“2 or 3 choses que je sais d’elle” is the name of a film that Jean-Luc Godard (FR, 1930) directed in 1966, the same year as “Masculin féminin” and “Made in USA” and after a series of productions in which the Nouveau Réalisme, from which the Nouvelle Vague cinema derives, attentive to the social condition of the woman, filming her as a true protagonist of the narratives, that is, with the camera recording the scene from her gaze and not only, with eyes on her body. Godard’s cinema is feminist and will become one of the symbols of the struggles of the generation that will go out onto the streets in 1968. One of the themes addressed by Godard is that of prostitution as a symptom, on the one hand, of the social crisis that was going through France and, on the other, as an alternative for women to be able to earn income that would allow them to survive without being dependent on a man, father or husband. Being a woman meant, as is still the case today in many work contexts, earning lower wages and being less able to access certain jobs, including leadership positions, than men. In the metaphor of Paris as a woman-city, 55 years later, there is still so much to be done and being a woman remains a tough task with very little margin for error.

It is thus as absurd to speak of “the woman” in general as of “the eternal man.” And we can see why all comparisons where we try to decide if the woman is superior, inferior, or equal to the man are pointless: their situations are profoundly different. If these same situations are compared, it is obvious that the man’s is infinitely preferable, that is to say, he has far more concrete opportunities to project his freedom in the world; the inevitable result is that masculine realizations outweigh by far those of women: for women, it is practically forbidden to do anything. But to compare the use that, within their limits, men and women make of their freedom is a priori meaningless, precisely because they use it freely. In various forms, the traps of bad faith and the mystifications of seriousness are lying in wait for both of them; freedom is entire in each. However, because of the fact that in woman this freedom remains abstract and empty, it cannot authentically assume itself except in revolt: this is the only way open to those who have no chance to build anything; they must refuse the limits of their situation and seek to open paths to the future; resignation is only a surrender and an evasion; for woman there is no other way out than to work for her liberation.[1]

2 or 3 choses je je sais d’elle” is, in this case, the name of the exhibition that zet gallery will have from June 12 to September 4, 2021. It brings together works by Elizabeth Leite (VE, 1982), Helena Cardoso (PT, 1940), Inês Osório(PT, 1984), Liliana Velho (PT, 1985), Márcia Ruberti (BR, 1965), Teresa TAF (PT, 1987) and Xana Abreu (PT, 1975) and is part of a cycle of exhibitions and programming in which zet gallery will highlight female artists, considering the social urgency that we are going through and that makes the discussion and fight about gender equality indelible.

In 2020, one of the questions from cybernauts that dominated the search engines was “how to hit a woman without leaving marks?”, even though, according to official statistics, there has been a slight decrease in the number of women killed in the context of conjugal relationships, as well as in the number of complaints of domestic violence. We know that in the realm of fear, complaints are silenced by hunger. It is common sense that, in the context of the pandemic, it was women who sacrificed their careers the most, staying at home with their children, in a kind of scenario disguised by the legal figure of “teleworking”. We will need a few more years to quantify the regressions of decades of women’s achievements resulting from Covid-19, just as we will need twice as long to recover from the fight. The pandemic protected the established patriarchal society and it is our obligation to set an example in the fight against all inequalities.

In this sense, zet gallery resumes its programme extension privileging Art with a feminine signature, revealing, from each one of these authors, their ways of seeing and feeling, unveiling the place of the inner storm that is so often the driving force of the whole world.

Jean-Paul Satre (1905-1980), the other, like Simone, lover of freedom, wrote that “A love, a career, a revolution: so many other things that one starts without knowing how they will end.” About this exhibition, I would like to state that I dreamt it up in the days of my struggles and causes, never anticipating that it would end up becoming such an ambitious exhibition with proposals to activate the direct participation of the public in the continuation of the artistic processes.

