social needs, we have to find the tools that will allow us to overcome the challenges that we go through - a local currency like Mor, a cooperative, a political movement. Having said this, the challenge that Montemor and its population faces is fear: people are full of fear, and fear has consequences on people’s health, on people’s relationships. People are much more distant from each other, and therefore cooperate even less. The fact that we have been brought up in a culture of individualism has only added to that process. So the challenge is to overcome fear, to be able to trust each other and to collectively find the solutions to our problems.

 

LOVE AND CARE MAKE MY PLANTS SHINE
Investigating the adaptation of Syntropic Agriculture to the Mediterranean climate.

Here at Quinta das Abelhas, Freixo do Meio, a large test field has been established during the past year and a half where a great amount of vegetation has been planted – about 50,000 trees, along with other forest elements, grasses and vegetables. This test site is divided into three basic parts: the field of 2020, and then two fields which were installed in 2021, one of them without irrigation.
Behind this is the 25 year-old Mark Leiber, who studied Conventional Agriculture in the Netherlands and Germany. His work is based on Syntropic Agriculture, and aims to expand the concept to fit the conditions of Alentejo.
Ponto d’Orvalho will invite the audience to silently perceive these fields, gathering after to exchange first impressions and feelings that might arise during this experience.

Joana Krämer Horta: Tell me a bit about yourself and what brings you to Freixo do Meio.

Marc Leiber: I studied Conventional Agriculture because I wanted to understand the realities of modern farming, in order to be able to seek answers on how to impact on the manner in which food is produced on a large scale. Many answers to my questions came when I met Ernst Götsch, with whom I have now been studying for over three years. The experience of working and living in Götsch’s cacao plantations for nine months completely changed my life. I saw firsthand what a positive impact a human can have on the ecosystem, while achieving incredibly high agricultural productivity. Now, on my farm in the Portuguese Alentejo, I seek this form of living, and work to put into practice the knowledge and experience I’ve gained through the past years.
Freixo prepared a group of students to fulfill an internship on Ernst’s farm, which is how I met them, and I then later travelled to Portugal as part of the study. We were doing maintenance work in different agroforestry sites and analyzing the Mediterranean climate and soil. During my weekends I’ve spent my time falling in love with the place and dreaming about coming to live and work here one day.

JKH: I’ve seen your work grow - you’ve already established three experimental fields since I’ve met you. The way that you treat your land translates into a lot of love and care. Can you comment on this space of care that you create and are surrounded by every day?

ML: When I started working with plants, I realized that it was something I truly enjoy. If you put love into plants, they give you immediate feedback by shining back at you. Have you noticed? When plants shine, it means that love and care are deeply instilled into them. The work here creates a lot of bliss and pleasure because you see something growing; you see how the place is improving, and how you grow with it. This leaves me with a really deep sense of gratitude.
For me, this farm is a nucleus, a space from which this form of care and constant maintenance of the soil starts to grow, as well as the awareness for this type of agriculture in the Alentejo region.

JKH: You’ve been eating and digesting all of the vegetables and edible plants, and drink ing only the water from your spring since your production started to sprout. You’ve practically become your land with what you choose to eat. How do you feel?

ML: I’ve become more and more sensitive to the food I digest as I started changing my diet. First, eating only organic and local foods, and then starting to grow everything myself. At some point, I started drinking water only from freshwater springs and since I’ve been living here, I’ve only been drinking water from my own spring.
This way of eating and digesting is important to me, because of the way that I plant what I eat. Each vegetable actively contributes to the ecological improvement and life conditions of this site. This information is deeply rooted in each plant. When I eat these vegetables, I feel that I’m also eating the spirit of the plant. There is not only a material dimension in this act, but also an energetic and spiritual one.
By eating from the same place every day, we start cultivating a certain set of microorganisms in our gut. The soil and my gut are actually starting to have a lot of microorganisms in common, so by now, my gut is a mirror of the soil of my land.

JKH: Syntropic Agriculture. Why are you applying these techniques, and what are the main goals?

