Yes, it was necessary to start over and the plague did not forget anyone for a long time. During the month of December, it burned the breasts of our fellow citizens, lit the oven, populated the camps of shadows with empty hands, and hasn’t stopped making progress in its patient and syncopated step. The authorities had relied on the cold days to stop this advance and, however, it passed through the first rigours without being discouraged. It was still necessary to wait. However, by virtue of waiting, it is not yet expected, and our entire city lived without a future.[1]

“The Plague”, which enshrined Albert Camus (FR, 1913-1960) as one of the great authors of the 20th century, was, according to statistical data released during the confinement period, one of the best-selling books in Europe. Camus’s prospective vision and the realistic content of the descriptions of environments and contexts, so close to what we are now experiencing, throw his words into the divinatory, evoking the essential question of our relationship with nature, with the built space and with others, humans like us, in the transcendent imbalance of opposites, antitheses and dialects. Camus’ restlessness, his dilettante and universalist existentialism, his fascination with modern (or postmodern) daily life and the narratives he builds and destroys with his works have semantic and conceptual proximity, I would venture, with the work of Miguel Palma. I find in both the same fascination for the questions and a trace of images from the factory’s time and the absolute boiling urbanity: the aviation, the car, the cities that mix in architectures from different times, nature intervened by man, the technology, progress and, above all, stillness VS restlessness that all this causes in the human being, not always humanistic. Camus promotes, in “The Pest”, a thought about anti-socialization, about the pause and catastrophe disguised as sickly rashes that are, in essence, the consequence of the misfit of war and post-war. Miguel Palma (PT, 1964), with a creative enthusiasm (much more than just creative), looks at the world as a boy, attentive to every novelty and warning of possibilities for futuristic enchantments. His work could be Fernando Pessoa (PT, 1888-1938), Álvaro de Campos, in the problematic of the concepts of progress and regression, speed, failure, generating and degenerating. But it is visual and does not always consciously search in poetry, its essence, although it always seems a splendid poetic sophistication, a hymn to the dream and a transreality, almost surreality, untimely and obsessive, in the resilient sense of the term.

However, the boldness of the association between Palma and Camus is conscious. We are always made of our time and our circumstances and this curatorial project started to take shape before the day the world stopped and its evolution was dictated and influenced by the books read (or revisited) and by the states of the soul to which free thought, conditioned by its creative possibilities, is taken on the journey. Camus also talks about restart and starting over, not saying that everything has passed but with the urgency of living with what seems to have come to stay. It was here the way. Miguel Palma’s solo exhibition thus marks the time for zet gallery to start again in the context of a gallery, which is accompanied by a renewal of its human energies. Miguel Palma’s work is also this ignition, since the interactivity and the physical challenges that his projects pose, make us feel the wind in a closed space, flood where it is dry, sun when it is dark. Throughout this period of confinement, our work continued (and it would be untrue not to say so) continuously, with the same (or superior) spirit of mission and in the expectation of when we would be able to offer a future to the artist, Miguel Palma, who since long years is part of the preferences of José Teixeira (PT, 1960), chairman of the board of directors of dstgroup and founder of zet gallery. We wanted to offer him time and space to celebrate this shared utopia. This is a story worth telling. Men without history lose the possibility of eternal light. We fight that.

For more than a decade, they both had this dream of an artwork that aimed at the skies, that flew over them and came from them. ZÉNITE is, therefore, the verb, that is, the beginning. The exhibition is part of an old project by the artist with José Teixeira, chairman of the board of directors of the dstgroup and founder of zet gallery, of creating an artwork for a public space that integrates a light aeroplane and embodies a dream time (perhaps utopian) in which art, nature and technology come together in the collective construction of a world of truth, of good and the beautiful. The monumental scale work, whose process is documented in this catalogue, will become part of the estate with almost a thousand works on the dstgroup campus and is the starting point for the exhibition PROTOTYPES: TRIAL MECHANISMS It is the artist who names it, reflecting the title to its dimension as an experimentalist, inventor of beautiful and magical things, instigator of audiences to confrontations with the imaginary, sometimes vile, sometimes healthy.