A case that we should bear in mind, widely studied by the new science that is called proxemics, is the conditioning relationship of space on the individual.  Proxemics teaches us that living in a very restricted space leads to neurosis; therefore, we should not close this already small space with walls and partitions, but find another way to make it functional, leaving it as open as possible: the view from the whole ceiling may be enough to not give the idea of restricted space.[2]

We could say that proxemics and its evidence are one of the marks of the recent past, almost still present, that we live in. Confining ourselves in a flat can prove to be a transformative experience and can begin by leading us to transform the space around us, in the difficult exercise of inventing pauses, breathing zones. We are beings who accumulate, who aggregate and add elements to our days, way beyond the levels of first, second or third needs and, during the periods of confinement we have lived through, I have found myself abusing my obsession with tidiness, with the order in space. The presence of the artworks and the bookshelves full of books indicate a need for an organisation that neuroscience explains but that, in my case, has always been part of my own process of mental balance. The tidying up included refurbishments and renovations, the purchase of missing furniture and the exchange of obsolete appliances and, above all, thorough restructuring of what did and did not make sense to continue to occupy wardrobes, as it corresponded, or not, to the interior revolution in progress. Shoes are symbols of many stereotypes, builders of many narratives and self-images.

Over the years I have accumulated dozens of pairs of those that are bought and worn only once, on a certain occasion, and are not repeated because they have the gift of leaving bruises and creating an atrocious feeling of discomfort, a discomfort that makes us question whether the standard of feminine beauty that was established in the 1950s and which, at so many moments, continues to be in force, is symptomatic and fitting into an individual model of happiness that is up to each one to seek and discover. One of the lessons that social isolation imposes on us is that of being forced to be alone with ourselves, without distractions, in a question-and-answer exercise capable of combating the consequences of proxemics. Between the questions and the tidying up – which was repeated throughout the days of confinement as if this meant that the flat was endless, without limits of area and, therefore, always with something to organise – there was a surplus of dozens of pairs of shoes that were grouped in half a dozen boxes. What to do now with that disintegrated stereotypical body for feet?

I decided to launch a challenge to artists, through the social networks Facebook and Instagram, to create an art object from all those shoes. Inês Osório reacted and I really wanted it to be Inês because I knew that in her thematic obsessions, made of a pure drawing that becomes matter and form, of two or three-dimensional interaction, they would know how to interpret the roughness and discomfort of that accumulation. Inês Osório pursued the concepts and keywords that her production had been exploring, namely the idea of freedom, or the loss of it that we feel in this incredulous period of our common history, and with the shoes of discomfort and therefore castration, she built wings for free women, wings for human beings who dare to dream. In the twists of the exercise, which Inês linked to the previous production associated with the wire designs that marked her year of 2020, in a dazzling combination of delicacy and strength, these wings gained the shade of white that is light, thus challenging the shadows of the exhibit space. Inês Osório, who affirms herself as a sculptor, combines in her production the challenges of multi-purpose design and the adaptation of forms and materials to site-specific concepts, taking an interest in a diversity of materials and technologies that include more ductile metals, textiles and paper as the seat of thought, made, in this case, of charcoal wings that allude to the research.

The conceptual construction, first personal and then collective, adjacent to this whole curatorial process, begins, then, in a process of deconstruction of my own stereotypes about a certain feminine image associated with elegance, sobriety, but with an extensive dramatization of the body as an instrument and referential. From this purge began the unravelling about these 2 or 3 things that we want to see unravelled about these, and all women, and in particular about these women who have in themselves the peculiarity of Art and the privilege of the creation, absolute and eternal, of all the questions that are important and that only artistic matter (or anti-matter) can question.

The individual tendencies of participatory art – the playful and/or didactic, the “pastoral” and the “sociological” – have at least one thing in common: the background of institutional criticism, the criticism of the socially exclusionary character of the institution of art, which they counter with “inclusionary” practices. For all of them, “participation” means more than just expanding the circle of recipients.  The form of participation and the participants themselves become constitutive factors of content, method, and aesthetic aspects.[3]

More recent currents of thought on curatorship and its tendencies, considering that there is a before and after of the new digital media and the forms of interaction with the spectators that they enhance, reflect on participatory art or on how an exhibition, a curatorial project, can incite the participation of the public and, with it, raise reflections on themes of general or particular interest. How can a visit to an exhibition be a form of civic activation and critical thinking? This was a process that we were interested in integrating into this new exhibition. The first exercise started, once again, from the said shoes and the stereotype they carry. We decided to indite the audiences to the liberation of stereotypes, painting of white some more pairs of the discomfort. The paint is served from a pot, this being only the first symbol of domestic life, that in much and everything is still associated, almost exclusively, with women. The colour that disguises is the colour that frees, just as Inês made the wings white that has my feet in pain on them.

