My first visit to Lisbon, Portugal couldn’t have come at a better time as Berlin was engulfed in a temperal heatwave. At icky Schonefeld Airport I was surprised to find that Koen Claerhout of Haus de Kulture de Welt and pal would be on my flight on their way to Lisbon for a summer holiday.
The weather in Lisbon was warm but breezy and I am not just talking about the 1971 film starring William Holden and Kay Lenz. I arrived to the picqueresque Iberian city onTAP airlines Portugals’s own Air Berlin which because the Portugese tend to be dimunitive is one of the most cramped in terms of seating. The 3 hour and 45 minute trip seemed like it was 6 hours long, but upon landing everything was Granada. Whisking me to the lovely Hotel Florida the festival angelitos ----pretty&personable Magda and lovesexy suave Andre. Lisbon’s airport is conveniently located within the city limits which is a major blessing.
Pedro Marum and Ricke Merighi the genius curators/ programmers with Queer Lisbon and sponsor Africa Cont in collaboration with the Cinemateca Portuguesa and Galeria Ze’ dos Bois brought forth this fantastic art/music/film congress Are You For Real? An Afro Futuristic trip from blaxploitation to queer sonics and visual utopias. Now that’s a hairy eyeball mouthful eh?
After the horrible plane flight it was lovely to relax at Hotel Florida for a bit before the welcome dinner. I loved how in the elevators of the hotel you are joined by a life sized Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. I had a great view from my 4th floor Harrison Ford Room that looked upon an impressive square with a giant statue, the next day I was changed to a much larger John Travolta Scientology Suite with joyous street views.
The welcome dinner hosted by the sweet festival artistic director Joao Ferreira and his crew of handsome Joao’s who are part of the Queer Lisbon extended familia was at the family owned Adega Dom Luis. I was told that the food in Lisbon is divoon and was not disappointed. After feasting we took a long walk back to the hotel and got a nice flavour of the city and its nitelife with so many beautiful young people partying in the streets.
The second day in Lisbon was the opening of the congress with another VIP dinner at the spacious and delicious organic boite Jardim dos Saberes(Garden of Flavours) It was lovely meeting Will Sylvester from Bushwick New York who is the post-production producer for the installation A Person is More Important Than Anything Else by artist Hank Willis Thomas which weaves various audio, images newsreel clips, speeches and interviews of go tell it to the mountain queen James Baldwin. The soft spoken Mr. Sylvester reminded me of a young Mrs. Michael Glass but with dreadlocks when Mrs. Glass was working as manager at the first location of Amok Books on a side street in Silverlake. Joining the din din was handsome and tall Afro German Dominik Djialeu one half of the Berlin based party duo Stitch&Tchuani of the queer hippity hop club Berries. I had met Dominik back in February during the Berlinale when I was DJaning the Forum Party. In Lisbon Dominik DJed the opening party for this art congress. Another guest was the cute and cuddly Black British journalista Ashley Clark who has curated for the BFI and The Brooklyn Academy of Music. I love how these young modern straight black men like Mr.Sylvester and Mr. Clark are super comfortable expressing a little sugar in their tanks and flit and float quite easily in queer environs. Portugal is a tiny country but has a rather large colonial presence throughout the world so its great that congresses like this exist. Germany could learn a lot from its deep south neighbour. After a terrace garden wine reception at the Cinemateqa the opening screening of Are You For Real?/Space is the Place starring Sun Ra expertly set the tone for everything to come.
It was a juicy luxury to have a few days to settle in before my performative lecture on Sunday July 5th at the Galeria Ze dos Bois which is a former royal palace that is now a contemporary art institution. Was wonderful meeting Dona Amelia the 79 years young caretaker and muse of the art palace who riveted Liad Hussein Kantorowicz and I with stories about living in Lisbon for the past 50 years. Pedro Marum took us for lunch to a wonderous tapas on top of a hill with glorious views of the river and ocean with the doppleganger of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. I was fortunate that I had the very talented make-up artiste Ms. Rita Guerreiro who beat me a fine face so that I looked immaculate infront of the very large audience that came out to see me that included actress Maria de Medeiros(Henry&June) and Pulitzer Prize winning black writer Wesley Morris. Special shoutout to Time Out Lisbon writer Bruno Horta who wrote a full page article on me that really spurred the populaces curiousity. After my lecturina the standout performance for the evening was by Ms. Hussein Kantorowicz, the Israeli/Palestinian artist who I have known for awhile as she was the long time girlfriend of the late scholar and artiste Tim Stuettgen. I was completely WoWed by her disidentificative piece Running/The Better Half. Liad is certainly a startling new voice in the performance art firmament. And the world needs a voice like Liad’s who enchants on every level with her voice, body, video imagery---featuring a low tech skype conference call with her younger self that was beyond geniustrata as well as channeling of Jewish Mysticism with the power of Sheila.
At a frolicsome party after the two performances Sunday eve I met a beautiful black woman scholar who is American but was educated in posh boarding schools in London and her cute gaysian BFF who is an artist in residence in Lisbon. Needless to say when two black girls born the same year get together a stylish hoot of a time is had by one and all. Lisbon I already miss and adore you.