– Spring 2014

Circus Architecture: Ângela Ferreira’s ‘Zip Zap Circus School’

Filipa Oliveira

Ângela Ferreira, Hortas na Auto- estrada: Jardins Portugueses (Highway Vegetable Patches: Portuguese Gardens), 2006, series of colour photographs, 70 × 90cm, detail. Image courtesy the artist and Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon

The in-depth, research-based projects of Ângela Ferreira propose a rereading of the modern canon through the lens of postcolonial discourse. Born in Mozambique while 
it still was a Portuguese colony, Ferreira moved to South Africa in 1975 to study art, and has since been based in Portugal, Mozambique and South Africa. Her work explores experiences of transmission and exchange between both continents; for example, her photographic series Hortas na Auto-estrada: Jardins Portugueses (Highway Vegetable Patches: Portuguese Gardens, 2006) reflects on the emigration of thousands of Portuguese Africans to the ‘Metropolis’ (as Portugal was historically referred to in the colonial territories) after the end of colonial rule. The lack of resources and the impossibility of owning any sort of land once in Portugal, let alone the potential to cultivate it, has led immigrants to appropriate abandoned plots adjacent to highway crossroads just outside major urban centres — illegal allotments that signify the possibility of land ownership 
as well as a sort of unintended urban agrarian reform.

Ferreira photographed herself in these peripheral, isolated, overrun 'gardens': sometimes working, sometimes just strolling and sometimes erecting a red flag. The reference to the flag suggests that these make-do allotments are not only a means of survival but also a means to affirm the immigrants' identity: the connection to the land 
is the only link that many of the immigrants, former farmers, can establish with their African lives. Hortas na Auto-estrada proposes thus a critical reflection on the

  1. Pancho Guedes has also spent most of his life in Portugal, Mozambique and South Africa. He was born in Lisbon in 1925, and moved with his family to Mozambique in 1932. Upon Mozambique’s independence in 1975, he relocated to Johannesburg, where he taught architecture until 1995, when he returned to Lisbon. For further reading on Guedes, see ‘Pancho Guedes: An Alternative Modernist’, S AM No. 03 (exh. cat.), Basel: Schweizerisches Architekturmuseum, 2007.

  2. Pancho Guedes, ‘Statement at the Opening Ceremony’, in First International Congress of African Culture, Harare (formerly Salisbury): National Gallery, 1962, p.16.

  3. ‘More Works about Buildings and Food’ (Fundição de Oeiras, 17 November 2000—31 January 2001) was curated by Pedro Lapa and included works by Franz Ackermann, Liam Gillick, Jimmie Durham, João Penalva, Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tobias Rehberger and Superflex, amongst others.

  4. ‘in the meantime...’ (de Appel, Amsterdam, 7 April—27 May 2001) was curated by the de Appel Curatorial Training Programme 2000—01 and included works by Mark Bain, Yael Bartana, Sebastián Díaz Morales, Ângela Ferreira, Ksenia Galiaeva, Tracey Rose, Bülent Sangar and Jun Yang.

  5. The story of the Kröller-Müller villa and museum at Ellenwoude is an intricate one. The Kröller- Müllers first commissioned architect Peter Behrens, whom Mies was assisting for the project.
After the design was not accepted, Mies was invited to present a proposal in contention with Hendrik Petrus Berlage. Although Berlage’s design was chosen, it was later abandoned and another architect was brought in: Henry van de Velde. The financial anxieties of 1922 stopped van de Velde’s project, which ended up being constructed in Otterlo in 1938.

  6. Iain Low, ‘Make No Big Plans’, in Ângela Ferreira: Zip Zap Circus School (exh. cat.), Cape Town: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2002, p.8.