At the summit of the stories that this exhibition is made of, I discovered Liliana Velho in Viseu, an artist who privileges ceramics, carrying out, above all, installations of objects in small polyptychs, in the yielding to the measures of the kilns regularly available. The artist, ceramist, is part of this exhibition with two installations: “Artefactos para rituais” (artifacts for rituals) and “Coração em contramão” (heart in the wrong way), complement each other in the irony of “Receita para desamar” (recipe to unlove), with a message that summons up the imminent feminine feelings. Audiences are challenged to take and leave recipes as if love could fit into formulas and (dis)liking was of equal design for each of us.  The work of Liliana Velho has the simultaneity of the fragility and the roughness of ceramics, in the perfect metaphor of the unfinished feminine in the oven of the forms in colour.

I met Helena Cardoso and her artistic production, which is based on a deep knowledge of the processes associated with textiles and, namely, the craftwork of linen, through another project that zet gallery had going on at House of Wool, in Bucos, Cabeceiras de Basto. There is a wide range of artists exploring textile processes that have interested me over the last few years, namely the Chinese Lin Tianmiao (b.1961) or the Israeli Dvora Morag (b.1949) who address the possibilities of the female quotidian, the concepts of memory and tradition in large-format installations. Besides being a technology with multiple possibilities, textiles are the very experience of the catharsis of women, who have always been associated with these trades, which have been condemned to the home or to the servitude of the factories of industrialisation and the capitalisation of our extensive wardrobes, of which we are all, more or less, proud victims. Helena Cardoso creates cloths, with a profusion of materials, as if they were staves of music, rhythms to sing, stories that develop in the horizontality that makes the verticals. I was enchanted when I first saw them, of sublime beauty but in the semiotics of patience which, applied to women, and this woman artist even more so, have the flavour of an almost pleonasm. Helena Cardoso is, still, one of those paradigmatic cases of an artist that life left anonymous. Her family, her children and her house made her invisible, although she never gave up her artistic production and took part, here and there, in exhibitions. But she deserves more, she deserves an urgent voice at the peak of her 80s.

Teresa TAF, “Renascer” (reborn) and “Pertencer e habitar a matéria em busca de ser-com-o-mundo” (to belong and inhabit matter in search of being-with-the-world), two multidisciplinary results in which she approaches the basic process of painting and, above all, the research for the pigments present in nature and in daily life.  In this case, the artist worked, over several months, in different territories of wine and vineyards, literally diving into the nectar of the gods, exploring the artisanal processes, and exploring the dyeing of the body and also of the textile. Wine, the colour of blood, has the strong symbolic presence of ritualisation which, ancestrally, is associated with women and their mysteries and cycles. A visual and visual artist of enormous maturity, her production integrates disciplines such as performance, photography and video in installations that are arranged as pictorial paths and drawings in space, combining handmade and digital processes that reveal themselves in wandering poetry. With Teresa TAF the woman is reborn, but she also returns to her habitat, to the centre of the temple, to the womb of the world.

Elizabeth Leite has been part of zet gallery’s choices over the last few years and the selection of works that she presents here are a reflection of a path in which she frees herself from the excess and fullness of painting, in order to allow the drawing to live and stand out, allowing supports to breathe and the viewer to have space to create complementary narratives out of emptiness. Elizabeth Leite observes the world, starting by taking herself as an example of the stories she wants to tell us. She is one of the good names in pictorial expression, with a figurative tendency, of her generation. The selection of works for this exhibition integrates three narrative sequences: one expresses her saturation with the functions of mother and housewife; another tells us the story of her neighbour Bina who always lived alone, watching each of her direct family members die, without having had boyfriends or husbands worthy of intimacy; the third is the life of all grandmothers, nannies of their grandchildren. Three women, three types, three realities close to us, three contexts of deep social inequality, coming from the debris of the domestic. Never before, as in this exhibition, had my curatorial intervention been so authorial, and to the works of Elizabeth Leite, I dared to add the basin in which the English embroidered blouse is stained, which takes me back to my childhood experience, also with the women at home, among the pots and pans, in the rituals of love and already in search of liberation and emancipation.

