Which ingredients make a movie a good movie, José Jesus?

José Jesus is an actual multi-talent. Born in Faro, he studied art multimedia in Lisbon and traveled around the world while cooking in different restaurants. Nowadays, he is also an artist, videography teacher, and musician. Describing himself as a “lucky person“, José is still open for new opportunities life offers to him.

You traveled a lot and worked in many different places all around the globe. How did you come to Faro?

I was born in Faro. I studied at Lisbon University. And then I came to Faro for short periods, and now I came back maybe five years ago. More permanently. And I hope to get away again.

What did you study?

I studied art multimedia in “faculdade de belas artes”, which was a kind of new media course at the University of Lisbon. We had performance installation, photography, and video. It was a mix of things. I think it was very nice for me because it gave me a bit of practice in a lot of areas. I’m curious about everything. That’s why I do so many activities. I think it’s about curiosity and I like challenges.

“I don’t have anything clear in my life.“

Has it always been clear to you that you want to become an artist or that you want to study in that kind of field?

I don’t know because I don’t have anything clear in my life. I rarely made plans. I think I’m a very lucky person and, this is a theory of mine, that what happens with lucky people is that they don’t need to plan because things happen somehow. Life pushes you into a certain bar and you find your best friend. I don’t know if I wanted to be an artist for sure. Doing creative things is one thing that gives me a lot of pleasure. Playing music, painting, drawing, and talking to people. I love to talk to people also. So I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

After you had studied in Lisbon, you came back to Faro.

For a brief period.

What did you do then?

I came to Faro. I was finishing my master’s degree. I had nothing to do except read and write. My father offered me a cooking course for home cooks on a weekend. I went there maybe three weekends. Then I stopped going but I started working in a restaurant: cleaning potatoes, and doing these jobs that no one wants to do.

Was that the moment you started to like cooking?

No, I think this happened in London. I was here in Faro for maybe six months at that time. Then I went to London to work. I noticed that this pub needed a cook. Then I said: “Well, maybe I can do this”. I did the interview. I got a job there. And this chef of mine in this pub showed me a lot of things. He taught me a lot of techniques, a lot of history of food, about ingredients, traditions. This is an incredible freedom of creating, I thought. It’s also amazing because I love to eat.

I thought that this was incredible. What these people are doing is insane and I want to be part of it. I want to try to do this. So I decided to send my CV around Europe and try to have an internship in a restaurant to work for free. I got accepted in a few. It’s kind of how you start. After, you start doing internships or unpaid jobs, small hours, someone sees value in you, offers you a position, and then you evolve.

So you did not only stay in London but traveled a lot.

Yeah. Cooking. I lived in three different cities in Spain. I went to Brazil to do a trip with a friend. Our trip was supposed to be two weeks. It developed into two months. And I stayed there working because I went to a few restaurants I wanted to eat at. They knew I was a cook. They offered me work. So that’s how I then was cooking in Brazil. I came back to Spain after. Spain is a story of back and forth. I like it. It’s a nice country.

What’s the best cuisine that you have experienced so far?

British. I love British food. I’m one of the few. I love pies. That’s one of the reasons why I like English food. But I also love a very specific tradition from the north of Spain. You cook this very specific connection, like a muscle, between the body and the head of a fish, and you can emulsify it with olive oil in the pan. You get this creamy texture. It’s impressive. I love it.

“Food in a restaurant must not taste like home food because it’s a restaurant.“

What distinguished cooking in a restaurant, from cooking for yourself or your family or friends?

Consistency. You have to be consistent in a restaurant. Many restaurants work in a portfolio, which means they develop recipes that are from the restaurant. And you want to go to this restaurant because they have this dish and they’re specialists in grilled meat or fish or vegetables or whatever. So that dish must always taste the same. There’s an importance of consistency in restaurants that you don’t have at home.

Also, what I hear a lot is that you go to a restaurant, you like the food, and you go to your friends and you promote the restaurant to your friends. For that: “The restaurant was good. It tasted like home”. And I think it’s not a good compliment. Food in a restaurant must not taste like home food because it’s a restaurant. It has to taste like restaurant food. But people use it as a compliment.

Then you started again with doing art when you came back to Faro?

