Looking at Animals, by Joana Villaverde

Cães como nós [Dogs like us]

At Círculo Sede of Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra, until December 30, Looking at Animals reveals itself in the title. But the experience in situ, accompanied by the exhibition text by the curator João Silvério, elicits a reversal of roles – who is looking at whom? Indeed, who is who? Or rather, who is what?

In a first room, to the left of the entrance, we are allowed to watch a series of videos: Traço, Gazzelle and dog, Escrever, Sailing dog e Candeeiros e cão create sound intersections that prevent us from understanding the origin of each sound individually, or the sound videos and the muted ones. The projections attempt to tell a story – we are received in a kind of auditory schizophrenia, sound waves that cross and form an almost independent, amorphous layer, but necessary to materialize the artist’s intention.

There are several animals scattered throughout the exhibition: in projected drawings (the aforementioned videos), in drawings placed on the walls of the exhibition spaces, in oil paintings on canvas. There is even an installation that refers to the tiny representation of a cow – Sem Título, 2020 – a plastic cow on a cube of paper, tied to the window with a rope. In this division, we find a clearly human figure: Sem Título, 2019 – a pen drawing on paper, which makes me think of Gaëtan’s work, a Portuguese artist who, from the 80s, worked obsessively on self-portraits, turning this obsession into his body of work. It’s the first remarkably human look amid all the others that are not – dogs, cows, chickens (whose references in their titles can be decoded in João Silvério’s text), but that deserve a new analysis – apparently animal-like figures that look at us, a fable gesture that stirs new intersections – who looks at whom?

We accept the animal-like multiplicity of the self and its infinite representation.

Let me conclude with a passage from Miguel Torga’s diaries, February 6, 1932, in Coimbra:

I pass by this University like a dog through a harvested vine. Neither do I notice it, nor does it notice me.

Daniel Madeira (Coimbra, 1992) has a BA in Art Studies from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Coimbra and a MA in Curatorial Studies from the College of Arts at the same institution. He has been leading the Exhibition Space and Education Project of the Águeda Arts Centre since 2018.

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