Megan Michalak
Artist Residency | Precariedade
Nodar Rural Art Lab, Nodar
September, 16th – 29th, 2013


is an experimental documentary that narrates a tale of globalization with Portugal as the protagonist. The film examines cycles of boom and bust as told by Portugal as one of the first colonial empires, and recent European countries to collapse under “Austerity” measures resulting from the European Financial Crisis. The context of Austerity marks a “precarious” tipping point for the future of the European Union, as tensions over the debt crisis threaten to dismantle unification, the Euro, and the democratic sovereignty of these nations. Austerity also marks a global tipping point, as debt policies imposed by the IMF for decades in South America and Africa are now being tested in Western Europe. As countries like Portugal privatize and sell off their infrastructure to pay for the debt, we find a surprising process of reversed colonization where the emerging economies of former colonies, such as Angola, have now purchased this infrastructure, introducing reversed and neo-colonial geographies between North and South. While exploring the implications of this socio-political context in Portugal, this film also tells the tale of the rebirth of grassroots activist movements (m12m, precarious workers movement, and others) in Portugal, the seeds of which later spread to Spain, and North America, sparking the “Indignation” and the “Occupy” movements.

During the residency at Nodar Rural Art Lab, Megan Michalak will witness, with the assistance of Binaural/Nodar’s Luis Costa, a different side of Portugal: the rural area of Gralheira Mountain Range (in São Pedro do Sul municipality), where life seems to flow indifferently to the sense of crisis that is felt in Portuguese urban areas. A possible set of counter analyses may arise from the contact with a context where roots, family, landscape, crop fields, localism, community, perseverance and indifference to consumerism are elements of the local social puzzle.

Precarity is produced by Binaural/Nodar.



Inspired by William Burrough’s statement, “If you cut into the present, the future leaks out,” Megan Michalak’s work is a public invitation. She asks: if we, the public, held the historical-record hostage, what would the ransom note say? What would get reinserted? Through addressing the performance of historiography in multiple registers of media, her work creates counter-sites where citizens can perform and contest histories of cultural and community memory. Her practice transposes cinematic/ documentary methodologies to analogue-media to harvest messages from the public and confront the “unreliable narrator” with yet another story. The resulting traces archive everyday people confronting history; and their attempts to find meaning therein.

Presently, Megan Michalak is completing several multi-year projects. “POSTCARDS TO THE PAST, SIGNPOSTS TO THE FUTURE” is a photographic oral history archive that examines France’s revolutionary lineage in light of imaginary conversations with Walter Benjamin’s “Angelus Novus.” The film “PRECARIEDADE” investigates the impact of austerity measures imposed by the European Union, or “Troika,” on Portuguese culture. Additional projects such as “WORLD X DIAGNOSTICS” have focused on reconsidering models of capitalist exchange through creating systems that demonstrate flaws embedded within the free market economy. Most recently the project, “SOVEREIGNTY MODULE” returns to the question of creating a prototype for generating and redistributing wealth through land use, and the possibility of using such a model to create a public “common/wealth.”