ML: Even though humans have played a significant role in destroying this ecosystem, it is also possible for us to recreate forests. At this farm I’ve set this as my mission, and believe that Syntropic Farming plays a crucial role in building a possible future.
Syntropic Agriculture is a form of agriculture pioneered by farmer and researcher Ernst Götsch, and it’s based solely on principles instead of on readily repeatable recipes. These principles are, in turn, based on the principles by which nature and forest ecosystems function. My goal is to create agro-ecosystems here which mimic the natural and original ecosystem.
It’s a space with incredible potential; a cradle of our modern culture, and home to many significant cultures throughout history. However, information on how to practice Syntropic Farming within this climate is low. I’m working together closely with Götsch to adapt these principles to the realities of my farm, where I have the goal to create a reference point.

JKH: Would you like to build a learning center in the future?

ML: Definitely! I’m looking to expand this area by one hectare this year, applying valuable lessons that I’ve already learned and experimenting with new cultures. This farm will act as a learning, reference and training site, where workshops and seminars are to be hosted and research conducted in the future.
At a certain point I won’t be able to take care of everything, you know. It will become too much at some point. Creating a community space where other helpers also think with me is part of what I envision for the project, as well as of course bringing this form of agriculture to scale.
Until now I’ve had visitors who came to get inspiration, and others that stayed for some weeks. But I would like to welcome people to stay longer. A least half a year or a year, or maybe even longer to work in the bigger plantations and to plan the future together.

JKH: This agroforestry project is already registering an important impact on the climate in this area. With this amount of trees, you’re now creating a microclimate where temperature and biodiversity are being transformed. Can you share your view on climate change?

ML: Modern agriculture and the resulting climatic changes are putting the Iberian Peninsula at high risk of desertification. Our current attitude and manner of action can no longer continue. For the past year and a half, I’ve been working on this farm to apply the principles of Syntropic Agriculture in order to seek solutions to this current issue, and the results have been very positive.
Of course, the changes in climate mean that farmers need to prepare themselves and create plantations that are resilient. We cannot rely on the climate to be the same tomorrow. It’s important that farmers seek solutions to all kinds of challenges that will occur, and advise that the population start looking for self-sufficiency in producing their own food. Having a source of food in the future is good advice.

Photo Stella Horta 2

 

HEALING, TRANSITIONING, BEING – SENSING
Reconnecting with knowledge that comes from within.

The real relationship doesn’t depend on words, it depends on the capacity to be with. Gabor Mate

We are a very traumatized society, lacking in space, time and the capacity to be fully present with ourselves and others. The reference to societal negligence starts from infancy and continues to adulthood. The incapacity to be with is a collective disease that passes on from one generation to the next.

Pathways to intuition and emotional intelligence are currently inaccessible by culture and conditioning, because their activation is a threat to the current political and economical systems that we live by. Inspired by the need to create an access point to these inner archives and data, I practice and share spaces to restore, nourish and release our human potential as a species by reactivating new and forgotten neural pathways for sensing, being and perception. Working in collaboration with artists from various fields on the practical, physical, sonic, social and energetic levels of a synthesis of organic and electronic environments, the emphasis lies on sensuous knowledge production arising from a post-economic, ecological consciousness. Reconnecting with knowledge that comes from within, which has been collectively repressed, can enable us to establish rituals for collective care and evolution.

***

Conversation with the higher self:
how to move from a victim mentality to force fields of possibility

• Why is it happening now?
• It was time
• What is the advice, what should I listen to?
• Stay quiet and wait for the impulse instead of reacting from the ‘cloud’.
• What is the ‘cloud’?
• It is artificial space around the head area that also expresses itself as an emotional hostage (taker) collectively oppressing the crowd to feel and act in a certain way.
• How can I find myself and disassociate the matter from the ‘cloud’?
• Stay in your body, learn to recognize the inner Qs that come from the belly area rather than the head area. Listening is the alchemy. Your body is your subconscious teacher here in this density. It is a beautiful vessel that could be perceived as borrowed for a limited amount of time for you to Embody MeMoRy in.
Our nature is pure and electric. Imagine and feel the timeline you want to live in.

