The ArtProtesters Database Showing Visual Austerity: Burn Baby Burn


The art of documenting a protest: Artprotesters

A database of “artistic consternation”: artprotesters

( ) is fighting against the measures of austerity experienced in Portugal and within Europe. Artprotesters started their first video three months ago, on June  2012, as an initiative of the visual artist Joao Galrão and Joao Vilhena.

Joao Galrão and Joao Vilhena – Artprotesters

The artists and creators involved come from different areas of the globe and the arts industry, and have expressed their support to the initiative. They had the idea of burning their art in a series of 10 videos that are presented daily either on facebook or on their official page, on the artprotesters channel in youtube, and in Tumblr. There is also the official artprotesters group on facebook.

The criterion for the construction of this online database is to leave an accessible record worldwide expressing and documenting the effect of austerity measures currently experienced by the reduction in culture expenditure in Portugal .

The intention is to leave a historical record for the world (the site is mostly done in English) and illustrate that art is essential to human life, and that austerity measures imposed on Europe, and in this case on Portugal, are unsustainable. The final panel on the page of each artist (which are permanently accessible from the 10 videos) allows the visitor to consider, according to the view of the art creator, what are the arts and what the world would be like without art or culture. During the 10 days of exhibition each artist a new video will be posted daily. At the end of the 10 days, all the videos of the artist will be on display along with the artist’s statements, all available for viewing in the database.

Marcel Duchamp Burning, Artwork by Joao Aires (Br)

In response to the extinction of the ministry of culture in Portugal, this initiative is now on project number 7, with no signs of slowing down. It includes both established names and new comers to the world of arts, representing the whole creative industry.

It began with Joao Galrão’s protest, (Project 1) burning works in his studio, followed by Joao Vilhena exploding his works and using scenes of explosions from various movies (Project 2). In the  Project 3, the photographer and artist, Joao Bacelar, connected universes like fashion, art and design. He raised practical considerations about the current reality of art, while his work was burned in different ways.


In a protest where the arts being demonstrated as essential to life, film director Raquel Freire burnt her movie “Rasganço” in front of the Assembly of the Republic in Portugal, Lisbon (Project 4). This movie was a benchmark for the generation born after the dictatorship in Portugal. The filmmaker’s voice was clear in her statement, saying:

I’m an artist born during the carnation revolution of freedom and democracy. In Portugal the European policies of austerity implemented by the government have extinguished the ministry of Culture. Crisis is always the excuse used in history to eliminate the artist and their work. What is a people without culture, without art, without identity? A slave people. A people who survive, but don’t live.

If we artists are forced to stop creating our culture, if the people’s culture and art cannot be alive anymore, we are a people condemned to death.
Artists in Portugal are struggling to survive. Our creative work is becoming impossible, we fight against this impossibility by putting at stake our own artistic principles, burning our works to make everybody understand that we cannot live without art. As an artist, I refuse to give up.”

Project 5 comes from Brazil, though from an artist who has spent time in Portugal, Joao Aires. With a voice of support for “non-indifference in Art” he proposes that we think about what would be the history of the world without artists, burning his paintings of famous icons such as Duchamp, Dali, Picasso, Pollock and others, all recorded as a silent film. Joao Aires states:

I am not in Portugal because the whole situation of my life led me to another country. But I sympathise with the artists in Portugal and so I decided to burn portraits of great artists that marked our history.

The question is, how would I record the world’s history without the history of their artists? I am doing this in response to the extinction of the ministry of culture, and with other artists, to record our position of non-indifference.”
The video in Project 6, from the artist Alexandre Sequeira Lima, creates ten metaphors for the viewer, giving him tools to contemplate what actually is being watched, evoking visual poetry. As the artist states:

Corruption is so established that it is advertised in the newspapers and the kids grow up thinking it’s cool to be corrupt and that football is education.

