In the first place
It’s hard to talk about what comes in the first place in history, life, politics, economics, and the many aspects that contemporary lives are made of and influenced by. But what comes in the first place has always, somehow, a priority. Yet, priorities change not only depending on which perspective one individual or collective of people is experiencing life and events, but in which moment in time and space the experience takes place. For this reason, this year’s program wants to work in close collaboration with the participating artists (and not only) to reflect on what comes in the first place historically, socially, and culturally (if not politically and economically) depending on positions rather than perspectives. A position gives a set of coordinates that inform the receiver of that information about where one stands in space and time at that specific moment. It is a temporary indication that offers more than just a perspective: it gives an image of what is experienced from the perspective of the one who finds oneself there and in that moment. W&T11 reflects on these positions using the term ‘positionalities’ to reflect and voice the necessity of rethinking positions of priorities in time and space, that are connected to histories of colonialism, identities, and the connection between those two aspects and ecosystems.

With this year’s program, “In the First Place,” we want to listen, present and contextualize a heterogeneous number of positions that connect to the history and the identity of the island, but not in straightforward ways. “In the First Place” creates a space for reflecting on the divergent temporal and spatial constructs and understandings of existence that appear to exist in the first place.

First is an adjective with two meanings related to space and time. From a spatial perspective, it addresses a position of power associable with placement on the top of a pyramidal power structure, which grants certain privileges. From a temporal perspective, though, the adjective ’first’ indicates the previous presence of someone or something before anyone or anything else. The preoccupation with origins, beginnings, and archetypes is embedded in cultures because what comes first could help understand what is there in the present. Therefore, coming in the first place entails a position of temporal and spatial authority or at least observance- whatever form it manifests itself.

At the core of the festival stands the commitment to spot attention onto different ‘positions’- places in time and space from which history is experienced, collected, and remembered. By questioning the notion of ‘first’ as a position of power and entitlement in history, our wish is to take a step further from the understanding of a world – within and beyond the arts – where coming first exists only in the understanding of a circular history that carries into the present what remains unresolved in the past.

“In the First Place” hopes to create a space where ‘coming in the first place is received and understood as a position to respect from which one could always learn. The European and Western colonialism project has created an unbalanced and unequal use of this term, subverting notions of time and space concerning the first presence. This year’s festival W&T11 wants to explore ways in which the notion of time is re-evaluated and used as a tool to disempower hierarchies and systems for knowledge construction. ”In The First Place” thus looks at positionality as a key aspect of identity, exploring different perspectives using sound, music, and noise to infiltrate vision and think about how power is created.

By creating a cacophony of voices, presences, and positionalities, the art program of W&T 2022 wants to reflect on words, speech, sound and music as forms to travel through time in ways that shed new light on the space we inhabit - whether these are physical or metaphorical. The artists invited to the program explore forms of subverting the schemes, opening a space for future generations to challenge normative and settler-colonial paradigms of perception and affirm resurgent forms of attention.

The festival will happen as a dispersed exhibition, inhabiting the island during the duration of the festival presenting films, performances, and sound installations that, through visual means, installations, excursions, music, sound and silence, bodily presences, and a public program, will bring these positions to São Miguel.

Text by Irene Campolmi in collaboration with Jesse James, Luís Brum e Sofia Carolina Botelho