Critics’ Picks

Installation view, 2006.

Installation view, 2006.


Fernanda Gomes

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
Rua Dom João de Castro, 210
July 28–October 8, 2006

Following her traditional practice, Brazilian artist Fernanda Gomes spent several weeks in the museum and its surrounding park collecting the detritus that, along with similarly acquired elements exhibited previously, make up the current exhibition. As one approaches the galleries, rock fragments lie scattered on the floor, near full water cups on the pavement or perched atop props; also included are acrylic plates, wooden benches and chairs, plaster spheres, branches, and tree leaves. These carefully arranged found objects are mixed with more intimate materials such as strands of hair pulled from a comb and hanks of dental floss—the latter ingredient making up the well-known piece Untitled, 1994–, a work in progress to which the artist adds each day’s used piece of string. With collecting as her modus operandi, Gomes explores the politics of consumption, positioning herself within the tradition of artist as ethnographer. In one corner, a pile of seventy-five one-euro coins produced in different European countries alludes to the new system of national and economic equivalence. With an eye for poetic gestures, Gomes draws attention to the personal dimension of her items, highlighting the necessity of understanding these objects as traces of personal histories, and not merely commodities. No piece is labeled, a testament to the artist’s belief that the work comprises not only the objects and the gallery space but also the physical and symbolic relationship between these components. Guided by the beliefs and methods of the late-'60s and '70s “Total Art” movements, for Gomes, the multifaceted experience of the show itself is the work.