***

The post-pandemic time is a rite of passage. It reveals even more the need to create time and space for collective care to digest the social and political transitions we go through both as individuals and as a collective. To restore connections to inner and outer forms of resilience, and to literally get back in touch with ourselves and others.
We are moving through a process of death and rebirth, and what may look like the end of an era, might in-fact be a process of shedding our fears and illusions and the need to control. We go through an unknown threshold of mutation, and inevitably come out different. These experiences may appear like ‘the end of me’, and they may be a transition to yet another ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘them’.
These moments could be interesting to stay with and to give space to through deep listening. The term ‘Deep Listening’ is borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), an American composer and a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music.
Pivoting away from the hyperactive use of contemporary technologies as we know them today, so that we can turn them into an extension of our range of senses and sensitivities. Emphasizing inclusion, empathy and profound listening to the inner monologue of human and non-human forms of life. Did you ever listen to a plant singing? One example of this practice is giving agency to seemingly mute forms of life so that they could be heard by humans, by converting their biorhythms into audible signals. We usually can’t hear them not because they don’t speak, but because we don’t attend to listen. In being attentive to other forms of life, I feel that we can connect with and listen to the silenced parts in ourselves more easily, and potentially to societal parts that have also been silenced, or made invisible.

Archaeological materials are not mute. They speak their own language. And they need to be used for the great source they are to help unravel the spirituality of those of our ancestors who predate the Indo-Europeans by many thousands of years. Marija Gimbutas

 

1. Marc Leiber Clara Imbert 1

FIELDS OF COEXISTENCE
Exploring rituals and food.

Leonor Carrilho: The importance of rituals and performative moments is central in your work. What interests you the most: the act of sharing, to create a space of renewal or the merits of intuition and collaboration?

Evy Jokhova: My work centres on ritual, repetitive or performative actions. These are most often rituals of the mundane, for example ones influenced or dictated by the architectures we inhabit or certain social protocols. Isolated from context, these mundane aspects may come across as utterly peculiar, nonsensical, or beautiful acts. The question of sharing for me is intrinsically linked with care; and care (or lack thereof) sits at the core of every relationship. Relationships and how these are enacted through gesture, movement and positioning are what my work investigates. Collaboration can be accidental but always led by intuition. I try to create spaces and frameworks which invite collaboration in all of its forms, from active participation to contained contemplation. My wish is for audiences to engage intuitively and whether this leads to acts of sharing or creating spaces of renewal subsequently becomes up to them. 

LC: You also address issues connected to ecofeminism in your work. How do you examine these connections between women and nature? 

EJ: The connection between women and nature comes from care. It is an age-old connection from which women historically gained knowledge that gave them power and autonomy. An intuitive kind of knowledge that undermined patriarchal thinking and supremacy, and for this, women were often branded and persecuted as witches. Care for me manifests as a balance of energies. Each connection or relationship is about keeping the energies within it in balance, the moment one becomes dominant, demanding, unreciprocal or the other too passive and weakened there is a risk of depletion, the balance scales are tipped and the fragile bonds break. All balance is precarious, just one push that is too forceful or in the wrong direction can shatter everything. The overspill of disbalance in one relationship can affect other relationships surrounding it, tearing more bonds and creating a greater disbalance. In my work I focus on balance, many objects are also meticulously handmade or sourced investing each form with time and care. 

LC: In one of our past conversations you told me about mental monocultures. Speaking of soils, one of the possibilities to monoculture is syntropic agriculture. The principles behind syntropic agriculture, one of the themes of the Ponto d’Orvalho, is exactly balance, energy and environmental preservation, organization, and integration. Recovering infertile soils through this process. How can we do this with mental processes? How does your work reflect on this possibility?

