Thursday, 24 April 2014

Place as History as Place (1)

Picture a long 18th-century arcade ending in a slightly taller square, the proportion of rectangle length to square length about 7 to 1. You're seeing the east façade of the Praca do Comercial. It's night on the Lisbon waterfront.
A blend of live action and animation, a video on the joys of spring, is projected across the plaza onto the façade. As an example of videomapping, the composition of the video incorporates the dimensions and details of the façade, so that the kids in the video seem to be re-painting the actual archways over the windows of the façade, or hopping from balcony to balcony on the actual building. Giant speakers deliver the soundtrack. Hundreds of us stand throughout the plaza to listen to and watch this sweet, inventive, entirely dazzling work.
The Praca do Comercial has for centuries been the site of arrivals and departures of voyages of discovery, demonstrations, armed occupations, assassinations, festivals and other public gatherings of all sorts. Thus, here we are where spring and history, night and the sea, the grand and the personal, the innocent and the deadly have taken their turns in the dance of this place, if we choose to see it that way.
Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the overthrowing of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. The plaza holds that memory too.

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