The third edition of BoCa is entitled “Prove You are Human” and will be running for 7 weeks from the 3rd of September until the 17th of October, in Lisbon, and guest cities Almada and Faro. “Prove You Are Human” includes works from 40 national and international artists, including the American filmmaker Gus Van Sant, Grada Kilomba, Anne Imhof, Capicua, Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, Odete, Miles Greenberg and the Chilean feminist collective LASTESIS.

The founder of this project and artistic director, John Romao explained that BoCa “is a cultural association; it was founded in 2015 and the first edition of BoCa was in 2017. We have continuous activities during the year in general and these biennial events are just one of the activities. Aside from this, we have different activities such as educational programmes, touring and projects we commission with resident artists every two years and make a diffusion of their work and make the extensions of projects in different Portuguese cities as well as internationally.”

“Prove You are Human” focuses on “cross-disciplinary practises” including visual art, performing art and music. It will take place in different spaces including theatres, cultural spaces, museums and nature. Also, most uniquely, this project offers the defence of nature through the “Planting of 7,000 trees” whereby they ask the public to look at nature as a space of cultural and artistic programming because art can take place wherever we are.

We spoke about what really stands out in this edition and John Romao told me that One of the best examples of this is in the mobilising of the feminist activist collective LASTESIS, which in 2020 expanded the street performance “A Rapist in your Path” to more than 50 countries, showing its sense of humanity through radical empathy.” “The Chilean artist-activists come to Portugal for the first time to develop a performance together with 80 local women over the course of five days, the performance “Resistance”, which denounces the violence of colonial thought and extractivism.”

Another artist that stands out is “The Boat” by Grada Kilombra which includes three performances with 20 local artists from the African Diaspora, taking place in Lisbon on the 3 and 25 September and 17 October. “Grada Kilomba also paves the way for a break with the oppressive and colonial vision of the past with the performances adjacent to “O Barco/The Boat”, where 20 local artists from the African Diaspora are given the main role, to create a space of reclamation, lamentation and ritualism so that History may be recovered and rewritten.” “Grada Kilomba is a Portuguese author, theoretician and interdisciplinary artist living in Berlin. Her work revolves around memory, trauma, race and gender, has been translated into many languages and published in numerous international anthologies, as well as staged internationally. Her work is especially known for creating a hybrid space where borders between academic and artistic languages are suppressed, using a variety of formats from the writing and staging of her texts, to video installation and performance, creating what she calls “Performing Knowledge”.From our conversation, I learnt that the idea behind “Prove you are Human” is about implementing projects that bring consciousness and to think about the Earth. Additionally, it is all about mobilising the public to take action and think about life ethics and taking responsibility. Romao explained how “We understood that during this time of crisis, we have a lot more responsibility than maybe we once thought we had, in terms of personal and collective responsibility and similarly terms of affection and the importance of the Earth.”

Prove you are human

“We understood from the virus, we are just one element in this system and the title of the edition comes from how online a digital robot asks us if we are human and not robots but, in our programme, it responds to other meanings such as responsibility, a lot of artists are re-writing history and writing new narratives and not from the example of the perspective of the coloniser but from the perspective of the colonised.” This edition focuses on creating new narratives through imagination and how it can cure the past and that we have all this power, to re-think and re-imagine power.

This sounds like such a great challenge to the public as we are being challenged to do better and this edition is evidently very relevant to now in regards to climate change and a lot of important issues are raised through artists’ works in that we need to mobilise and how fundamental the power of the collective really is. “One way we are mobilising the public to take action is through the plantating of 7,000 trees that is a celebration of Yosef Boyes as it was his 100 year anniversary, so we picked this title from his work from 1982 called “7,000 oaks” but we think diversity is much better nowadays so we changed it to trees because it will be the plantation of different local species that work well in each region.” This will be a 10-year project as we mobilise the public to plant a tree but also to title each plantating, linking artistic creation and natural creation. “Artists have reclaimed more time due to the pandemic but the capitalistic market that is in the art world, is so condensed and time is so important to nature as well as artistically, which is where this idea comes from.” “It is a project that reclaims maintenance, as it goes on for 10 years so people will continue to plant a tree every year and thousands of new plantings will be made and overall a forest of art works that are trees will be achieved.” Most uniquely, each tree will have their own title and are planted by one single person. The enrolment for this opens in October, and they will do an open call for the public to plant their own tree, which will take place from October to December.

Finally, they will also have five workshops, debates and guest speakers in Lisbon which will coincide with the dates of the BoCa Summer school, which will include dance, performing arts, sociology, cinema and music and we have some talks with artists that are part of our programme, including “an intermedia work, inspired by afro-futurism and Brazilian tropicalism, a show is also a homage to the Mozambican director Ruy Guerra” whereby they will celebrate his 90th birthday. Film director, Pedro Costa, will also hold an exciting talk, following the triumph of “Vitalina Varela”.

For more information about this unmissable program and to enrol in the “Plantation of 7,000 trees” please see https://bocabienal.org/conceito-2021/. Additionally, tickets can also be purchased on www.ticketline.sapo.pt.