Monitor gallery unlocks the doors of its new address: please don’t make yourself at home!

“Blessed is he who has no home; he sees it still in his dreams” [1], wrote Hannah Arendt in one of the pages of her fascinating thought diary. Often, “house” and “home” are used as synonyms within the Western depiction of security, stability and comfort. Tied to the notion of property, the speculative mesh that enables us to feel at home even captures the concept of “world” – lest we forget Blaise Pascal’s thought: “That’s my place in the Sun: This is the beginning and Image of the Usurpation of all the Earth.” [2]. As a part of the human, whose ontological essence almost always seems to be tied to a territory (where we are born, occupy, and return to), home becomes an almost unperceived and unquestioned presence in our lives. However, because nothing is so certain that art – and philosophy – cannot contest it, home is questioned in HOUSEWARMING, an exhibition inviting us to get to know MONITOR’s new Lisbon address.

Hello, good afternoon, welcome, don’t make yourself at home! When you see the works gathered in this group exhibition, you will notice that the sense of dwelling will eventually break down. You’ll lose your footing, of course – downstairs, a red carpet lends the room a much more ceremonial tone than a purely domestic or private one. Perhaps this is the question that shapes much of the work curated there and that the gallery’s relocation from the Rato quarter – but originally from Italy to Portugal – proves: what are the limits of the terrain of intimacy? Where does home truly materialise?

At the entrance, we see clay-coloured pieces by Maja Escher, with multiple concerns over what is conventionally called a “science of the house”. In Horta (2020), green peas are drying on a rickety clothesline, handmade gardening tools resemble an organic environment, as if they could transform this stone cladding into fresh grass. The artist seems to simultaneously plough and demolish the notion of the land as home: on the one hand, we detect a certain embryonic nostalgia, a praise of the myth of autochthony – also reinforced by the reference to the Alentejo identity as a poster of a traditional or primordial Portugal -; on the other hand, the choice of typically domestic symbols and technologies brings to mind another ecological conviction, an ecology without Nature [3], without holisms, without the pretence of purity.

In Maja, but also in the sculptural graffiti of the duo primeira desordem on the adjoining walls, the soft borders between inside and outside, the personal and the public, soften even more, so artificial they are. The street can knock on the door and adapt itself to the confidential and protected universe of the house. The house also spreads to realms so distant that it swallows up the street and begins to condition all animals to house arrest, except the human. These are the first echoes of Emanuele Coccia’s concerns, who draws our attention to the pitfalls of Gaia’s depiction as a large communal house: “[…] we do not recognise the right of other living beings to leave home, to live outside home, to have a political, social and non-domestic life. […] They are all quarantined during their natural life” [4].

Obviously, not all humans share this privilege of having access to the public arena, to the city. For many women, home is also the place to which modesty has driven all constraints, the common destination towards which debutantes line up (Le debutant, 2023, Eugénia Mussa): this is expressed by Francisca Sousa’s round canvases (Sleep is my lover, Esperma and Contra-sexual, 2022), from pleasure to domestic violence, everything is permitted between four walls. Nor is a roof enough for Dutch filmmaker and visual artist Guido van der Werve, who extends the motif of circularity by filming himself running around his house during a full turn of the clock. In his case, depression is what bars the windows, and reduces any home to a barren, empty, almost uninhabitable haven.

Quoting Coccia again, the house as a shell, as an architectural idealisation or pure space “is an abstraction, something that does not exist. We never find space. We inhabit a world that is always populated by other humans, plants, animals, the most distinct objects. These objects do not take up space, they open it up, they make space possible […]” [5]. Rather than being real estate, administrative headquarters or a solitary cell, the house can be this place where things – animate and inanimate – discover their reciprocal power of touch, action, movement. A body deforming right angles (Tröder (thirst traps), 2022, Tomaso De Luca), lemons disguising themselves as tennis balls (Lemons, 2023, Astrid Sonne), socks rebelling against the monogamous relationship with feet (Things are always full of people, 2011, Astrid Sonne). “This is the starting point of the domestic revolution” [6].

Perhaps the elephant in the room should be asked to leave and the stranger, the different, should be invited in. What if we stopped thinking of the intimate as an experience of predictable, safe and cosy closeness? What if our metaphor for the relationship between beings on Earth was less about neighbourliness and more about a vibrant, political carnival (Fête Cosmique, 2023, Daniel V. Melim)? Movement is free – please don’t feel at home! Catch it in your dreams.

HOUSEWARMING is at MONITOR gallery in Lisbon until July 29.


1] Arendt as quoted in Hill, Samantha (2015). Home, Homelessness, and The Human Condition, online article.

[2] Pascal as quoted in Levinas, Emmanuel (2004) Entre nós: ensaios sobre a alteridade. (Pergentino Stefano Pivatto, et. al, Trans.). Editora Vozes, p. 296. Emphasis added.

[3] Morton, Timothy (2010).The Ecological Thought. Harvard University Press, p. 12.

[4] Coccia, Emanuele (2020). Revertendo o novo monasticismo global. (Mariana Silva da Silva, Trans.). Available at <>.

[5] Id. Ibid, emphases added.

[6] Id. Ibid.

Laila Algaves Nuñez (Rio de Janeiro, 1997) is an independent researcher, writer and project manager in cultural communication, particularly interested in the future studies developed in philosophy and the arts, as well as in trans-feminist contributions to imagination and social and ecological thought. With a BA in Social Communication with a major in Cinema (PUC-Rio) and a MA in Aesthetics and Artistic Studies (NOVA FCSH), she collaborates professionally with various national and international initiatives and institutions, such as BoCA - Biennial of Contemporary Arts, Futurama - Cultural and Artistic Ecosystem of Baixo Alentejo and Terra Batida / Rita Natálio.

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