EJ: I feel that in order to understand the whole it is important to isolate the components. Many things are taught to us as a given and we accept them without questioning. I try to present situations and spaces where audiences can simultaneously be participants and have the option of being ‘on the outside looking in’ – this way the mechanics of social situations can become more apparent, and one’s mind can process the individual elements that construct the narrative. By isolating certain actions, movements and rituals I try to investigate their validity in collaboration with the audience, unpicking why we do what we do, prying into our primitive nature and opening the space to ask if there are better alternatives. 

LC: Your work around the politics of food and social engagement became even more pertinent because of the current situation. Tell us more about the projects you're working on regarding this topic.

EJ: In 2014 in London I started ‘Allotment’ – a social experiment and participatory research project with various collaborators that takes the form of participatory dinners, performances, community events and written research exploring the relationship between food, politics, and culture. The project looks at how we are socialised through food, its value, politics, distribution, and social connotations. Through an awareness of the extent of our disconnection from nature that capitalist thinking has brought on, Allotment started as an ad-hoc experimental programme of events that explored the themes of hierarchy, rationing, landscape, social construction and revolution. Considering food as a fundamental building block through which social systems, cultures and societies are (in)formed, the project employs interactive participatory events both as a research tool and method of production. 

I am now developing this project further with a focus on foraging and traditional food culture and plant knowledge. Foraging is a big part of my own personal culture stemming from Eastern Europe and Baltics. The practices exist on a daily basis in the mind and practice of so many people and lie latent in the collective memory of many cultures in a way that I think is not true in more completely Western countries. Over the years I have been recording various forms of traditional knowledge about the hidden properties of plants passed on through generations, their medicinal effects and how food can shape culture and belief. This knowledge is sadly being lost through the expansion of monocultures (both agricultural and of the mind) therefore I am trying to decolonise these mental monocultures through breaking patriarchal archetypes and the myth of individualisation through reconnecting with nature and attuning to collective modes of working and thinking. I am researching this through food, collective knowledge exchange and meals and investigating how traditional knowledge can be re-introduced into contemporary food cultures without commercialising it.

My aim for the project is that it functions as an open community for sharing knowledge with non-lateral forms of sharing and creating spaces for collective learning. I’m working towards creating a range of recipes, developing participatory collective activities including: foraging, food preparation and communal meals and a foraging association in Portugal with a specific focus on the Azores where I have spent a lot of time recently. 

LC: The last pandemic year taught us a lot about the importance of the collective and how our actions impact others. Have we relearned how to live? Will the changes we have all made in our daily lives lead us to create more humane collective spaces?

EJ: I really hope so! Although realistically I think it will take a much longer time for society to relearn anything, our fast-paced consumerist habits and reliance on convenience are too deeply ingrained. There has definitely been a reverse in the rural-urban pull which has been dominant over the last decades. Due to the pandemic many people have become more aware of how much nature gives them and there is a flow of people moving to rural settings. Yet re-establishing a personal and sustainable connection with nature having little prior knowledge of how to live in it will take significant time. Many new wonderful initiatives have emerged in both rural and urban spaces over the past year which have a local micro-community focus. Groups and communities are forming where old patterns were broken, maintaining a certain autonomy from outside influences and giving back to the community. If this continues and we don’t slip back into our old ways of life then they will definitely help us to create more humane collective spaces.

LC: For the food performance that you will do at Ponto d’Orvalho you will work with Fernanda Botelho, a plants specialist, to forage plants which will later be cooked / prepared by you and served in a performative moment. Can you tell a little more about what you will be presenting?

EJ: At the moment my ideas for the performance and workshop are still in development and more site visits are necessary for me to conceptualise the idea. What excites me the most is learning about the local plants of the Alentejo from Fernanda Botelho, being inspired and led by the plants themselves to create certain rituals and performance sequences – in a sense letting nature dictate the work. Alentejo is a part of Portugal that I am very familiar with yet my plant knowledge comes predominantly from the Baltic, Central European and Azores regions, so there is still so much to learn! What I can say for now is that the work will be experimental, participatory and embedded in the natural narrative of the region. 

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