MB from DE to RE – The true story of the existentialist thought of Brenda Walsh
by Maura Teofili

The artist is present.
The artist is wounded.
The artist is fragile.

The artist embodies his story and his body.
The artist embodies his answers (or lack thereof).
The artist embodies his necessity.

This necessity is the sole preliminary concept permitted in art.

What is the best vantage point from which to observe an artist’s work?
This is the premise.
This is the key.

My name is Miguel Bonneville.
I was born in January 1985, in Porto, Portugal.
My work is autobiographical.
It is about deconstructing and reconstructing identity.
Deconstructing and reconstructing the past.
I work in the fields of live art, performance, and visual arts.

When you first begin to examine Miguel Bonneville closely, all you see is a blank canvas. A canvas of unwavering presence and honesty. A canvas where the artist is naked, exposed, self-affirming, and acutely aware of himself and his work, traversing a steady, clear, and all-encompassing path.

These are coherent, courageous words, deliberately wielded by the artist to confront his own work, intrinsic to his name, his personal narrative, and his birth date. They serve as keys to unlock the layered and enlightening universe he presents, containing all the answers to questions one might have when analyzing Miguel Bonneville’s work across performance, fine art, photography, video, and music.

Miguel Bonneville delves into identity, the identity of the present, to which every human being, himself included, is exposed. In this present moment, which threatens us with its constant presence, we are products of the journey that has brought us here, but only insofar as our ability to engage with, and most importantly, take responsibility for what we are made of. The responsibility lies in handling, choosing, and sculpting our past, our formative years, our entanglement of scars, bruises, and reflections. It entails confronting what we are made of head-on and transforming it into a tool for shaping the individuals we are in the present, for ourselves, in every moment.
Never identical to ourselves.
Never truly innocent.
Never truly immune.
Never truly unscathed.
And yet, never truly doomed.

Only the individual himself can pass judgment by refusing to engage in the distressing battle of introspection, to turn what he sees of his rubble and his own path into building materials for his present self.
Only the individual has the power to subject himself to his own vulnerabilities and miseries, to devour himself, to finally assume the role of the executioner, regardless of the pains he has endured.

This self-awareness is intrinsic to Miguel Bonneville.
It emanates from his art and permeates his existence.
He lives it every day, on his skin.

Miguel adorns himself, stripped bare and immortalized—within and above himself—through his work, employing imagery, drawings, and metaphorical alter egos, all inherently exposed and present to the audience. He explores and exposes clothing and auditory or visual levels as existential layers, never rejecting any but rather confronting and selecting them. As he traverses these layers, he immerses himself in them without holding onto any, digesting them until they become integral parts of himself. He does so for the profound significance he attributes to that moment within the broader context of his journey. Despite choosing to traverse it—whether for the first time or again—not even he knows where that existential narrowing in his path will lead him.

He fades through images, videos, and actions, through what he carries within himself and what he is, through his mother and father, through love and despair, through what saved him and what he has chosen to reject, through the need to sort himself out and the perpetual inclination to lose himself.

He is a new framework yet he is overexposed, he is naked yet he is dressed as an animal, he is undeniably present yet his voice resonates through a statue hewn from pyroceram, or he channels the essence of others using words. Other beings, others selves.

He is, as we all are.

There is a play of layers and levels that defines us; there is a play of layers and levels that mercilessly fucks us. Miguel Bonneville manipulates these levels to grapple with this ambivalent stance in art while simultaneously revealing, suggesting, and declaring it. He does not seek to impart lessons or teachings; he seeks to articulate his own narrative through what defines him and what he objectively knows of himself. Yet, inevitably, he transcends these boundaries.

Hence, the artistic exploration of clothing, objects, animal imagery, and transvestism transcends mere gender or colorful embellishment; it becomes one of the foundational elements of a linguistic investigation laid bare by the considerably nuanced structure of his artistic discourse. This language, comprising pop metaphors, elegance, deliberate body movement, light, recorded or amplified voice, encompasses various artistic expressions, all employed by MB with unwavering coherence to express himself.
It is a language that evolves and stratifies as it becomes more refined over time, continuously probing and refining itself. It is a language that becomes increasingly nuanced and instrumental to his discourse without succumbing to gratuitous aesthetic reasoning or superficially imposed meanings. It is a language that channels a fierce urgency, a relentless pursuit—a path unto itself—that effortlessly conveys its directness without striving for simplicity, univocality, or facile comprehension.
The question it answers is primitive; it is placed before the worry of how the work would be received by the listener, and perhaps this is why it attains a true meaning—an honesty that is seldom recognized in the chaotic mayhem of what is too often fruitlessly vain: so-called contemporary art.

