Issue 27 07.15.2011

Issue 27
The Artist Miguel Palma

Miguel Palma is a Lisbon-based multimedia artist. His activity unfolds as that of a sculptor, draftsman, electrician, engineer, and scientist. Fascinated with boys’ toys – guns, tools, trucks, cars, planes, boats – and all sorts of gadgets, Palma transforms children’s toys and gadgets into protagonists confronted with the threatening monumentality of industry, thereby criticizing its dominance over our civilization. Both fascination and suspicion abound toward our crave to control.

Palma’s work often consists of sculptural pieces and large-scale installations created from mechanized, industrial, and other sundry found objects. The various elements are incorporated into intricate, cyclical and/or self-sustaining systems. Curiosity prevails: What is this? What is it made of? How does it function? There is an implicit resistance to the narrow knowledge specialization of our times. Palma asks for a wider scope.

In Image We Trust is a new work that Palma made while in residence at Montalvo Arts Center in 2010. He built an iron structure to support a large, rotating disc topped/covere with a myriad of items: male and female dolls, militaria, geopolitical maps, vehicles, and tools of all kind.

miguel palma

Miguel Palma

A fighter plane conceals a surveillance camera that records the disc’s steady rotation, which is screened in real time at another location. Watching the footage, it is easy to believe in the recorded image more than in the actual thing. We forget reality easily, but through the image, we believe in the reality Palma created. In Palma’s own words, “I wanted to make a work that would record itself, and the footage would be as important, or even more important than the actual piece. It started with the idea of war, and of our juvenile heroes. It has to do with blindness, and at the same time with an extraordinary capacity of visualization. Although it is a chaotic mess, the work has moments of intense silence and solitude. It has a profuse dimension, that, in the video, turns into an empty one.”

In Image We Trust subsequently traveled to the Nicholas Robinson Gallery where Palma mounted his first solo show in New York. Palma has exhibited worldwide, most recently at the Bloomberg Space and Whitechapel Gallery in London, Prospect 1 in New Orleans, and ZERO1 Biennial in San Jose, California. In April 2011, he will present a major retrospective of his work at the Contemporary Art Museum of the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal.

By Luisa Jacinto