I think I never stopped doing art. Well, I did but not really. I stopped producing for exhibitions. I stopped for a few years because I was a bit mad with the art world. I also was very frustrated because it’s very difficult to have a career in the arts in Portugal. Not only in Portugal, but I was living here. So I kind of kept my practice, but for myself, smaller. Mostly in notebooks, in which you write. I keep all of them because I think it’s my way of working a bit.

I think creativity is something that is continuous but our thoughts emerge and submerge. And sometimes when they come up, you write them down, and probably in two months, you’ll have some kind of an answer for this thought, because it’s a process. And since I was not making objects or videos, I think it all became very, very condensed in notebooks. Which was cool because now I have my repertoire of ideas. If I’m blocked, I just go to a notebook and I have like millions of possible works.

My practice is most of the time around the installation. So objects and videos, it’s what I mostly develop. Sometimes I do only video, but most of the time are both combined.

Why did you choose these two mediums to give form to your art?

Once again, I didn’t choose. It’s kind of happened again. I started doing video and photography. First in University when I was starting my studies, and then I got to like installation. I like the physical presence of things. So I started a bit moving more toward installations. And then of course you have video installations. They demand some kind of collaboration with the audience.

At the same time, I like the cinema. The type of language that I use is the same as cinema: cuts, camera movements, and angles. It’s a bit the same.

I came up with this idea with objects, especially because I wanted to add another dimension to some objects. I like the physical presence of the sculpture. I think more in sculpture than the rest. I even think when I’m doing video about its physicality.

What’s the best film you have ever seen?

That’s difficult. But I have a list of favorites. People say it’s difficult to choose a favorite book or film. I don’t find it difficult. I think as I’m growing older, I have more of a favorite anything.

“The Limits Of Control” by Jim Jarmush. It’s one of my favorite movies. I was talking with my students today and I like “As Mil e Uma Noites” by Miguel Gomes. It’s about the political and economic crisis in Portugal. The movie is unbelievably funny.


Which ingredients make a movie a good movie?

I like boring movies. I think rhythm or pace makes the difference in movies. It can be slow, but also fast when the movie needs the pace. If you think about it, photography can be more detailed or more casual. You have movies that are shot with super good cameras and super bad cameras. The way the narrative is constructed is very different. So you have interesting movies that have a typical story or interesting movies that are the opposite and don’t have a story. What calls my attention or grabs my attention is, I think the rhythm.

You are also teaching videography. Does teaching others about movies change your perspective?

It changes the way I think about my work. It changes the way I think about teaching itself because you have to adapt and read your students. You have to try to send them a message that is for them. It’s not a generic message about the subject. It has to touch them somehow. And sometimes strategies change in the middle of the course. And they also teach me. I mean, if I’m making my job right, they learn more from me than I do from them. But yeah, I think it changed my perspective.

“I like boring movies.“

In your Instagram profile, you describe yourself as a visual thinker. What does that mean?

I think every visual artist is a visual thinker because I believe I think with my eyes. I think visual art is a practice of thought.

You are also a musician. You play the bass.

I started playing guitar. I had a relationship of love and hate with my guitar, and I decided to give it a chance. I think I became a better musician after changing instruments.

When did you start making music or playing?

Since I was a kid. My parents used to take me to music classes after school. I was into it. My father had a guitar at home. My uncle was playing the guitar. So it was very natural. When I was a kid I was a very musical geeky child. I would play back, famous musicians or, you know, dance or whatever. You know, sometimes you just don’t remember or it’s a bit more subconscious. I never wanted to be a professional musician.

Today you are also playing in a band.

I play currently in one band and one that is preparing for its birth. The band I’m playing with, it’s called “2143”. I think we play some kind of psychedelic music. It’s very difficult to categorize the band. We have a singer that loves this heavy Portuguese tradition. We have a drummer that likes drum and bass. It’s also a mix of our personalities. I think it creates something unique. The other band called „The Dead Men Shoes” is a blues band. It’s a bit more classic rock and blues.

Is it hard for you to console all of these passions?

Not at all. For my time, yes. It’s very difficult. It’s not a good thing. I advise people to not do this because it’s exhausting. I don’t sleep a lot. If you have a small thing that goes wrong in your day, it’s like an avalanche that gets bigger and bigger. At the end of the day, you are four hours late for something.

© Photos by Anja Kloss, José Jesus and Teatro das Figuras