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Engaged in the visual arts in a transdisciplinary way, Hangar – Centro de Investigação Artística (Hangar – Artistic Research Center) is an independent space, run by artists and curators, located in the Graça district, in Lisbon. Created in 2010, firstly in a format of itinerant residencies, the project is part of a wide network of international connections and partnerships, created from the unification of geographies, cultures and identities, integrating different fronts of action, and whose intervention focuses on the urban reality of Lisbon.

Acting concurrently in close proximity to the peripheral neighborhoods of the city and in transnational articulation with different artists and institutions, the project arises as a response to the lack of space in the arts institutions. In this sense, it has contributed as an important catalyst for the different narratives that emanate from the encounters of the intense transatlantic flow that connects the Americas, Africa and Europe, and which have in Lisbon their point of convergence.

Since 2014 it occupies a space on Rua Damasceno Monteiro, which has studios for artists, a place for exhibitions, and where artistic and curatorial residencies, conferences and various debates are also held, becoming an important meeting platform for the diaspora of the Portuguese-speaking countries in Lisbon. Hangar is a project of the non-profit cultural association XEREM, working as a cooperation platform between artists and various sectors and public and private institutions for artistic, cultural, local and international development.


The Hangar space has been closed since March 12 and we don’t have a reopening date yet, at least not in the previous format. There were seven artists in residency from different countries here. When the situation started to worsen, we recommend that they return to their countries, as everything was closing and we had no way to assist them. I too, working as an artist, had several scheduled trips to Angola, Hungary, Cape Verde . . . I would go to Luanda at the end of March to start working on my new film, with the production company Geração 80, on the Kwanza River. Everything was canceled.

The current moment is critical, as the entire financial sustainability of Hangar was reduced to zero, and we had to reinvent ourselves in a very short time. I still don’t know if we reinvented ourselves or if we are in the process of doing so. The reopening will be difficult, because in the beginning, we will not be able to bring a lot of people back together in one space. For now, we will gradually return to using the office, one person at a time.

Just a month after the outbreak of the pandemic, we started to see that it would be very difficult for us to pay the rent and the fixed wages that we regularly pay to our team, who have families and who depend on Hangar. It was very important not to have to close the space definitively, as is the case with many projects here in Lisbon, and that we also managed to keep staff. We currently have five professionals linked to Hangar and so far we are resisting laying people off. I do not know, however, if it will last until the end of the year, if the situation doesn’t improve. This is why we have been submitting several applications, applying for different funding projects. We have already set aside an emergency budget and we expect to be able to hold on until December before we run out of cash.

In this attempt to maintain our activities and the sustainability of the project, we’re facing challenges. It is difficult to operate online, as many things are free to access, and we are not charging anything. With that deadline in mind, December, we are still reinventing ourselves, hoping that things will change, because maybe we will have to think about leaving the building, which is rented. How do you work on a project that doesn’t exist and whose space is closed? In general, we have continued in the only way we could continue: holding meetings and chatting through applications such as Skype and Zoom.

The association behind Hangar is called XEREM, which had a different team, but they were already carrying out artistic intervention and public art projects at Intendente, an area quite socially fragile. In 2014, Lisbon was in crisis and there were many urban regeneration programs linked to socially engaged art, such as BIP/ZIP – Neighborhoods of Priority Intervention in Lisbon, from which we had support, and from where Hangar emerged.

O Programa BIP/ZIP Lisboa – Parcerias Locais, criado pela Câmara Municipal de Lisboa em 2011 é um instrumento de política pública municipal que visa dinamizar parcerias e pequenas intervenções locais de melhoria dos habitats abrangidos, através do apoio a projetos locais que contribuam para o reforço da coesão socio-territorial no município. O programa destina-se exclusivamente a apoiar atividades de projetos a desenvolver a promoção do desenvolvimento local, fomentando a cidadania ativa, a capacidade de auto- organização e a procura coletiva de soluções que contribuam para uma efetiva melhoria destes territórios e comunidades, de forma a permitir e reforçar a sua integração na cidade.