Miguel Bonneville’s work stems purely from his own need and his singular, superhuman courage to confront his life with unflinching honesty and desperation.

MB is a present artist.
Present, even before being visual or performative.
Present, regardless of the medium through which his need to communicate manifests.
Through his work, Miguel Bonneville reveals the subjective, the particular, the mechanisms he has discovered within himself, the private answers he has unearthed amidst pain and abyss. Yet, by extension, he also sheds light on the universal dimension of individual existence in the present—the causes of a generational void, the role and significance of contemporary art that can rightfully lay claim to being both art and contemporary.

While Miguel Bonneville’s artistic inspiration primarily stems from his autobiographical experiences, this fact doesn’t diminish its universal significance. If anything, it enhances it, highlighting the inherent necessity and urgency of expression embedded within his work. Through the lens of a single, heartbreakingly honest narrative, he unveils a profound connection to the complex and often overlooked core of human existence—a nucleus that resides within each of us, unfolding daily amidst the façade of others’ feigned resolve.

Employing biography as a tool for personal exploration, Bonneville’s work transcends mere anecdotal retelling, delving instead into the broader human experience. It serves as a candid examination of contemporary man’s relationship with his own history, childhood, and the superficial veneer of societal norms. By courageously exposing his personal journey without moral or conceptual pretense, Bonneville provides viewers with a convex lens through which to view the often-neglected tragic dimensions of life—an ordeal he himself has faced with remarkable bravery, yet one that resonates universally and inflicts internal turmoil upon us all.
Bonneville lays bare the emotional patina that has shaped him, articulating his quest for love and understanding amidst life’s manifold complexities. In doing so, he compels us to confront our own inner struggles and the harsh realities of existence. He metaphorically cries out that life is but a fleeting interlude between the illusion of tranquility and the specter of violence—a silent menace lurking beneath a façade of innocence and allure.
In this profound awareness, Bonneville offers us a glimpse into the depths of human resilience and the courage required to navigate the myriad existential layers that burden us. He implores us to dismantle the façade of societal constructs that confine us, to deconstruct the layers of falsehoods that bind us, and to confront our innermost truths with unwavering resolve. It is a call to embrace vulnerability, to acknowledge our shared humanity, and to embark on a journey of self-discovery and liberation.

Miguel Bonneville acts out this struggle onstage for himself, yet we cannot help but be drawn in. It is incumbent upon us to shed every layer and selectively retain those that resonate, fully cognizant that they are all part of us. It is up to us to confront this pain, to understand ourselves, and to navigate ourselves as composite identities.

The artist himself describes his work as “the only solution that guarantees my sanity” (here again, he is exposed, honest, total), but its transcendence lies in the expression, the density, the quest for language, the conceptual and existential knot that allows his work to surpass mere therapeutic, self-analytical exercise. It is in the superhuman response that Miguel Bonneville lives and expresses through art. It is in the subversive journey between DE and RE (destroy to rebuild, deconstruct to recreate) that he embodies and offers to the world, elevating his work beyond the individual experience it initially addresses to become fully realized Art.

To truly craft a narrative worth living, one must relinquish the comforting lies we tell ourselves daily, buried beneath layers of missed glances, lack of courage, and polite falsehoods. We must dismantle them, piece by piece.
The true lie to disarm is the bourgeois nihilistic veneer that blankets our days —a “nothing happened” ethos, an aversion to discussion, an insistence that no matter what happens, we must always remain content.” We’re attractive, our plates are full, pain is something distant.”
It is a feverish attempt at existence, believing we emerge unscathed.
No, it is not true.

Thus, the matter at hand becomes, with unequivocal evidence, an undeniable collective social (I would even say political) imperative. The photograph that must be torn, held up to the light, examined beyond its apparent fixity is that of everyone’s family, our own portraits.

This collective urgency inevitably intersects with the individual struggle of this extraordinarily mature Portuguese artist. It is the irrepressible need to shake the prevailing hypocrisy to its core.

We are all wounded.
We are all fragile.
We are all our stories and our bodies.

We simply need to acknowledge it.

We must return to presence, to presence itself.
We must be firmly brought back, forward, elsewhere.

Through his story, his need, and his presence, Miguel Bonneville achieves just that.
I don’t think we can ask any more of art.