| By Estela Ataíde


«The Portuguese creative community has developed greatly »

PHOTOGRAPHY Francisco Sá Bandeira

PHOTOGRAPHY Pedro Sadio&MariaRita@thatimage

PHOTOGRAPHY Pedro Sadio&MariaRita@thatimage

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Created in 1998 with the purpose of stimulating, promoting and raising awareness of cultural production, experimentadesign can look back over more than 75 cultural projects in the areas of design and architecture, in Portugal and abroad in the last 15 years. With the EXD Biennial as its most emblematic event, the association has become a stand-out name in the production and diffusion of creative content.
In the year in which the platform celebrates its 15th anniversary, Guta Moura Guedes, cofounder and president, spoke to Trends about experimentadesign’s history, its impact on the Portuguese creative community and about what’s left to do in promoting culture in Portugal.
How have the 15 years of experimentadesign been marked?
Above all else, extensive work aimed at fully restructuring the biennial and an investment in new lines of scheduling and activities. 15 years is a turning point and the celebration is focused on achieving this turnaround. To record and symbolise the moment we are creating a book on the 15 years of the association.
What assessment would you make of these 15 years?
A very positive one, of which we are all very proud. There have been more than 75 projects in 15 years; hugely diverse, in that they include social action, training, research and promotion. experimentadesign had invested massively in national creativity, in competence and in the training of our creative class, as well as in training the general public.
What has been experimentadesign’s major contribution?
In addition to having placed Lisbon and Portugal on the circuit of major cultural events with the EXD Biennial, it has played a fundamental part in the field of training the public, of research, of experimentation and of applying knowhow to reality, reinforcing the fundamental role of culture and of design disciplines in the construction of a better and more sustainable society. It has also promoted national creativity abroad in a exemplary and continued manner, and established essential bridges between designers and the industry and design and the general public.
What has changed in the national creative panorama since 1998?
So many things. The Portuguese creative community has developed greatly, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality. This creative class has consolidated and greatly matured. New values have been created, existing values have been developed and today this is an area of great potential, real, cosmopolitan and ready to be used in a huge range of territories.
Is the public still not prepared enough to consume cultural productions?
At the moment it is much more prepared than in 1999. At that time, issues to do with design and architecture were still issues that were very disconnected from the general public. Now it is very different. However, you always have to pay attention and have a good knowledge of what you’re talking about when talking about cultural productions. It greatly depends on the specific nature of the content being presented, of its varying innovative character and of its varying experimental level. 
And in terms of production, what is left to do? Is there the due training and support for creation?
No, it still doesn’t exist. From my perspective, cultural production should have a similar system to that found in the sciences, where there is support for research and experimentation programmes. At this level culture becomes the equivalent of science, in terms of the development of our species, and that work is a work that has no direct economic return, and as such should be supported.
Is culture already democratised in Portugal?
What I see in Portugal is that we are an educated, educated, curious, open and committed public. The changeover process of cultural products is entirely democratised. There may be some inertia, here and there, in its consumption, but culture is there, it’s in the street, in theatres, in conferences, in museums, in galleries, in books, in concerts, all over the place.
Portuguese production, whether in design, or in architecture, has been increasingly recognised abroad. Do you see that recognition here?
I think so. Slowly, and with greater prominence, naturally, in architecture, but our values are being increasingly recognised and pride is being taken in them.
The next EXD Biennial is to be held in 2015. What can you already tell us about the next edition?
We are at this precise moment renegotiating the agreements that make the coming editions possible, but what is on the table is a new version of the biennial, about which I am unable to give any details as yet.
Will it be in Portugal or is it time for a new edition outside Portugal?
Always in Portugal; the biennial’s forays outside Portugal will always be sporadic and in 2015 we will be here. Afterwards, we’ll see; we still have Brazil and other places in our sights.
What can we expect from experimentadesign in the next 15 years?
A major difference, not with regards to aims and its central vision, but rather to how we are going to act. We are going to focus on the production of reality combined with research and knowledge production. Less ephemeral scheduling, more projects on the ground and actions aimed at the direct application of design, of planning culture and of the international network we have for improving people’s lives.