Museums and galleries should be representative of the communities in which they operate and at the same time keep pace with changes and shifts in those same communities. Márcia Ruberti is one of tens of thousands of citizens of Brazilian nationality who, in recent years, have chosen to live in Portugal. Braga is a reflection of these migratory flows and zet gallery also intends to mirror its local context, on different scales. Since her arrival in Portugal, after a career of decades devoted to marketing and management, Márcia Ruberti has immersed herself in sculpture in search of her version of a Giacometti (1901-1966), overwhelmed by neo-Dadaist tendencies. When, on a visit to her studio, I discovered these objects in which the chairs, symbols of power but also of domestic daily life, were altered by the presence of sculptures or free associations of found objects, in a surrealist way, I had no doubts in challenging her to integrate this exhibition, thus integrating her vision of the world in these feminine worlds proposed here and, above all, because what she presents to us reflects her collections and attention to the city and to the traces that she keeps and expels.

Xana Abreu is another artist, who, although having graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon, took another path, having become known through other forms of artistic expression. But painting is her essence and when we met I felt we would be connected forever. Her most widespread work is also figurative in nature, with the influence of the surreal and the fantastic, in sublime technical executions and in the dense imagination of the stories that her works tell. During 2020, we collaborated on different projects, which include an exhibition of hers in Madrid; the first artistic residency of AMAR O MINHO, a project that integrates the 24 municipalities of Minho and has the artistic and communication coordination of zet gallery; and the illustrations she did for my second prose-poetic book “apenas literatura e não outro qualquer coisa“. For the book, we have chosen her works of a non-mimetic nature but freer and more artistic, in which she defines an alphabet of forms and a palette of dreams, in which we identify all of her artistic production. Xana Abreu occupies, in this exhibition, the only direct invitation to contemplation and calm, an invitation to look slowly and not to be in a hurry, to deserve the surprise of discovering an artist who waited for her time and who is the owner of an impressive gestural richness. Because what strikes us, in fact, is the woman who paints in her own world, isolated from the noise of the lights, and confined in her own truth and purity.

Zet gallery, more than a commercial gallery, intends to affirm itself as a programming structure and incentive to artistic creation, fundamentally in the field of visual arts, taking for Art the power of being the lever to think the world and act from the thought. This exhibition is an action and an alert on the theme of the urgency of equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender, creed, race, starting social condition or the circumstances that life brings. It is a curatorial project that is written in the feminine, that reveals and hides what it is to be a woman but, above all, that has the desire for beauty and the evidence of the time and space of each one in which each person sees or rejects themselves. It is an exercise for Freedom and against servitude, always!

All things that have feeling, therefore, feel the pain of subjection and sigh for freedom; the creatures made to serve man are not able to get used to servitude without protesting contrary desires.

To what misfortune, then, is it due that man, free by nature, has lost the memory of his condition and the desire to return to it? [4]

Helena Mendes Pereira


[1] BEAUVOIR, Simone de – The Second Sex. Volume 2. Lisbon: Quetzal Editores, 2018 (2nd edition). Page 465.

[2] MUNARI, Bruno – Das Coisas Nascem Coisas. Lisbon: Editions 70, 2004.  Page 172. 

[3] “Working on the Community” (1998) de KRAVAGNA, Christian quoted on GRAHAM, Beryl and COOK, Sarah – Rethinking Curating. Art after New Media. London: The MIT Press, 2015.  Page 111.

[4] LA BOÉTIE –  Discourse on voluntary servitude.  Lisbon: Antígona, 2020 (4th edition). Page 29.