Protótipos: Mecanismos de Ensaio – Miguel Palma at Zet Gallery

Protótipos: Mecanismos de Ensaio by Miguel Palma, at Zet Gallery (Braga), until November 28, 2020, presents works from 2007 to 2019, in addition to unpublished drawings and sculptures. The solo exhibition comes from an old project with José Teixeira, from the dstgroup and founder of the gallery, which consisted in the creation of a work for the public space, now materialized in a monumental scale aircraft – Zénite –, representing utopia and harmony between art, nature and technology.

In recent months, the UN has again announced that the number of species on the planet has fallen. Most coral reefs are under threat and, according to records, this was the hottest September, while the first decades of this century were marked by increasing natural disasters. On the other hand, the richest nations are still not reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to CNN, some fossil fuel-producing countries are injecting public money into polluting industries in the face of the crisis caused by the current pandemic. The Guardian announces that the big oil companies’ response to the meltdown in the Arctic is to cool the soil to continue drilling. And The New York Times stresses that, with the spread of the coronavirus, oil companies have put pressure on governments to reverse some environmental laws.

Protótipos: Mecanismos de Ensaio allows us to address these issues: the preponderance of technology in human life, how we exploit and consume energy resources, our relationship with the environment and modernity. In Air Print (2012), Miguel Palma, despite recovering the tradition of abstraction from Malevich, Ad Reinhardt, or Mondrian, confronts reality. After all, the black we see is the pollution of a city (Liverpool) to which this set of felt panels were exposed for a month. A physical evidence of the polluted air we breathe. Similarly, in Oilofon (2015), the artist flattened several cans of engine oil and suspended them on a white wall, dripping with red paint, moving them towards a fan to remind us of the malignant potential of these substances, but also of their regenerating power. Finally, the latest series of drawings Suspensão (2020) highlights how progress, industry and technology, the ideals of modernity, have led humans to intensively exploit the planet’s energy resources.

Miguel Palma, one of the most relevant artists in Portuguese contemporary art, builds devices, mechanisms, or models of experimentation, using knowledge from engineering, architecture, or archaeology. He appropriates and reconverts symbols of modernity and efficiency, such as the automobile, the airplane, or the boat, and mundane and obsolete objects. It takes away their initial function to give them a new purpose – for example, Ocidente (2009), Origens (2019), or Tempest in a Teapot (2015). According to the commissioner of Protótipos, Helena Mendes Pereira: “His work comes only from the elaborate place of imagination and the restlessness of the mind and hand, inventors of poetic and immemorial devices. It is a complex of things that bring together different knowledge, questioning the space to soon invade it in a relationship between chaos and order”.

At the centre of the exhibition is Coração (2020), the engine of Zénite’s plane. Palma reconverted the instrument that once propelled an air navigation device, making it something like an organ, the centre of our circulatory system, closer to an organicity than to a machine. Miguel von Hafe Pérez, curator of the artist’s previous exhibition at CCB, Miguel Palma: (Ainda O Desconforto Moderno) (2019/2020), argues: “As devices that enhance a critical view of our recent past and present, Miguel Palma’s efforts confront us with the tensions of the fragile balance of our existence. As the artist states: “If the world were comfortable, I would not make art”.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) PhD student at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto, holds a master’s degree in Art Studies – Museum and Curatorial Studies at FBAUP, with the dissertation “O Cinema Exposto – Entre a Galeria e o Museu: Exposições de Realizadores Portugueses (2001-2020)” and graduated in Cinema from the ESTC of the IPL and in Heritage Management from the ESE of the IPP. She was a researcher at the Projeto CHIC – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the integration of artist films into the National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the FBAUP Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists. She also received a scholarship from inED – Center for Research and Innovation in Education, providing support in the areas of production, communication and advice on cultural events. She collaborates in the field of Art Direction in cinema, television and advertising. She is one of the founders and curators of Coletivo Hera. She writes for Umbigo magazine.

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