In conversation with Diana Policarpo

Lisbon, Portugal

María Gracia de Pedro in conversation with Diana Policarpo.

Last year I was in Lisbon for ARCOLisboa and one of the organized tours by the fair was to the group show 10 Anos/ 10 Artistas/ 10 Comissões by António Cachola Collection. Once there, I felt completely attracted by Diana Policarpo’s work “Sun in Cancer”, since that moment until today.

Sun in Cancer, 2016 (Photography by Lucie Marsmann)

MG: I saw the work, I experimented it, but please give me more details about it. Where the voices were coming from and what did you want to transmit?

DP: That was the first of two projects dedicated and based on the work of Johanna M. Beyer (1888-1944), a German-American composer, as I spent more than four years investigating in her archive in New York. The musical work and poetry of Johanna was ignored in life and she was in fact, better known as an interpreter than as a composer, this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to discover more about her. My piece, in specific, it’s inspired in Beyer’s unfinished futuristic opera (Status Quo/ Music of the Spheres, 1938), that was lost for more than seventy years. 
After I found the scores and her letters in the archive, I looked at all these materials carefully and I created different elements, sculptural and aural to compose the installation. “Sun in Cancer” (2016) is a multi-channel sound installation piece composed with six audio channels and four seated sound/sculptures, steel scores and a large blue glass surface. Soon I have a commission for a new piece that will allow me to reproduce the stage work of the performance.

Sun in Cancer, 2016 (Photography by Lucie Marsmann) 

MG: We will wait to see that new part then. Having a look at your CV you achieved interesting exhibitions where you took part, could you tell us something about your first experiences working with other artists and in other countries? Why did you decide to move to London for studying?

DP:  After I finished my BFA, I worked few years in my studio in Lisbon and did a lot of collaborations with other artists there. Then I decided to continue my studies and got a place at Goldmsiths College. That academic experience and networks were very important. 
London had a huge impact in my life, the communities and political groups I met, the opportunity for travelling and showing more my work, making music, collaborations etc. Besides that, I never disconnected from Lisbon and kept working with my peers there. This last decade was very tough with the economic crisis.

Dissonant Counterpoint, 2017- 2018 (Photography by Adrien Missika), Belo Campo / Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisbon, Portugal

MG: But now you are back in Lisbon, right?

DP: Yes I just moved! Lisbon was always home and very inspiring, but at that time I had to travel more and went to study in London to develop my research and improve my practice.  

MG: The experience abroad was relevant as you mentioned in terms of relations and for investing time in research experimenting other arts like music. Which composers inspire you when creating a new body of works?

DP: There is a big constellation of artists and composers that had a huge impact in my life. I can think about the visions of Hildegard of Bingen, the radical experiments of Johanna Beyer and Daphne Oram, other possible worlds explored by Delia Derbyshire and Maryanne Amacher, the teachings and deep listening of Pauline Oliveros or the sonic meditations of Alice Coltrane and Eliane Radigue.

MG: The most important part of your practice is related with image and sound, so I am curious about the work presented at ARCOmadrid 2019. 
How that work came out?

DP: The work presented at ARCOmadrid this year was the installation Beating Back Darkness (2014-19), an installation originally created for my exhibition at Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, in Germany. This piece is comprised of vessels, large scale drawings and two audio works (a soundscape and a spoken text). I wanted to explore the history of specific objects, their potential for future narratives and their value both affective and financial. Combined, these elements tell a fictional narrative about processes of change, rituals and function as props for analysis of subjects such as the historical exploitation of the female body, circulation and crisis.
Beating Back Darkness (2014-19),Leehman Silva, ARCOmadrid 2019, Madrid, Spain

MG: Recently we saw your installation “Death Grip” (2019) at the show “Prémio Novos Artistas Fundacão EDP” (prize for new artists by EDP Foundation), a multimedia installation of 15 channels synchronized audio with two digital animations. Where you won the prize where the jury highlighted the relevance of your research and the speech coherence, thanks to the immersive environment you had created. Where can we see your artworks soon?

DP: I’m currently showing that piece at MAAT Museum and an older work “Dissonant Counterpoint” (2017) at Cordoaria Nacional, part of the show “Vanishing Point, both of them in Lisbon and they are running until September 2019.
At the moment I’m working in the studio for a couple of solo shows coming up next year. 
Death Grip, 2019 (Photography by Bruno Lopes), MAAT Lisbon, Portugal

Diana Policarpo (b. Lisbon, Portugal 1986). Lives and works between London (UK) and Lisbon (PT).
Policarpo is a London-Lisbon based visual artist and free composer whose work consists of both visual and musical media, including drawing, score, sculpture, large-scale performance and multi-channel sound installation. She graduated from Goldsmiths College with a MFA in Fine Art in 2013. Her work investigates power relations, popular culture and gender politics, juxtaposing the rhythmic structuring of sound as a tactile material within the social construction of esoteric ideology. She creates performances and installations to examine experiences of vulnerability and empowerment associated with acts of exposing oneself to the capitalist world. 
Her sound and installation work has been shown in solo exhibitions at gnration, Biennal of Contemporary Arts, Braga, PT (April 2019); Belo Campo / Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisbon, PT (2018); Kunstverein Leipzig, DE (2017); lAB Artists Unlimited, Bielefeld, DE (2016); Xero, Kline and Coma, London, UK (2015); Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, DE (2014). Her work has also been included in recent group exhibitions at Cordoaria Nacional, Lisbon (PT); MAAT, Lisboa, PT (May 2019); ARCOmadrid, Madrid, ES (2019); Lisboa Soa, Lisbon, PT (2018); Chiado 8, Lisbon, PT (2018); Galeria Municipal do Porto, Porto, PT (2017); Guest Projects, London (UK); Francisco Fino Gallery. Lisbon (PT), Mars Gallery, Melbourne, AU (2017); North Gallery, New Castle, UK (2016); Peninsula Gallery, NYC (2015); W139, Amsterdam, NL (2015); Shaun Fenster, Berlin, DE (2014); AN/DOR, London, UK (2014). Policarpo has recently presented performances and given readings at Passos Manuel, Porto, PT; Kunsthall Oslo, NO; LUX - Moving Image, The Lexington, Tenderpixel Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Cafe OTO, Pump House Gallery and IMT Gallery in London.