Life Was Never So Beautiful
Souza Soares Pharmacy shopwindow

Criar Um Lugar: intervenção pública de arte contemporânea (To Create A Place was a public art project in the city of Oporto)
curated by Maria Fátima Lambert
with Cristina Ataíde, Suzana Piteira, Ritzse van Raay, Susana Mendes Silva, Miguel Soares, Miguel Palma, Beatriz Albuquerque, André Cepeda, Marta Moreira, Catarina Saraiva, João Luís Bento, Samuel Rama, Pedro Tudela, Eun-Hye Huang
In 2004, I was invited to participate in an public space art project in the city of Porto. The project was called Create a place and was part of the celebrations of the 10 years of the association Espaço T. This association, which I did not know beforehand, is quite special. Their task is to help people who, for one reason or another, have lost their social life and seek to provide them with the appropriate mechanisms for reintegration. I was very surprised and touched by their project, the people who work their and the users of the association. The project was developed in several spaces of the central area of the city, in particular in several shop windows of Rua de Santa Catarina. I was given the storefront of a pharmacy - Souza Soares pharmacy almost in front of the historical Café Majestic.
In Life was never so beautiful (2004), there was a strong contextual relationship, since this work only made sense in that specific location and situation. In one of the pharmacy's shop windows, I placed an enigmatic advertisement, which followed the model of commercial ads commonly found in pharmacies, which read: "Life has never been so beautiful. Ask your pharmacist." The choice of the sentences had a double meaning: on the one hand it was related to the association and its work to give back the "normal life" of people who were deprived of it; and on the other was related to news published in the press, which affirmed that the Portuguese were among the European people who consumed more antidepressants. Before the opening I had some meetings to make the project possible. First, with the curator of the exhibition — Fátima Lambert — and with the technical director of the pharmacy, and then with the staff who worked at the counter, in contact with the public, to explain the purpose and context of the project. Although initially I was worried about their reaction, they were all very enthusiastic.
They asked me how they should act and respond to customers, and in fact they did not have to do anything complicated: the proposal was to provoke people's curiosity, leading them to ask about the ad and make it the motto for a brief conversation about life and about art between two people who would usually talk only about prescriptions or illnesses. If the pharmacy staff could not satisfy curiosity or respond to the clients, I gave them a card with my contact so that they could direct them to me. However they never needed to deliver any cards, and they told me that the project had gone very well. Life never was so beautiful turned out to be a performance in which the participants and performers were the employees and the customers of the pharmacy.