March 11th to April 08th 2022
Exhibition View. Photography: Bruno Lopes
The science of looking at the urine for diagnostic purposes is as ancient as disease.
Throughout history, urine - the first bodily fluid to be examined - has provided medicine with knowledge about
the workings of the inner body. For most of its timeline, extending back to the writings of Greek physician
Hippocrates and up until the 19th century, uroscopy was an exclusively observational practice.
In the Middle Ages the vessel used to examine urine - the matula - became a symbol of the medical profession.
The glassed bulb would be held against sunlight in order to scrutinize colour (white, yellow, red, brown),
sediments (smooth, leafy, farinaceous, absent), consistency (thin, thick, watery, clear, cloudy) and odor (fetid or
absent) in order to assess a patient’s health. Looking at urine was determinant but often speculative and
Over time, what was once a legitimate practice spread into the hands of quacks who argued they could not only
provide diagnosis but also predict a patient’s future through their liquid waste. Licit uroscopic practitioners
denounced the ilicit, publishing a protest thesis titled The Pisse Prophets. Their motto was ‘’Vrine est meretrix,
vel mendax (urine is a harlot, and a liar)’’.
A science that bordered on divination laid the foundations for the understanding of the human body we have
today. We can now know of the astonishing elasticity of the bladder or that all the blood in our body is filtered
400 times through the kidneys every day. Over the course of a lifetime, it can filter through over 5 million liters,
enough to fill a small lake. However, this understanding wasn’t always empirical.
In QUENCH, Gabriel Ribeiro uses this story as context or backdrop to a series of sculptures that recount a time
where the reverse side of the human body was a conundrum, reconfiguring it through our current access into
it. Shapes, contours and substances associated with the urinary tract are reimagined in an attempt to enact the
ways in which raw materials circulate, highlighting the processes responsible for the ingestion, absorption,
filtration and expulsion of water in the human body.
Salt, jesmonite and resins are treated simultaneously as signifiers and performers of the ability to morph, decay
or develop. Meanwhile, the color pink comes into play as a sort of dummy fluid, reminiscent of the substitutions
often seen in advertisements for health products, where liquids deemed threatening are replaced with more
Bent stainless steel sculptures suggest the formality of drains - perforated and permeable, designed to facilitate
the swift flow of liquids. In Tract (2022), the question of fluidity seems at once active and interrupted, as tubes
and salty epoxy transformers appear to lead to an invisible processing station behind the gallery walls. In Matula
I (2022) and Matula II (2022), the historical object is framed by laser-engraved (formerly-liquid) alloys, its
surface markings obtained from vectorized drawings of bladder tissue, a level of proximity, clarity and
pragmatism only possible with today’s technology which allows us to peek inwards.
Substances that traverse and sediment in bodies, objects, and words conjure the living cycles from where these
meanings stem and in which they are stored. The myriad forms appear to embody the speculative
circumstances in which they were begotten – to all appearances suspended somewhere between urination and
Ultimately, QUENCH proposes a double take on the act of passing liquids, reformulating Ribeiro’s fascination
with the partially veiled workings of our own bodies of water and the altered substances that stream out of it.
Science and speculation, empirical knowledge and quackery, fact and artifice not only collide but actually
coincide, manifested through the tale of a visual science that is still prevalent today, over 2000 years after its