ZDB Skills Archive
The ZDB Skills Archive of Bairro Alto
For the show Life Policies curated by Solvej H. Ovesen I decided to “return” to the gallery making a socio-political context related art project as part of an exhibition.
The ZDB gallery is placed in the middle of Bairro Alto, the old part of Lisbon, where elderly and retired people live side by side with new fancy bars, restaurants, fashion designers, etc. The Bairro Alto was once known for housing some of the finest craftsmen in the country – a lot of which are still living there either as active or retired.
I started with a workshop for design and art students where we analysed a meeting room at their academy, and one at a top lawyers company. From the workshop seven people decided to join my project in making the work for the show. The only perimeter I set up was that it had to be a functional work, and that we had to use the two rooms I had chosen at ZDB Gallery.
We started by making two groups, one that did research by interview and one that did material research. The most interesting findings were that none of the 31 elderly people we interviewed had ever been to the gallery, and the story was that ZDB was a place for drugs, prostitution, loud music, strange youngsters and blasphemy. There seemed to be a big gap between the young and the old living in, working in or using Bairro Alto. We also happen to find drawers in different skips around the area! Some mentioned they needed flowers. One of the old women suggested we made a project to pass on the rare craft skills of the old to the children.
From this we decided to make a skills archive that can be used both by artists that exhibits at ZDB, as well as the fancy shop and bar owners. We started with eight craftsmen and presented their works as well as their contact details at an installation at ZDB. The students will then further expand the archive. As a first try to invite the elderly people in we invited those from the archive to come a couple of days after the opening to view how they where presented.
With the ZDB Skills Archive of Bairro Alto we hope to have created a possibility for the elderly and the art people to meet on common ground, the exchange of their skills, and thereby initiate new stories in the neighbourhood about ZDB.
Nidia Oliviera, Iva Henriques, Albio Massimento, Susana Antonio, Eduardo Majo, Lara Soares, Antónia Samareles and Kenneth A. Balfelt