by Helena Mendes Pereira

These experiments were based on the thesis that the structure of the labyrinth was always the same and that, in more general terms and by analogy, from the moment the individual had learned what to do in his life, he would have been able to go ahead without changing his attitudes and habits, since the next day would be like the day before.

In these terms, at the origin of those experiments lies a thesis of stability, that is, the confidence that the environment, the circumstances, everything that surrounds man would remain unchanged during his life, if not for an infinite time. Similarly, Jean-Paul Sartre coined a concept of projet d’une vie, with which he intended to say that once he had decided what to do in life and what kind of person to be, in the eyes of the individual all things would have become clear, stable, and determined as steps to take and the direction to follow to realise one’s projet d’une vie.

In this regard, as you may recall, I used the metaphor of the pilgrim, the one who, with exact knowledge of the map of the road leading to the place of worship, limits himself to calculating the essential resources, the strength and the number of shoes needed to cover the distance separating him from that place. All these examples are grouped by the thesis that the only element that can change in a man’s life and in the world in which he lives is personal behaviour, while everything else is endowed with ironclad stability.

However, today all this is over. We are no longer allowed to base our beliefs and our actions on such an assumption, for the conditions of our lives are constantly changing, determining what I have defined as liquid modernity. Liquid modernity means that the elements of every new situation appear out of nowhere, and when they appear we already know that they cannot last for long because they will be replaced once again. It is, as we have seen, a process of compulsive and obsessive modernisation, each thing is continually modernised, and what is modernised today will be remodernised again tomorrow and the very next day. 1

I have a kind of intellectual Baumanian obsession, and I remember that, almost five years ago, in the interview in which I was eventually admitted to zet gallery and dstgroup, I talked about the Polish sociologist with José Teixeira and about this concept of liquid modernity that interested and interests us both. Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017), based on the basic concept of liquid modernity, has thought about the individuals and communities of our times, about what is defined and accepted today as ethics and morals, about Europe and its democratic model/ideal, has thought about Love and, above all, has dared to dream, foreseeing in desire a project of global democracy in which individual and collective, State sovereignty and union, are some of the many possible dichotomies, despite the necessary trial-and-error, the profound inequalities of this world of ours and the difficult but necessary balance between Freedom and Security.

In other words, born into a society that focused on the project of life and has been the disciple of a generation of Marxist thinkers, Bauman understands the liberal consequences of capitalism, always criticising its savagery and the dangers of the surveillance to which we all subject ourselves and on which we depend to maintain our need to control everything around us. Studying Bauman and other thinkers helps me to reflect on this antithesis of a liquid, hybrid society that seeks freedom and absolute individual satisfaction, with the maintenance of a judgemental conservatism that continues to privilege values from the past, to defend patriarchal family structures that are unavailable to the multiple possibilities of human beings and make, for example, working models so heavy and still so eminently Fordist.

The cohabitation of these two modes, their constant intersections within each one of us, takes place in a delicate inner game that poses free-thinking as a temptation and a challenge, but at the same time reinforces the importance of fulfilling the plan that is supposedly already mapped out for us and defined by the context in which we were born. Taking sides is not peaceful and each of us goes through moments in life when we are in the middle of the bridge, not setting the direction, but wondering whether to jump off and dive into the deep, cold waters of the unknown.

Contemporary artistic practices, from the 1960s/70s onwards and, most particularly, in the 21st century with the growing intersection of traditional media with technology and industry, reflect this dilemma and, above all, are the affirmation of a multiplicity of hypotheses and proposals, perfectly uncategorisable and undisciplined, that is to say, liquid. I have been theorising about this concept of Liquid Art, adding a new extension to the Baumanian lexicon. And, in fact, for a long time, I have wanted to bring together in the same exhibition a group of artists who seem to me to explore, consciously or unconsciously, these assumptions.

A COUPLE OF STRUCTURING AND LIQUID THINGS is thus an exhibition that challenges the artists to a reflection on the liquid times and spaces of post-modernity inhabited and on the daily balance between the binary instability/stability, light/shadow, noise/silence, artisanal/industrial, chaos/order, Freedom/Servitude. The exhibition was built up over several years, as I came across these artists and it seemed to me that their productions fitted in within the questions I ask myself every day about this liquid modernity in which we define the search for happiness as a purpose, with our model of happiness corresponding, or not, to a more or less lasting, more, or less changeable life project.

When I realised I had found seven (possible) magnificent ones, I took up the theme. However, along the way, I was writing about several of these artists, and they were also chosen because they seemed to me to be good narrative builders for their works. In this sense, this catalogue gathers texts by myself and by several of the invited artists, some of my texts corresponding to previous hours and days, coinciding with the moments of meeting with these artists, as the words dedicated to Henrique Palmeirim Lázaro (from 2017) and João Dias (from 2020).

The group exhibition brings together works by Acácio Viegas (PT, 1976), André Rangel (PT, 1971), Carla Gaspar (PT, 1968), Christian Baes (BR, 1988), Henrique Palmeirim Lázaro (PT, 1995), João Dias (PT, 1983), Martinho Costa (PT, 1977). This selection reflects, in the first place, some of the assumptions that have marked the curatorial activity of zet gallery, which privileges the crossing of disciplines and generations of artists, without complexes with the apparent greater or lesser notability of some and others and seeking, above all, that this continues to be a house that cares for and promotes those it welcomes as its artists, believing that Art can (and will) change the world and that contact with artistic production potentiates essential reflections on the world around us, inciting us to think and awakening the activist in each one of us.

In A COUPLE OF STRUCTURING AND LIQUID THINGS, we allow ourselves to take risks in transforming the white cube that is zet gallery, as an exhibition space. The transformation is imposed by the common denominator of the seven projects presented and which includes light, sound, and the expansion of photography in proposals that imply the participation of the spectator, which contrasts with the contemplative appeal of painting that we maintain as a design and permanent novelty. Colour, light, sound, matter are the design of a set that transits between structural models of artistic conception that allow themselves to hybridise with other materials and technologies, consubstantiating themselves in installation processes, planned for zet gallery and this exhibition.

A COUPLE OF STRUCTURING AND LIQUID THINGS is a tribute to Zygmunt Bauman and a curatorial exercise that seeks to approach philosophy, affirming Art as thought, action, and aesthetics.

Helena Mendes Pereira

1 BAUMAN, Zygmunt – Europa Líquida. Entrevista de Giuliano Battiston (2009). Funchal: Nova Delphi, 2013. Pages 81 to 83.