Visitante Ocasional at Coimbra Contemporary Art Centre

A body among bodies. A contract-free social model. This is how the body of the spectator, that one-time visitor, finds its way into this metaphorically organic fabric: the exhibition. As put forth by Eduardo Lourenço, the author of the work that sparked this curatorial exercise, art is “a kind of non-natural silence within the cogs of Life”[1]. On the other hand, or perhaps on the same hand, there is metaphor, that instrument, that shovel, that way of digging up the world. This deceitful device that convinces us that we own and control the eternalisation ploy. A continuation, a blurring of criticism. A continuous action, aware of its fatal end. The accumulation of echoes of which Eduardo Lourenço himself mentions in the aforementioned opus. Art as an echo of life (or vice versa), metaphor as an echo of art (or vice versa).

Traffic is ongoing in the exhibition area. The body both visits and is visited. At some points it is replaced, at others it is filled. It is even invited to fill in. If the artist is that operator “creator of novelty and emulator of nature”[2], then this is where the equation is realised. We leave this space without understanding what we are made of. It could be bronze, as in Fernão Cruz’s works, or it could just be gestures, as in Nuno Sousa Vieira’s Porta morta, where all that remains is the phenomenon of an opening action. A body is multiple. There is no room for any idealisation. After all, “what is the ideal if not the sweetening, the simplification, the abstract synthesis, the negation of the flesh of things?”[3].

The viewer is openly invited to fill in the gaps of the exhibited works. Helena Almeida’s Dentro de mim, on the first floor, absorbs, using the mirror erupting on the artist’s body, anything neighbouring it. Álvaro Lapa’s Campéstico presents an unfinished pictorial surface, allowing the work to be interrupted by the exhibition wall or, at the very least, by something else. José Pedro Croft’s sculpture, whose plasticity makes us think we’re looking at his three-dimensional painting lying on the floor, also hints at the idea of emptiness and, not least, unfinishedness. We recognise the importance of the visitor’s perspective for the work’s transience over time and the legitimacy of its permanence, but the need seems greater in this case. A cynical invitation, perhaps: fulfilment is impossible, the idea of incompleteness will forever pervade a work, regardless of whether it manifests itself formally or not. Rui Calçada Bastos’ The mirror suitcase man thrusts us out into the open and concurrently fights with the outside for the viewer’s attention. It gives him back to the world and then tries to get him back. An ambiguous concept compared to the other neighbouring works in this exhibition.

The one-off visitor relationship can also occur between the artworks themselves, despite the obvious reliance on someone else to set these relationships in motion. Noteworthy in this regard is the relationship between three works on the second floor, all of eswhich display signs of a strong, simultaneous and seemingly random contamination. Dayana Lucas’ Anthropagias II (1/3), António Bolota’s S/ título and Jorge Martins’ Variações inhabit the same referential visual field: the forms occupying them dwell in a common space uniting these three works. This provides a certain idea of contemplating a common landscape through perspectives that take us between different plasticities.

The notion of the body is shaped in different ways. Eugénia Mussa’s paintings literally express the odd presence of an occasional visitor. Susanne S. D. Themlitz introduces an amorphous notion of the body, as usual in her work, through The infinity of the Island minus 3 times. Rui Chafes also approaches this notion, with a ghostly sculpture dividing us between a full abstract corporeal presence or a body part that is rendered autonomous, an idea similar to Eva Tothschild’s in N.G.O. Luís Nobre represents it anatomically and precariously, whilst Fernão Cruz enhances the idea of defragmentation present in the exhibition.

Headbanger and S/ Título are remnants of the artist’s own complexion, sized up to the scale of the past: Fernão Cruz used body measurements from his childhood to conceive the body elements included in these works. With Portas Mortas, Nuno Sousa Vieira goes beyond the body: its habits, its mechanised gestures, which would be a complete failure in a hypothetical attempt to get somewhere through this seemingly dysfunctional door. Finally, Gabriela Albergaria’s Dropping/falling confronts us with the inescapable brevity of the spectator’s body, as opposed to the lifespan of other materials, other bodies. The choice to eternalise an anthurium wedlingeri leaf in bronze stands as an ironic metaphor for all this: art will ultimately survive. And however far it distances itself from its author, by lasting, in the hypothetical collective demise of humanity, it will always be proof that it existed. I would say that this is inextricable, even in artistic production methods where the author is concealed (cf. Fernando Calhau[4]).

The exhibition Visitante Ocasional, curated by José Maçãs de Carvalho, can be seen until February 18 at Coimbra Contemporary Art Centre.


[1] Lourenço, Eduardo. (2023). O Espelho Imaginário. Lisbon: Gradiva. p. 12.
[2] Eco, Umberto. (2004). História da Beleza. Oeiras: Difel. p. 178.
[3] Didi-Huberman, George. (2017). Diante do Tempo. Lisbon: Orfeu Negro. p. 15.
[4] “Calhau, who maintained a distrustful relationship with the hand mark, with the expressive sign of the artist’s individuality (…) went the other way, camouflaging manuality through an enormous degree of sophistication in manufacture” in Sardo, Delfim. (2017). O Exercício Experimental da Liberdade. Lisbon: Orfeu Negro. p. 72.

Daniel Madeira (Coimbra, 1992) has a degree in Artistic Studies from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Coimbra and a Master's in Curatorial Studies from the Colégio das Artes at the same university. Between 2018 and 2021, he coordinated the Exhibition Space and the Educational Project of the Águeda Arts Center. Currently, he collaborates with the Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra (CAPC).

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