I claim the blood of the Poets and the only religion I recognize is Art. I claim on behalf of the dead, offended and humiliated victims. It’s insane what some insist on calling democracy in Portugal, with this lack of Culture. ”

Project 7 was released between 10 to 19 August. The artist and producer Natércia Caneira burns ten pieces of her art, thus making seen what is usually unseen to the viewer: the effect of the loss of art and culture. The viewer is left watching what is no longer there.


Natercia Caneira says :

Sustainability, integration and capacity building t is urgent to change our current situation and we need steps to recreate a new stream of cultural policies. I am currently in residence at the Museum Bernardo, an institution without government support, and I offer the work done here to be burned as an objection to the cultural context in which we are all living. ”

Natercia Caneira Art Protest

A display formed showing the destruction of works, on paper, and invoking common sense as essential in cultural management. It is a visual metaphor that can be viewed daily, with a series of ten videos. It incorporates the dynamic intervention of this artist who reminds us that it is possible, indeed essential, to create and support sustainable artistic flows. Natercia has worked with several museums in Portugal, and has exhibited regularly since 2001. Promotes parallel to your work or home production benefiting the flow between Portugal and the United States.

You can access the online platform hosted in

“ and visit the exhibition where new projects are underway. Visitors can also view the pages and videos of the completed projects, along with the statements of the artists.

The current project runs from the 20th to the 29th of August 2012, and presents a voice from Germany, Brigitte Dunkel. She is a performance artist who crosses art with fashion, in an artistic discourse on solidarity. Reminding everyone how the ferocity of these austerity measures cause immense damage to culture and education, representing not just a people but a global identity, whose voice is only the evident embarrassment wihin the current economic climate. Brigitte was born shortly after World War II and offers us 10 videos in which fire turns her art into a visual presentation of what it means to be extinguished.

In her statement Brigitte says:

On the situation of fellow artists and our culture in Portugal, and our old dreams: As a visual artist from Germany, the destruction of my ten pieces of art for me was an opportunity for artists to act together, breaking all boundaries, in support of the Art Protesters project, with the hope of:
– realising better working and living conditions for all artists,
– being against the frivolous neglect and abandonment of existing culture by politics and economics, in Portugal, in Europe, indeed everywhere in the world.
For each artist, it should be certain to never give up, and keep going against all odds.
Brigitte Dunkel

Matetip asked Brigitte why she decided to support this database. Her reply was:

I think it is a general problem of all artists, to live from the production of art only. For some centuries art has suffered, but the current economic and financial crisis, in countries such as Portugal, is subject to particularly drastic austerity measures in the field of culture. The measures should be negotiated, with the inclusion and participation of fellow artists; those who are still working, and to negotiate better conditions, especially for those who have had to leave art due to a lack of income.”

Matetip: Can you recall the effects of austerity in any other period you have lived and how did that affect the identity of a nation and its culture ?

Brigitte Dunkel: Put it this way: the German post-war period (which I know only partly from my own experience) was a time of economic struggle and has had an impact on the culture – I am convinced that life and consequent working conditions always have an impact on the cultural production. There is a need to prevent this, but it is never achieved. We all know the necessary requirements to create art, for example, a work space, work materials, etc, but their absence makes work very restrictive and can even prevent the creation of art.

As for the 9th project, and celebrating 100 videos and 100 days on air, the public will be able to recall the best moments of each video, preparing the reentré. Each artist was invited to pick his or her favourite video.

The 10th project, on the 9th of September (until 30 of August) will be by the artist, Alexandra Pereira, another portuguese who now lives in London, UK. Her statement says:

«Be not offended: I speak not as in absolute fear of you. I think our country sinks beneath the yoke: it weeps, it bleeds
and each new day a gash is added to her wounds.»
W. Shakespeare, Macbeth (c.1606)

