This week, Zoot meets the talented Jorge Maciel, the first artist of the Red Bull House of Art project, at it”s breathtaking location which was once the old water tower of LX Factory overlooking the entire city of Lisbon with a stunning 360° view. And so after I brave the exterior staircase up to the rooftop residence, the lovely Jorge sits down to avidly talk with me about his ongoing experience at Red Bull”s House of Art…
By Lucy Mclean
ZOOT: Hi Jorge, firstly tell us how you first heard about the Red Bull House of Art in Lisbon?
JM: I was invited by the curator, Filipa Oliveira, because I already worked with her 3 times in the past on other projects and when she read the proposal for the project, the first name she thought of was mine, my work just fits with the guidelines. So then I came to visit the space, which I already knew because I have worked here at LX Factory and I like it a lot, after 2 months they called me and invited me to the project. On the moment I said yes, I was very positive about the project.
ZOOT: So how have you liked living in this space? Have you learnt anything about Lisbon?
JM: Yes, because this is my first time living in Lisbon and I like it, the most interesting thing is that every day I see new things on the landscape, the sunsets, the rising of the sun…
ZOOT: So you”re not afraid of heights up here??
JM: (very casually) No, I like it!
ZOOT: So, what is the concept or inspiration behind the work we see here?
JM: You know, I picked up a lot of stuff from all my work over the past years..
ZOOT: Were you inspired by this space and the city of Lisbon in any way?
JM: Yes, also this. This is my way of thinking, I am living in the space and I need to be comfortable, the things in this space have to be practical and I like to rebuild the place in my own way.
ZOOT: I particularly like the cupboards you built here…
JM: Yes, you can see that here, like where you have the microwave and usually you would have empty space at the side but I built one box into that specific space. The things there I collected from the trash too, in the beginning I didnt have an idea what I was going to do but then when I am developing the work the things say to me how they will be fixed and how they will work together.
ZOOT: So you found all these materials locally in Lisbon?
JM: Yeah, almost all of them. I take rides around the city and go to the dumpsters to pick up some stuff. Almost all of the stuff I dont know how they will work but when I start to build things they suddenly fix on a space.
ZOOT: Have you ever found a favourite piece of trash?
JM: Ahh I have to think a little about this… sometimes I find old toys and old furniture, some radios… I dont think I have one favourite piece. The thing I like a lot to find in the trash is things like this (pulls out a retro plastic tool box from under the nearby table) because over the years I now have almost 7 or 8 just like this but in different colours and sizes and all of them are from the trash. I think this is my favourite
ZOOT: So you can have a whole collection?
JM: Yes! And I keep everything in boxes so, its useful!
ZOOT: OK, so now for a more difficult question – what are your opinions of Portuguese art in general, and in comparison to big International work in galleries?
JM: Well, yes that is a difficult one.. I don’t know much about the International galleries and how things are in the rest of Europe but I have some friends there and in Germany and I think its a little bit similar to here. The difficult part is because there a lot of people trying to be artists… Then there are always the people who are the outsiders, you know, but I think that this is similar in Europe to in Portugal.
ZOOT: Yes, I agree with you there. So Jorge, do you listen to a lot of music here while you work?
JM: Yes, I listen to a lot of music because I don’t have a computer and I don’t see much TV so I always have the radio on. I like the radio, listening to old Portuguese songs from the 50s and 60s, and some English music too. I listen to a little bit of everything and I have vinyls to play (pointing a warped old vinyl that is pleasantly spinning away behind us) because I have some friends who have computers and mp3″s but I don’t mind, I do like to listen while I work.
ZOOT: Would you say you take inspiration from the old Portuguese music?
JM: Hmm yeah, I guess so. I thinks you get inspiration listening to the lyrics of these songs and it”s nice because almost all of the Portuguese singers on the radio are now dead but their music carries on through time…
ZOOT: We can see upstairs that you have used a lot of electrical parts on your work too – have you always been interested in mechanisms like this?
JM: Yeah, because I like to rebuild things, you know, and I think its a challenge to make one thing that does not exist already. In the beginning I only worked with wood and steel and after that I realised that all the little stuff I find needs a space too so I developed these mechanisms as things to put onto the big structure. The mechanisms appeared when I first found electric cars and robots in the trash and I started to take them apart finding that I can fix and rebuild their outside shape, so its something that appears more in my work now.
JM: Well, basically at the school they don”t say, “you have to put the light like this or cut the wood this way”, so you are always doing different stuff yourself. The teachers are there and they help you but I started to work when I was 14 years old and I developed some techniques with wood working as a mechanic and builder of houses so these jobs helped me learn for my real work here.
ZOOT: So, what are you going to do next, any big projects after RB House of Art?
JM: I will go back to my home town [Jorge was born in 1982 in Vila de Punhe, North Portugal] because I am doing something similar like this in my own house. I have my Atelier, my work space, in my house, I live alone and all of the things I will do now will be on the house, I am rebuilding it, plastering walls, adding real electrics and like I did here, making the furniture.
ZOOT: So you have gained a new passion for building houses now?
JM: (laughing) Yes! I remember, sometimes my father would say to me “oh you should go and design houses, its a nice job” but I did not want to do Architecture. Then, a few years ago I started thinking about my work and some of the things I do are a lot like architecture…
ZOOT: Maybe you should try to build a whole house out of trash next?
JM: Yes, I would really like this but I need the space!
ZOOT: OK! So if any one reading this in Zoot magazine has an offer….
JM: Yes I can rebuild their house!
ZOOT: Ok great! Well, what has been the best part about living here in this space?
JM: Taking a shower with the rising sun. It”s very nice, there is nobody and you have the whole view.
ZOOT: And finally what advice would you give to the next artist that will work here?
JM: Ah that is a difficult question because I know the artist and the work he makes is a little bit different to mine. But, well, enjoy. Relax with your work, you don’t have to hurry with your art. So, enjoy the place, its nice. I stay here and I don’t have a computer so I spend a lot of hours just looking to the landscape. The real thing to do, after your work, is just to enjoy the place. It”s a nice experience.
ZOOT: So you will come back to visit the Red Bull House of Art?
JM: Yeah, for sure. I like it and I would like to see what the next artist is going to do because probably the table is not going to be there… all my tools they will be moved out and there are going to be lots of new things in the space so it”s like a whole new space, not my space but a new space from another person, this is interesting.
So as Jorge rushes off to another project he is helping out with nearby, we wish him luck with his future dumpster discoveries and the possible house of trash in the future!
This first Red Bull House of Art exhibition is open until 30th April so get down there quick if you want to catch a glimpse of the amazing space and the work of Jorge Maciel before the next Red Bull artist arrives to begin his own changes. For our full report on the Red Bull House of Art project follow the link to our previous post .