Eyes of the Forest

In the mountains around Rio de Janeiro, a tree stretches its winding roots in all directions across the leaf-strewn ground. It grows amongst countless others in one of the largest urban forests in the world: Tijuca National Park. One unmissable and surreal detail that sets it apart from the surrounding foliage is a photograph of a dog’s eye pinned to the trunk. We watch as its amber iris stares out beyond the frame.

Barcelona-born Daniel Steegmann Mangrané (b. 1977) prompts us to consider the perspectives of animals and plants. The artist has lived and worked in the Brazilian capital since 2004. His series, La Pensée Férale (2021), positions the same canine eye around Tijuca to suggest that nature is an active viewer. It peers out from the ground, looks up from branches of a fallen tree and appears camouflaged by greenery.

The National Park has seen more than 100 years of human intervention, from deforestation to conservation. In the 19th century, the land was stripped to accommodate coffee and sugar plantations. This led to changes in rainfall, so, in 1861, Emperor Dom Pedro II ordered a large-scale replanting project that would be carried out by enslaved people. Their work resulted in the vast ecosystem that stands today, which contains over 1,600 species of plants and 356 mammals, birds and invertebrates. Steegmann Mangrané’s work draws attention to a present-day threat: domesticated dogs are reported to be upsetting the balance of the habitat by hunting prey, spreading diseases and disrupting rewilding efforts. This is a forest steeped in a long and complicated history. What will it witness in the years to come?

MACBA, Daniel Steegman Mangrané: A Leaf Shapes the Eye | Until 20 May


Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, La pensée Férale, (2020).
  2. Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, A Transparent Leaf Inside of the Mouth (2017). Inelcom Collection. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.