Next Lisbon speaker
May’s topic for CreativeMornings was Serendipity. Who would be better to take us through this topic than Mariana Duarte Silva, the Serendipity herself.
Mariana Duarte Silva is a mother of 3 boys and founder of Village Underground - a co-working and events space housed located in Alcantara, Lisbon. Village Underground is known for its unique architectural structure made of shipping containers and double decker buses, recycled into office spaces.
Very recently Village Underground celebrated its 10 year anniversary in Lisbon, and Mariana started her talk by playing the video they made to celebrate the remarkable date. Village Underground appeared to be all about community - events, parties, creativity, activities for children, and much more than a co-working space.
Serendipity is not an easy topic. Not even an easy word. Mariana shared her struggles on how she was looking for a right format of her talk, and how she searched for help. Finally it was her dear friend, Paul Bay, from London who offered a helping hand. So, that´s where we started - what serendipity is and how it has showed up in Mariana’s life:
“Serendipity is the opposite of Predictability. If we get comfortable with routine, we condition ourselves not to see the happy accidents when they come along..”
“Serendipity is about seeing opportunities where others see problems. We thus make connections that others don’t.”
“Serendipity is about making connections that “normal thinking” doesn’t make. So it can uncover wrong assumptions in life.”
So, what were the happy accidents Mariana’s life that brought her to where she is now?
We can start by her father getting divorce while her mother got a job in his building. It was love that happened by a lucky chance, and led to Mariana’s birth.
Another happy accident, another moment of serendipity, the one that completely changed her life was the job she got in London - in a very small media company, right in the street where Village Underground London is located.
So that’s how it all started. In 2007, Mariana started working for this small media company and every day she would pass this weird scenery of four tube carriages piled on top of each other, with people going in and out. One day, Mariana and her friend, Joana, quit their jobs and moved their office to one those carriages. That’s when Mariana felt her life was about to change.
Her new office was shivering cold in the winter and scorching hot in the summer. But Mariana believed this was the coolest office in the world and decided to open the same concept in Lisbon. “Let’s do it” was the response of Village Underground in London.
It’s worth remembering that this was at a time Lisbon was very different from what it is now. There was very little room for creativity, co-working spaces were a foreign concept and there was Mariana, trying to create a co-working space out of shipping containers. After 3 years of knocking at closed doors, Mariana finally got a meeting with Carris (Portuguese company for bus public transports) who gave her three old buses. Once the location was found at the Museum of Carris, Village Underground Lisboa was born.
How to transcend moments? That’s the question highly linked to art, that we got the opportunity to tackle last Friday with Creative Mornings Lisbon.
How to honor the glory of the past, while subliming the present? How to balance the history of a neighborhood with its call for change?
That’s the challenge Camilla Watson made its own when she fell in love with Lisbon in 2007. As a photographer, she realised that old neighborhoods such as Mouraria were evolving so fast, that something had to be done with the elder people representing the last decades, its moments of fado and its history.
Through her “Tribute to Mouraria”, Camilla Watson focused on communities and their local histories. She used photography as a way to cover an area, represent the people who belong to it and reach out to the people who are passing by.
“I want to bring the past into the present in a way that is visual, creative and accessible to all; especially in historic neighbourhoods and in areas in a process of change.”
While she was walking in the narrow streets of Mouraria, she understood that art will happen through the walls. They will be the support of their memories, especially as they are intrinsically a lively testimonial spanning generations.
Her mission was to turn the stories of the neighbourhood into photographies. To subtly integrate these pictures into the DNA of the area. But to do so, she had to experiment how to reveal the photographies on the old walls; and this was true art. She went from images turning into black to lasting pieces, now sticked to different parts of the streets.
As the project was evolving, and the photographies integrating the daily path of the inhabitants, Camilla started to change the face of abandoned walls. Instead of leaving these areas as dead parts of the city, she added photographies of trees, interiors or authentic moments shared within the community. A whole new perspective.
Really, it’s fascinating to see how such a project can stimulate the memory of places, enhance a culture and sublimate moments; allowing history to carry on.
Back in January, we had a very creative morning, that we can even call a philosophical morning. A great moment with Joana Rita Sousa who took us to a whole new interpretation of this question: is life a mystery?
We explored this complex question with Joana, who is the embodiment of a creative person, as a philosopher, journalist, copy-writer and much more. But there is one thing that she masters, for sure, it’s the art of maieutics.
Do you guys remember Platon? Well, we experienced this socratic approach of reflection through questions. It’s “a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions”. Well, I think it’s more or less what happened last time at 9am. Just a casual Friday morning you know.
What was discussed was much more serious, and fun at the same time. We started directly with the question of mystery related to the meaning of life. Joana told us it’s a topic that children address very spontaneously. But for us it’s completely different approach, even if we keep part of this ingenuity.
We started to question the values that we have, and deconstructed them to understand what’s relative to us and what’s a mystery. Joana highlighted how much the meaning depends on our own perspective and subjectivity.
With this in mind, there is so much we can learn from each other, that we had to kick-off the discussion to dig deeper. Joana explained how to follow up the conversation, setting up two main ways to contribute: either sharing our own vision or commenting on the previous argument. One postulate: if every is relative, it’s not worth having this discussion. Everyone has to commit, explain what they believe in and stand for a point of view. That’s how we had a real debate all together, led and enriched by Joana. Let’s keep this on. We need more moments like this
That’s why next time, we’ll focus on moments, what’s this special timeframe, what’s its value and how does it influence our way of life? See you on Friday, February 10th at Second Home.
Last December, CreativeMornings brought us to Second Home Lisboa, the brand-new creative space in Lisbon, located right next to the Mercado da Ribeira. Perfect venue, with one of their core missions to create the conditions for creativity to flourish. There we were, surrounded by books, plants and early birds ready for an exploration of music.
The theme of December was Sound, and we got the chance to listen to Rafael Toral sharing his vision, and his music!
Before we start, Rafael asked us to close our eyes. We were all set to hear something, as surprising as it could be, when he had an exquisite requirement: “Now, close your ears”. That’s when it became more complex.
First of all, what’s a sound? For example, if a tree falls and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? In fact, it’s a vibration only, because sound comes from the brain recognising this vibration. After discussing the three dimensions of sound - frequency, dynamics and time - we were able to understand the journey from sound to music.
When Rafael talks about music, he focuses on two key components: silence and space. In our society, saturated by sounds, he chooses to play with silence and explores how sound emerges from it. In this regard, he mentioned the experimentations of the composer John Cage, who further questioned how silence may incorporate sounds with his famous 4”33.
Following on this reflexion, if silence can’t be free of sounds, how can we free the music? Music is often associated with freedom, but almost always led by patterns. Can music overcome patterns? That’s what Rafael is discovering. His own musician path took him from jazz music, to jams sessions and now a unique kind of composition. By the way, did you know that “jam” sessions comes from “jazz after midnight”?
When many of us are searching for freedom in music, Rafael is searching how music can be free. Questioning sound, space and silence is fully part of this process. He creates a lexicon of sounds and shapes. Focusing on how long is the sound. Should it be repeated? Should the silence be before or after? Shorter or longer? What kind of articulation is there between sound and silence? Is it a long line? It’s very elemental and that’s maybe because he reminds us that the first harmony belongs to nature. Even if we focus on how the instrument is giving back and rethink the next steps, music is escaping.
That’s the magic of sound. Join us next time for a CreativeMornings event on Mystery - where we will continue to explore different parts of human existence.