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O'mice an'men

Solo exhibition at Galeria Diferença, Lisbon (Junho 2019)

Photo credits: Samuel Duarte

In November 2011 samples of common mouse (Mus musculus) bones were found in Ponta de São Lourenço, Madeira Island. After being submitted for radiocarbon dating tests, these samples showed that the animals who these bones belonged to had died in 1030 AD, before the Portuguese colonisation of the Madeiran archipelago in 1419.

Some parallel studies were made to the current population of the common house in Madeira, revealing that the mitochondrial DNA of the species in the island is similar to native mice of Scandinavia and north Germany – but distinct from those found in the Iberian continental territory and North Africa.

Adding to the results of these studies, the geographic isolation of the archipelago of Madeira makes it very unlikely that these animals reached the island via natural rafts or by any other means not carried out by humans.

These fossils date to a period when Viking explorers invaded the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa and, although there isn’t any scientific or historical evidence to prove this theory, it is possible that these explorers could have accidentally spent a period of time on the island.

This hypothesis that cannot be proven symbolises the introduction of what was the first species of invasive fauna introduced by human influence to Madeira Island. Everything leads to the belief that this occurrence caused the extinction of two thirds of the endemic species of birds in the island, resulting in an ecological disaster. [1]

Our relationship with the common mouse is extremely complex. Even though we often see it as a pest, as a species that transmits disease, we unwittingly contribute to its survival, nurture its existence and contribute to its dissemination.

In fact, the introduction of different species of mice and rats in other territories across the globe, has happened as a result of a human mistake, catalysed by navigations and migrations and has been repeated throughout history. The effect that this phenomenon has had in the different ecosystems has had such a great impact that it’s still visible and recognisable nowadays and has ineradicably shaped our relationship with these animals.

O’ mice an’ men tackles the latent symbolism in the findings that were made in Ponta de São Lourenço and examines the erratic relationship between humans and mice, looking to explore its unconformities and it’s touching points. This work explores the extreme lengths we as human beings go to find ways to eliminate or deter this type of rodent from our private space and all the comical aspects of these efforts. There are many types of traps, certain smells or sounds that we believe will keep these animals away or attract them, and there are many conscious and unconscious measures that we adopt to avoid any contact with the species.

However, the task of eliminating these animals is in equal measures something impossible and ambiguous, and there is a certain irony in the fact that some people have developed a phobia of a species that lives so close to us. This irony also exists in the fact that mice and men have evolved from a common species of mammal[2] and in the fact that the way we choose to live sustain the existence and dissemination of these rodents. An anecdotal factor to consider in this eternal battle is that mice are an extremely adaptable species and end up instinctively outwitting humans.


[1] Radiocarbon evidence for the presence of mice on Madeira Island (North Atlantic) one millennium ago, Royal Society of Publishing, 2014,


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