I am a visual artist, researcher, artist-educator and I’ve always been closely linked to artistic movements that are generated collectively, as a more independent cultural production tool. It is a way for the artists themselves be able to create their structure and work systems, without depending on the means that sometimes permeate the process.


I am a visual artist, researcher, artist-educator and I’ve always been closely linked to artistic movements that are generated collectively, as a more independent cultural production tool. It is a way for the artists themselves be able to create their structure and work systems, without depending on the means that sometimes permeate the process.
I’ve lived for some time in London before coming to Lisbon, although I, culturally, also have a strong relationship with Africa through my mother, who is Angolan, and who came to Portugal at the time of Angola’s independence. At 19 I went to England, where I stayed for almost 15 years. It was when I was working with the City Councils and municipal institutions there that I started to understand the strength of what are the movements of the so-called artist-lead organizations. Using art in many ways, I worked on projects that were socially engaged with the police, with community centers, with hospitals, in areas to the south of the city, such as Brixton and Peckham—especially within the context of urban regeneration.

I saw many places transform, and I could be part of that. That was the experience I brought with me when I decided to return to Portugal. I grew up in the North of the country and when I came back I came to Lisbon. I felt that here there was not much space in the institutions for artists to speak for themselves and define themselves. They were dependent on a number of structures, and I felt the need to create a collective. Hangar stemmed from there, from this experience that I had before. The return to Lisbon was also a time to start to come closer to Luanda and Africa, and to create these meetings. Lisbon has a very close and solid relationship with Luanda, Maputo, Mindelo, Praia and São Tomé. However, there is always a ghost that is the history of colonial power, but Lisbon ends up being the meeting point for a flow that comes from America to Africa.

Hangar emerged from the Triangle Network, whose base is Gasworks, in London. I met with director Alessio Antoniolli through the Muyehlekete residency, in which I took part in 2008 at the National Museum of Art, in Maputo. He said he would like to replicate the Triangle Network model in Lisbon. In 2010, we did our first residency, in several editions, until things picked up momentum and we also started conducting curatorships with African artists from Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde. For me, it was essential that what we were doing could create a meeting spot between these geographies, because Lisbon also serves as a gateway to Europe, where artists who come from these countries always pass, even though they then leave for others places.

The project started, then, through artistic residencies and this cultural exchange. We reached a point when we felt ready to do a project more deeply rooted, more solid, not so localized. We’d had the vision for the project for a long time, and at the time we were able to submit a new application to the BIP/ZIP – Local Partnerships program of the Lisbon City Council, but it was essential that we had a space.

The Triangle Network is a global network of artists and visual arts organizations, present in 41 countries, which supports professional development and cultural exchange between artists, curators and other art professionals the world over. Created in 1982, it offers opportunities for artists to connect, make new work and build their practice through workshops, residencies, events, exhibitions, work placements and studio provision. The network also encourages and helps fundraising for joint international projects and offers opportunities for support, advice and knowledge-sharing.

I went to a real estate agency looking for a garage and we were directed to a building located in Graça, but we didn’t need a space that big. As I couldn’t find any other site and the application deadline was approaching, I asked the real estate agency owner for a letter saying that we would stay in that property, but we would review this need, because it was too big. But we got picked, and panicked. It is a giant space, with four floors, and before, working only in an itinerant way, with partnerships, we didn’t have to worry with all the expenses that a space generates, which are many, because it’s not only the project, it’s the entire structure and maintenance of it.

After we were selected, we stood by for one year until we signed the contract, because we didn’t know very well what to do with the building. At the time, the Graça area was not exactly what it is now, no one was that much interested in that property and that moment of waiting gave us some time to muster courage and get some extra support to stay in the space, because the money from the program was not enough.

We did the renovation works little by little. We didn’t have much money, so we got a lot of voluntary support. We had second-hand furniture given by the City Council and that we restored. Everything was recycled, from the doors to the electric wires. We also had the support of the architects from Artéria Arquitectura e Reabilitação Urbana, who were already experienced in this type of project, with whom we were able to do the works on the first and second floors. However, we never managed to finish the works on the other floors, because there’s never enough money.