In “Aprender a rezar na Era Técnica”, Gonçalo M. Tavares (PT, 1970) tells us the story of the rise and fall of a man who wants to transform institute and genius into power, ignoring the conditions of the divine and the fact that we are all doomed to perish, one day. A doctor who becomes a politician and wants the scalpel’s magic to reflect on the possibility and ambition of manipulating his fellow citizens. It is a kind of ode to the catastrophe of fascism, lurking whenever we are distracted from the daily exercise of collective construction, in the perspective of hope that the author, Gonçalo M. Tavares, ends up bringing to his writing. The notion of ingenuity, combined with a principle (or denial) of spirituality, in critical thinking about the time of technologies and technicisms, has in Miguel Palma’s work a visual and, why not, literary parallel. I venture on the literary because, for more than three decades, Miguel Palma has been moving through the media and materials, disciplining himself in sculpture, video, installation, drawing or performance, with crossed paths in many of his works for which Art History still finds few parallels. It is narrative and literary, with or without inscribed words. His work does not come from anywhere other than the elaborate place of the imagination and concerns of the mind and hand, inventors of poetic and immemorial devices. It is a complex of things that summon different pieces of knowledge, inquire about space and invade it in a dual relationship between chaos and order. There is no right or wrong, good or bad: there are the artwork and its contingencies, its gross weight, its process and what it will bring of new to its audiences. Indifference has no place. With PROTOTYPES: TRIAL MECHANISMS will be like a new house, in a hurricane that reorganizes us.

This new house, however, as we said, was still boiling; things were moving forward.[2]

The house, commonly known as the zet gallery, thus integrates a set of new artworks that accompany the construction process of ZÉNITE, such as drawings and almost two dozen small and medium-sized sculptures, designed specifically for the exhibition and, still, a larger artwork whose objectual sketch integrates the engine of the plane that we dismembered to let fly in us, dst’s, the waking dreams with a time of the future closer to the embraces that have been forbidden. To this central body, the exhibit design adds eight old works by the artist, produced between 2007 and 2019, some almost unseen, such as “Origens”, which, for the first time, will turn the zet gallery auditorium into a black box for exhibitions. “Bipolar”, “Ocidente”, “Férias”, “Air Print”, “Bypass”, “Tempest in a Teapot” and “Oilofon” come together, all on the scale of supreme ambition, logistically speaking. It is a challenge that we face: to reveal Miguel Palma in Braga after his work has already travelled the world, to integrate reference collections in Portugal and abroad. Here, in our home, we create comfort for his ironies and ramblings made artworks, we give him breath and freedom to be who he is. This is how we understand and promote relationships between artists, audiences and institutions. We are just the facilitator of this triangle, the engine of the plane that occupies the centre.

Miguel Palma is a singular artist and this exhibition is a proposal to discover his work process, transforming objects into invitations to interactivity and the active enjoyment of the artwork, summoning knowledge and a look concerned with the world, with its micro and macro themes. Miguel Palma goes to Dada, but it is, above all, a hoarder of objects in repetitions of the kind. He accumulates by instinct without knowing, as a starting point, if the set will be an artwork. Time dictates, above all the time that feeds on knowledge, the thirst to go further. Finally, in the context of an approach to a contemporary artistic production that catalogues it outside of primary georeferences and brings it closer to globality, globalization and the essence of the human, common to each and every one of us, Miguel Palma’s work is not from here nor from beyond: it is his and it belongs to the world, it is universal and has no time. Miguel Palma instigates the masses to the rebellion of the common in us, in collective ways and, at the same time, individuality and interiority. He is a son of Europe, at the very least, and what we show him in Braga is beyond the border: he is Art, is always space, fantasy, like a plane flying.

If today we took stock of our mental content – opinions, norms, desires, assumptions – we would notice that most of it does not come from the French from his France or the Spanish from his Spain, but from the heart of the common European. Today, in fact, what is European in each one of us weights much more than its differential portion of French, Spanish, etc. If we had the imaginary experience of limiting ourselves to living purely as we are, as “nationals” and, in a mere fantasy way, if the French average man was stripped of everything he uses, thinks, feels, by the reception of other continental countries, we would feel terror. You would see that it was not possible to live on that alone; that the four-fifth parts of their intimate being are European assets.[3]

PROTOTYPES: TRIAL MECHANISMS to see at zet gallery, in Braga, until November 28, 2020.

Helena Mendes Pereira


[1] CAMUS, Albert – The Pest (1947). Porto: Porto Editora.  Page 219.

[2] TAVARES, Gonçalo M. – Aprender a rezar na Era da Técnica (2007). Lisbon: Caminho, 2016 (10th edition).  Page 321.

[3] ORTEGA y GASSET – The Revolt of the Masses (1930). Lisbon: Relógio D’Agua, 2019.  Page 168.