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A Celebration of Togetherness | Kunsthalle Lissabon on this year’s performance programme and its deep engagement with artists

Developed by contemporary arts institution Kunsthalle Lissabon, this year’s performance programme is a celebration of togetherness and explores the unifying aspects of gatherings of people for dances, processions and festivities. These kinds of communal celebrations are not only a chance to have fun, but they are also powerful tools to think about the world around us.



Through bright colour, engaging movement and music, the spectator and participator join in the moment to let go and enjoy themselves, whilst also experiencing a new way of understanding.

João Mourão and Luís Silva

“Recently, we have been interested in how celebratory gatherings of people are established social forms that everyone can relate to regardless of different geographic and cultural contexts and how they can be used within the context of contemporary art to explore many different topics,” the co-directors of Kunsthalle Lissabon,  João Mourão and Luís Silva explained. “We feel more and more that we need to come together and unite around important things rather than the opposite: being alone and antagonistic. Those were some of the thoughts that have guided us in the selection of the works for the programme.”

Shadow Wall, Marlon Griffith

The programme revolves around two main performances, the first being Marlon Griffith, an artist from Trinidad and Tobago, who has developed a version of his A Walk into the Night, specifically for Art Dubai. Taking the aesthetics of Trinidadian carnivals and West African shadow puppets as a starting point, the piece stages both a large-scale celebratory procession and a magical play of light and shadow that will enact several narratives associated with the recent history of Dubai. The performance is a collaboration with the Filipino community in Dubai, involving 150 performers as well as music composed by a local musician and invites the fair’s visitors to join in the performance which will pass through the fair.

Samson Young’s Muted Situation #2: Muted Lion Dance is a reimagining of the traditional Chinese lion dance, where performers mimic a lion’s movements to bring luck and fortune, in place of the usual percussive music, the dancers will perform to a soundtrack made of unusual sounds such as the intense breathing of the performers, rattling of the lion costume, and the stomping of the feet. With this, the audience is forced to reimagine the aural experience of watching this dance. This performance is part of a larger body of work in which the artist proposes a series of sonic situations.


2014 Muted Situation #2_Muted Lion Dance_Production Still_04

“The performances chosen for this programme embody a double possibility,” said the curators. “They seduce us into participation, even if just as spectators, while at the same time they question us about what surrounds us, the world in which we live.”

At its space in Lisbon, Portugal, Kunsthalle Lissabon shuns overproduction in favour of a deeper engagement with artists; the institution limits the number of solo shows it presents to just four a year. “This performance programme for Art Dubai is no different,” they explained. “We are working closely with just two artists to present two very ambitious performances. We commit to each of them as we would back in Lisbon when we are curating shows in our physical space. The modus operandi is the same, the context however is completely different, and that makes it extremely appealing.”

2014 Muted Situation #2_Muted Lion Dance_Production Still_01

2019 also marks Kunsthalle Lissabon’s tenth anniversary and to mark that, the institution is celebrating by handing over the physical space and resources and infrastructure to four international contemporary art institutions which will open pop-up versions within the vacant space. The curators will then, appear “as brief bursts of energy” all over the world. The programme for Art Dubai is the first of those moments.

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