In the beginning, we rented the studios to tourists to have funds before doing the artistic projects, and two years later the project started to become more solid. The contract was initially for five years, but there is always a question of instability, as it is a private property. We have recently renewed it for another five years, after we negotiated the terms. There is no private money there, it is really daily, hard work in search of sustainability, which we currently have through the rental of studios, the café, our publisher, Hangar Books, and several other initiatives we come up with.

Over the course of five years, we managed to move from an independent structure to achieving some financial consistency, although still with some difficulties, because the possibilities for support here in Portugal are reduced. This year we were going to resume works and finally sign employment contracts with part of the team, abandoning a precarious situation with professionals issuing “green receipts” 1, and we would be able to create the structure of an organization. For the first time, we got support from DgArtes 2, with which we could accomplish a number of things. In a way, it’s what is saving us now.

1 “Recibos verdes” (green receipts) are invoices issued by self-employed workers or service providers when carrying out any type of work that does not constitute formal employment nor guarantee of stability.

2 The Directorate-General for the Arts is an organization of the Ministry of Culture of the Portuguese Republic that coordinates and implements policies that support the arts in Portugal.

There were many people who came from other countries, which prevented several activities from happening until the end of the year. As the pandemic expanded, a statement was released to the structures that were being supported by DgArtes, saying that they could have greater freedom in the use of the available resources, and could also allocate them for expenses with structure and human resources. However, we had to recreate the entire schedule, figuring out how we could manage a huge program we had organized and, with zero sustainability, keep up with the project.

A week from now we will launch a platform called Hangar Online. We don’t want to replace the real with the virtual, which is also a risk, as there is an acceleration of virtual space as a function of physical space, but it is, in a way, a form of resistance to keep the program and to be able to pay the people who work with us. It’s almost like creating a new space. This online project is important at a time when we are all doing telework. We had to create a completely new website, but there was no money to pay designers. We had a programmer, and we had to use our own resources within our team, absorbing other tasks ourselves.

Compasso is an initiative of Hangar, in partnership with the Government of Portugal, DgArtes, Lisbon City Hall, BIP/ZIP, Tate Britain and Moleskine Foundation. The program, created in 2018, is aimed at providing training and education in visual arts for children and young people in Lisbon, whether from immigration or the diaspora. The activities are developed through joint creation with the immigrant community, artists and educators at Hangar, prioritizing the sustainability of young people and their professional development.

One thing we refused to stop was the publishing work at Editora Hangar. We have published one book so far, which is Atlantica AngolaContemporary Art from Angola and its Diaspora, and we are currently working on Atlantica Mozambique, with Ângela Ferreira as editor. Ever since we confined ourselves in our homes, this book project has been important to maintain our sanity, because we have been working on it consistently, and with more time available. All texts that were behind schedule have already been finished, and the book will be launched very soon.

In addition, we had programmed another book, called Keynotes, which has been under development since the beginning of the project, and brings a selection of transcripts of talks with artists who have passed through our space, such as Paul Goodwin, Grada Kilomba, Irit Rogoff among others. These audios will also be available in a library on our website, for all those interested, in podcast format. As the physical reality in which we operated didn’t afford us the time, we hadn’t thought about the online too deeply. We already had a studio, created under the Compasso program *BOX3, made with the schools, to work with the issue of representation of people of African descent. It is now possible to work from there and broadcast to a very diverse audience, which interests us a lot, as our work has always reached far beyond Lisbon. It is much easier now for a more culturally diverse audience to visit Hangar Online than physically, and I’m not just saying Hangar, but other spaces as well, which we know are mostly visited by a white audience. Although not everyone has access to the internet, not everyone has the habit or feels comfortable entering artistic spaces either. The art space itself is inaccessible.


