In those 1250 square meters, there is “a world apart”. It is a story, told across 13 works, of our relationship with the sea, «made of subsistence, of confrontation», but also «of bridges». The three years of work required a lot of effort. It is the artist himself who recognizes it. Vhils (Alexandre Farto) had to learn to dive, to deal with the place, to finish the epic that is “EDP Art Reef”. An underwater exhibition, off Albufeira, which, even far from the common eye, is full of life.
An old water tank, metal pieces with people's faces, or sculptures, made of concrete. This – and much more – can be found in this exhibition, very different from what we are used to.
The invitation came from EDP: why not challenge Vhils to create an artistic project with parts that were used to produce electricity, in the Carregado, Sines and Soto de Ribera Thermoelectric Power Plants (Spain), all of which are deactivated?
The idea could only please the artist.
«This was a meeting of minds. It was an idea I already had, to make a piece that lived under the sea, but that also housed life», explained Vhils to journalists.
This Tuesday, September 19th, was the date chosen to make a public presentation of the exhibition. The setting: the Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa, overlooking the sea, more or less in front of the place where the pieces were sunk, about two miles from the coast (coordinates N 37.06922391,W -8.20990784).
The moment brought together Vhils and his team, EDP, Albufeira City Council, but also other entities, such as Albufeira Marina or the National Maritime Authority. Or had this not been a work on several fronts.
«Without a doubt, this was my most complex work!», acknowledged the artist. It's because?
«Because it involved a team of many people. It was also challenging because we had to learn to deal with the site, with all its forces, adverse weather conditions, with a completely different terrain,” he added.
In all this work, Vhils had a strong environmental concern. Some of the pieces are designed “entirely to add life”, he added. There was also the planting of corals, in collaboration with the Center for Marine Sciences at the University of Algarve, and the local Plant a Coral project.
And whoever goes to sea – on board one of the 19 maritime-tourist companies that offer guided tours – what will you find?
«It's a world apart, different from what we're expecting, but fantastic and super interesting, with a lot to discover», replied Vhils, with a smile on his face.
The exhibition has, moreover, a «story that unfolds throughout the process, with various elements, various depths», he added.
In some pieces, interaction is even possible.
«I tried to find a little of different stories about our relationship, as humans, with the sea: made of subsistence, confrontation, tensions, but also how the sea has, so often, become a bridge», said the artist.
When contacted by EDP for this project, Albufeira City Council did not hesitate – the exhibition is, in the words of president José Carlos Rolo, another “eye-catcher” to bring tourists to the municipality.
«The municipality of Albufeira will become richer and that is fundamental. This exhibition gives divers the opportunity to do their baptism here, to explore the bottom of the sea... Basically, it also gives a bit of substance to the maritime tourism we have in the Algarve and which is an added value», he said.
Furthermore, this entire project was a true “epic”, in the words of José Carlos Rolo, as it involved several licensing processes, in a “lengthy” process.
«Fortunately, the setbacks were overcome», he summarized.
And we were all the winners – Vhils leaves an invitation to visit an exhibition that will have whatever future the sea wants.
«How altered can the work be? All my work is ephemeral. Everything is ephemeral, but here the works are designed for the sea to take care of them and were also made for life to take care of them. It is up to the sea to dictate the future,” she concluded.
Vhils and Revista Dois
The “EDP Art Reef” was one of the backdrops for the great interview that Vhils gave to Dois magazine, a project by Sul Informação, which is still on newsstands.
In that same interview, the artist, who also signed the cover of the magazine, had already explained that this project “was an old dream”, whose idea was “to do something that has a positive impact on the ecosystem”.
The magazine can still be purchased on newsstands or ordered here
Photos: Pedro Lemos | Sul Informação