Visual Arts


— exhibition by João Maria Gusmão

20.05 — 07.09.24
Galeria Zé dos Bois

May 20th
6pm — 12am

May 21th to 26th
12pm — 10pm
Free entry.

Opening hours May 27th to September 7th:
Monday to Friday
6pm — 10pm

Esteemed Comrades, following the resounding success of the New York iteration of Animal Farm – presented at 99 Canal earlier this year – João Maria Gusmão’s solo 16 mm exhibition, will, at long last, open at Galeria Zé dos Bois in Lisbon, curated by Marco Bene, on the 20th of May.

Animal Farm entices the observer on a visual odyssey exalted by pastoral solace, animist minstrelsy and metaphysical riddles – ghosts, ghouls and goblins – offering fleeting glimpses of an alterity existing between techne and poiesis, the human and the non-human, the nocturnal and the diurnal. Through over fifteen new 16 mm film projections we are invited to explore the latest toils in a long-lasting inquiry into analogue means and analogue concepts. A journey towards an eco-friendly estrangement from the extractivist rural landscape.

For this endeavour, the Portuguese artist is proposing a distinctive approach to his craft, shaping the instances of aesthetic contemplation and anchoring them to the tipsy revelry of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto. Whence in this exhibition we may flee the gaudy and incessant hubbub henhouse of gaiety, to be daunted by yet another grange, where the domestication of fire produces moving images; the domestication of history produces myths; and the domestication of all kinds of figures produces ghosts.

While one might liken Animal Farm to Orwell’s fairy story, Gusmão concurrently unfurls a structuralist conundrum: the spectral nature of the cinematographic medium itself, pointing us towards a “weirding” phenomenology; a hauntology of sorts – the study of the nature of what lies between being and non-being among domesticated and wild ranch critters – a vicarious ontology!

Within Animal Farm, Gusmão submerges us into his idiosyncratic world of para-historical, para-scientific and para-philosophical exploits and opinions, intricately interwoven within each celluloid strip.

In the rooms lit only by film projections, one might notice (or not) a mountain of Snow White’s favoured baking powder; the mute crowing of a Rooster at dawn signalling the beginning of yet another day; a Ghost tape that echoes the sounds of its own demise; a squadron of ducks waltzing through a still life titled Landscape with Boat and River; Half a horse; a humble estate devoted to the exploitation of the sun, that is, a Solar farm; Fermented Foam, an enigmatic goo reminiscent of a dairy product, flanked by Flat cows make nice Yogurt, a vivid account of genetically modified bovines with spongiform encephalopathy – feral!; a collection of purgatory Bedrooms; yours truly gazing with nostalgia at My Uncle’s Castle, once my grandfather’s and now my cousin’s cottage, immersed in a mise en abyme of resentful inheritance and birthright; Day for night, a motion picture salute to Magritte’s The Empire of Light; a tarragon Mustard piece imbued with scatological overtones; a Sunflower at dusk swept away by a nuclear storm; an eastern Disney like feature film folded 3 times for paradoxical reasons; The wondrous pumpkin farm; Mozart’s piss stone, the menhir once marked by Amadeus himself with the gasoline of a stone-age spacecraft.

Science is fiction!

And, so, the term coined by Derrida whilst delivering a lecture entitled “The Animal that Therefore I Am” reverberates once more: zoopoetics!

Forward, comrades! Long live the windmill! Long live Animal Farm!

George Orwell

This project was generously supported by República Portuguesa – Cultura | DGARTES – Direção-Geral das Artes, FLAD – Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento, Universidade Católica, Escola das Artes, CITAR Centro de Investigacão em Ciência e Tecnologia das Artes, Porto. This exhibition was produced by Galeria Zé dos Bois (ZDB), Lisbon.

João Maria Gusmão

For the last two decades, João Maria Gusmão has developed, in collaboration with Pedro Paiva, a complex and enigmatic set of practices ranging from experimental cinema to sculpture, photography, literature, curatorship and artist’s editions. His most notable work takes the form of immersive installations of several analog 16mm projections. His visual vocabulary gathers the repertoires of contemporary literature and philosophy. His bronze sculptures, on the other hand, use schematic, simplified foundations to create figures. The artist models the molds, not the pieces themselves, a resource that allows random possibilities.

Some of the artist’s recent solo shows include Lusque-Fusque Arrebol, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisboa, Portugal (2022) and Variations — Eugène Frey’s Light Set Projections, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Monaco (2021). He also participated in the group show O Canto do Bode, Casa da Cultura de Comporta, Comporta, Portugal (2021).

The artist’s work has been included in important public collections, such as Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal; FRAC – Fonds regional d’art contemporain d’Île-de-France, Île-de-France, France; Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bergamo, Italy; Instituto Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil; MNAC – Museu Nacional do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal; Mudam – Museé d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; Museo de Arte Contemporáneio de Castilla y León, León, Spain; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA; Serralves, Porto, Portugal; SFMOMA – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA and Tate Modern, London, UK.

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