We also organized a video program, curated by Paula Nascimento, an Angolan curator who has been with us since the beginning. The first edition will be launched now and seven artists’ films will be launched, mostly from Portuguese-speaking countries. The videos will be available for ten days and will be in a media library of Portuguese-speaking art films related to post-colonial, colonization and global South issues for research. We were also preparing a new project called Hangar Music, in which we are connecting music to the visual arts, and we’ll launch it soon. In a way, we are now doing things that we already wanted and that have to do with the relationships we already had before. But there are things that can’t be done online and which we didn’t want to do by force if it didn’t make sense.

Most of the exhibitions that we had planned will continue to be held in the Hangar space, because they are composed of objects, and we think that online production would create an incomplete experience. So we’ll carry out scheduled visits, with a reduced number of people, disinfection of the spaces, following what the rules at the moment ask for. We are, of course, behind schedule, and this will be done in September.

When things go back to normal, we will try to rent the studios again, but we have to reinvent ourselves financially. We are also planning to try to earn some money with courses. So far our social and cultural responsibility in this crisis has been to be able to respond to the current situation, so as to be able to keep the professionals who work with us. But the situation at Hangar is not the same as that of all structures.

I think the government’s measures are not satisfactory in meeting the needs of the structures as a whole. Just two weeks after it all started, DgArtes also published an emergency support line for professionals in our sector, but the fact of the matter is that most artists in Portugal work precariously and don’t have employment contracts. So, many were left out and were unable, at first, to access a bureaucratic structure that was created as an emergency. There are several petitions claiming that the Ministry of Culture is not responding adequately, especially from structures that have been left without this support. More recently, applications have been opened that seek to meet the needs of those left out. There were also other lines of support, from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Lisbon City Council.

But there is a lot of solidarity between different groups that have formed and there is focus on those who need the most. There are many movements and initiatives. Vhils, the artist responsible for the Festival Iminente, right from the beginning organized a music festival to raise funds for hospitals. The government has taken several measures that sound better in its discourse than in reality, because the logistics is so overwhelming that not everyone has access to this money that they say is available. But in general there is a great help from support networks, from something more familiar and from friends to a more institutional level. Hangar, for instance, distributed food baskets to families and institutions close to us, with whom we worked, and that we identified as being in need. We ask for donations through our networks and we also purchased products.

I think that we have to consider creating local structures, not only for emergency and survival, but which are sustainable. So far people in general have been extremely resilient and have managed to endure. The problem is whether the situation will extend beyond that, as there is a limit to how much one can take. Although activities are slowly resuming, things remain uncertain.


This whole situation, in a way, for me, created a silence, where I have greater access to a more high-quality creative space than when I was running around organizing exhibitions at different places. I managed to finish a script that I’d been meaning to write for two years. I also managed to experiment with things without having to arrive at a practical and immediate result, without having to finish things as products, but to be more mindful of the process. Besides, carrying things out virtually has a silver lining, as now I have access to things which, as a single mother, I didn’t have before. Of course, ultimately, the whole sustainability of this comes into question.

Actually, we have to come up with policies that offer better protection to the artist’s work and more favorable working conditions, so that in situations like this people can rely on a network that is already in place, and not one that is created only when an emergency arises. I think this moment made us rethink what the priorities are for each institution and each individual. Learning takes place on many levels. On a human and spiritual level, we have to change the way we live and rethink this global and what it means in our network and in the artistic sector whose lives depend on it—all art fairs and biennials, dependent on all this global circulation.

We really have to create sustainable networks that also allow us to create with what we have at hand, and not be so dependent on this structure, which is very fragile. It’s about being more present. Portuguese farmers were more in demand than ever by the entire supermarket network fed by the global chains, for example. This moment ultimately makes us turn our attention to the local economy. I don’t think it will be about countries closing in on themselves, as this mobility has always existed, and there are no borders, but we have to be more aware of how to practice it and how dependent we are on one another.

The Syntax of a Compound Subject
Geração 80
Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Danças
Centro Cultural do Mindelo
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