Are we really ducks that want to be horses? On the one hand, asking this question, or making such an assertion, would promptly entail the presupposition of a dissymmetric classification between these two beings. To the detriment of the duck, it would occupy a lower position in the human hierarchy of animal ontologies. However, we must not forget—and that is the other hand—that any classifying and evaluative tracing would say more about the one that classifies than about the one that is classified. To the detriment of us, whatever imaginal projection concerning the status and reach intrinsic to any duck or any horse, in a relationship with ourselves, would say more about human statutory and symbolical haughtiness—its superficialities, insecurities, and low passions—than about those animals' actual lives and earthly potentialities.
Adriana Proganó's exhibition at Casa da Cerca, curated by Filipa Oliveira, falls with particular determination within that second hand; with another sort of haughtiness (a more benign, more committed, more clairvoyant one), Adriana roars with laughter at all those ducks that, in wanting to be horses, think that to be a horse is to stay on the comfortable side of the privileged, or to somehow attain a figure of a greater poise, the pretentious nobility of a position that self-justifies the validity of some discourse. With no aggressiveness but with her signature satirical sharpness, all the works presented by Proganó, in what is said and shown, share a critical reference to what is left out: a sort of offscreen instance consisting of forces, permissions, and senses that not only conditions the images that is put out into the world but also shapes geometries in the places where they are produced. I am speaking of social conventions and constraints, of the ideal forms of sociability, and of established forces, of what is imposed as normative standard, and of the invisible trajectories of its perpetuation. And I also speak of what leaks therefrom into art and into the existences of the art system, into what accesses a plane of visibility, and into how it happens. Of the possible reifications and territorialisations of the expectable in objects, images, and bodies.
Adriana defies all the pressures these movements might impose upon her, ridiculing them to the point of saturation.
Nevertheless, it is rather curious that this artist's still-short career has in recent years taken place exclusively within the institutional and gallery circuit: as though these venues, unusually and in numbers, found out about her pertinence and value; or noticed a lasting lack these new times compel to make up for. This exhibition is no exception—and it is a good thing that it is so. Aligning herself, though indifferent to all of it and aloof from the brightness of the lights or averse to ceremony and to the criteria of adequacy, Progranó naturally attempts to bring on provocation inside the institution (not for it to collapse but rather to shake it from within). Not in an uncommitted or unwitting manner, though her work can be characterised by a certain merry naivety or a non-restraint in how it constructs image-discourse. There lies its strength, too. For Adriana's gesture is above all realised in a space of freedom of making, thinking, and saying, without measuring the most lateralisable or superficial consequences nor what does not directly proceed from her work. It is by situating herself right there, and by right there generating her ethics, that the artist will be able to contribute, as an example of what disagrees with her, so that, paraphrasing one of the canvas she now presents, no beautiful horse needs to have an abortion to pursue an artistic career—even if that horse is actually a duck. And in order to show, while being an example of it, that this duck, like Cicciolina, and paraphrasing another canvas, can take a wee where it pleases.
Clearly attentive to a certain morality of language and behaviours, the sentences appearing in most of the displayed canvases have been intuitively and affectively collected, so Adriana has told me. Often preceding the formation of the image that completes them, which both artist and curator consider to be drawings as a whole, they could be comical if they were not earnest. Or maybe they are earnest while also being comical. Using humour as a weapon and as a catalytic, immersive mechanism, they (images and text) convey a certain urgency implicit in drawing, extending out into the life the artist is naturally a part of.
Because, if this exhibition can pertain to the laying-bare of the perversity underlying many social codes and biasing subterranean tendencies concerning the artist's place, such is materialised through the construction of a space of intimacy where Adriana—we can assume—is also reflected (one of the canvas is a quite literal example of it, I would say). While the bright pink carpet intensifies what is shown and emphasises a character of urgency, it also establishes a connection among all the works on display, almost as though it were a sort of Tumblr photo gallery made out of canvases and paint. We enter a space that, in wanting to adopt a comprehensive stance, is also rather personal in the individualising ballast (as it is an individualised one) which it bears. And which not only is corrosive but also displays a certain vulnerability; one unafraid of the ridiculous (integrating it instead). The vulnerability of a woman artist who lives in the present day and who, within the latter, tries to exist free of constraints weighing on her total freedom. That of somebody who knows an individual can contain many others; who admits and appreciates that we all have nonsensical thoughts at times; who cries; who allows herself to relate to whomever she wants and be whatever she wants (not human, even). Who, after all—with nothing pressuring her to be anything but herself—can be a duck, a horse, a duck-horse. Or none of that at all: something else. It is therefrom that this exhibition is also constituted as a proposal: a form of manifesto for the possibilities of formation of contemporary subjectivity—a sensitive, feminist, queer, posthuman one.
David Revés (Lisboa, 1992). Researcher and independent curator. Master in Art Studies — Art Theory and Criticism from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Porto (2018). He has been exploring the fields of new media and social media, taking particular interest in their crossings with art, museology, exhibition systems, and matters related to the figure of the spectator. He develops a critical practice of essays and articles which are regularly featured in some publications and art or academic projects.
Translation PT-EN: Diogo Montenegro.
Adriana Proganó: Somos todos patos a querer ser cavalos. Exhibition views at Casa da Cerca, Almada. Photos: António Jorge Silva. Courtesy of the artist and Casa da Cerca.