“There can not be any greater prosperity: no society is democratic, proud, developed or civilized without a
strong and solid culture, no spirit is truly loose or free. Now who, but despots, might want to govern over a nation of slaves? Our values are not quoted on the stock exchange, our talents will not be subjected to urgent and massive privatization operations, our priorities and principles are extraordinarily diverse, fortunately unsubmissive to ratings – be they imposed or self-inflicted ones – and they are still not up for auction! Mister prime, a primordial appeal: please don’t show off the national flag on your lapel, sir – show off the dignity, character and cultural integrity of your own people instead (you know: it was not quite “this” what the republicans had in mind, so that now effluvious minds can exhale around, manipulating with propagandistic purposes connected to measures that serve anything but the national ambitions, their visual symbols…). No government is electorally and/or troikally legitimated to deprive a people of their visual culture,art history, tangible, intangible, quasi-tangible, aeriform, cremated, liquefied, vaporous or metaphysical cultural heritage, to decimate creators, vilely attack them (even publicly, in newspaper columns), neglect and disregard their activity with vicious slanders and sordid ignominies (what an atrocious shortsightedness, what a repugnant sense of statesmanship…), or to deprive the overwhelming majority of its owncitizens of the right of free access to and enjoyment of cultural assets.
The situation faced by visual artists in Portugal is unsustainable. No non-totalitarian regime acts with similar contempt for the pieces that unite the cultural and identitary puzzle of their own people. Few non-totalitarian regimes have a parallel and so fruitful history of ingratitude, non-recognition, disdain, ignorance, revenge on, alienation, estrangement, banishment and exile of their own artists and intellectuals. The way to politically attack culture is (has always been, will always be) to prevent – by any means necessary: in older times, a shot in one’s body, an exile, a prison, someone banished – its agents from producing, flourishing, divulging, uniting or expressing opinion, demanding, innovating (instead of selling their art to the status of the innocuous decorative, emptying it of substance…), creating breath-friendly spaces, having minimum subsistence conditions (instead of precariously surviving, or dedicating themselves to other activities – thus forcefully and shamefully silenced… besides professional and vocationally frustrated), contradicting the aesthetic impositions (and arbitrary choices) by media and institutions manipulated by the regime, diversifying the range of options available, shaking up the critical mass that can foster surprising or creative social and cultural developments, rather than the airtighting privilege of the predictable, mediocre and vicious lobbies established. Creative entropy breeds civic and civil freedom. The existing anticultural Portuguese and European policies are anticitizenship ones, as much as criminal: they should stimulate thinkers, inventors and producers rather than usurers without ideas and with no queasiness whatsoever.

To estrange a people from their own cultural and identitary heritage, their own excellence and history, their most notable visual heritage, their unique and valuable contributions to contemporaneity, in a globalized, increasingly and flavourlessly standardized world, where universalism and difference are equally required, is the equivalent to
committing the cultural genocide of such a people. Alexandra Pereira”


More artists and creative people are continuing to contribute, with multi-disciplinary approaches, creating a documentary database demonstrating that a world without culture, as a country without governance, is an entity with no future; that modern reality, as increasingly apparent, should not destroy the identity of a people, but people should be liberated through culture in their natural state as essentially unique, diverse and expansive.

More than just a starting point, the visual representation of the effects of austerity to which creators and artists have succumbed, shows to the watching world, a clear statement of a global force in unison in which we agree that only through education and culture is their the motivation for existence of a better world.

As the official website states:

The artists in Portugal are in a critical situation. Protest against European policies of austerity, against Portugal and its artists. The current government abolished the Ministry of Culture and is progressively impoverishing the Portuguese. The artists are burning their works, in an abject refusal to fade out.

Both Joao Galrão and Joao Vilhena admitted in their statements accompanying their projects (1 and 2) that, as founders, it is painful and difficult to sacrifice and burn ten works of art over which they have invested so much labour. However, they believe this database serves to make visible what happens in silence: artists and culture vanishing. Given the list of artists (40 artists are already listed as participants, with their projects for destruction being planned), and a file that already has 90 videos, artprotesters seems to be gaining huge momentum, and like a huge raised fist of defiance, clearly has a unique and powerful voice in the crowd.

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