Quayola – Continuous present, union of past and future
Quayola – Continuous present, union of past and future

The artists who deal with and take advantage of “new technologies” have powerful, fascinating and even ambiguous tools at their disposal: it is not excluded that they could be “kidnapped” by them, that they could undergo a fascination which, far from being able to offer them “new horizons”, would instead confine them within a technicality that is almost an end in itself, an aestheticizing and self-referential frame.

This is certainly not the case with Quayola, our guest artist. If the expressive urgency led him early, with the baggage of a classical education, to seek his path in a physical (London) and technical (the “new media”) elsewhere, over time he has composed a career based on in-depth and detailed investigations on themes also borrowed from the art of the past, which in the light of his works acquire an original and strictly contemporary reading.

Quayola, Jardins d’Été, 2017
Installation view of the exhibition Asymmetric Archeology – Gazing Machines, How Art Museum, Shanghai, China, 2019

With the antenna of the new means at his disposal, he calls together recurring artistic ideas that can therefore be defined as “classics”, reworking them and then developing them in a completely personal way. They are therefore “tools” for an intense and participatory rereading of orthodox and stabilized visual “codes”, transposed into the ideal and poetic world of the artist, who then releases them to the public.

From time to time the subject of investigation has been the hieratic nature of the “unfinished” sculptures, which in their reinterpretation bear the signs of the scientific/artistic analysis that has gone through them, the landscape painting, in a game of references between natural and artificial, for an “imaginative” natural world, the exploration of the coordinates of classical iconography, the complex and stimulating world of the synergistic expression of sound and image.

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Quayola, Jardins d’Été, 2017

In all this, a new narrative is proposed, and the detachment that sometimes elsewhere seems to exist between the author – initiator of the creative process and its manifestation – and the work – projected towards its user and suspended in this hiatus – is not here: his sign is always alive, in every dimension of his work, both when he “gives us back” something very physical, tangible, and when it becomes more ethereal.

“I observe the world through my eyes, and the eyes of these new machines. There are analogies with the work of impressionist painters, who worked en plein air: I observe nature, and I discover new languages through these observations”.

We met Quayola on the occasion of the meeting entitled “Art and artificial intelligence” which took place in Turin, at the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences, where the artist presented his work.

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Quayola, Pointillisme #01, 2021
Installation view of the exhibition QUAYOLA re-coding, Palazzo Cipolla – Fondazione Terzo Pilastro, Rome, Italy, 2022

Q.: For the contemporary artist – and for you in particular – can artificial intelligence be considered a “new brush” or an “artistic partner”?

A.: Both. Artificial intelligence, or technology in general, all the devices used in my work and the systems that are developed, I like to imagine them not only as simple tools, but as generators of possible ideas, even collaborators, with which to actually have exchanges.
Because I often and willingly appropriate the technologies I use, in some way, taking them from a certain world, a certain “industry”. They are reimagined and recalibrated for something else, so the exchange with these technologies is often quite experimental, of course. Technology itself informs the processes behind every creation. It is an exchange that actually goes on over time, lasting even many years, and then finds its balance.

D.: One of the directions of your research involved interaction with sound, with music. What are the things to take into account when tackling this type of project?

A.: The relationship between sound and image is something that has always been present in my work. In reality it was born – as inspiration – from the whole electronic music movement of the late 90s. As a source of inspiration it starts from the moment in which, in Media Art, there was the encounter with electronic music, this revolution of Rave culture, of Club culture. In some ways my work relates to sound, but in general it has always been very linked and inspired by these traditions.

What fascinates me in researching audiovisual projects is trying to untie the traditional dependence between these two worlds, depending on the field of research, or depending on how they are used. For example, in cinema one comes first and then the other, the image is what guides. But the idea of ​​actually being able to develop audiovisual compositions simultaneously is something that has always fascinated me. There have been many years of research to develop systems, and the tools I use to create these works. These performances, these creations, are the result of experimentation with software that gives me the possibility of generating both, and of working with both languages ​​in the same way. This is an important aspect for me.

Then there is another aspect: my work linked to tradition, the idea of ​​being able to re-explore something familiar to us, but in some other way, to explore new gestures on something that belongs to tradition. There has been a lot of research on new motorized pianos: an example of how an approach to music is not only linked to the creation of music, but also to reflect on what the instrument is, on what human gestures are, and on how these gestures can be completely transformed. How to use this tool – which is actually made for the human body – if, for example, a limb is missing. There is also this type of experimentation that intrigues me a lot in music.

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Quayola, Sculpture Factory: Pluto and Proserpina, 2019
Installation view of the exhibition Asymmetric Archeology – Gazing Machines, How Art Museum, Shanghai, China, 2019

D.: Developments in technology offer us new tools, but in art in particular it seems possible to experiment, and in some way even to prefigure new scenarios, where even the use of works is imagined to be “expanded”: immersive, augmented realities, various interactions between the work and the users. How do you see the “state of the art” in this light?

A.: As I was saying, my work is strongly linked to traditions. So, in one way or another, there are aspects of it that tend to go back to being very traditional; It’s something I relate to. Often the output of my works is very “traditional”, in the sense that it relates to physical space, as if they were paintings or sculptures, even if they can be videos.

Museums themselves, then, are immersive spaces. In the museum we are in now we find ourselves immersed among many physical objects of a traditional nature. The idea of ​​”immersivity” is not strictly linked to new technologies: the Scrovegni Chapel is an immersive experience. I’m not all that intrigued by chasing all these new modalities or technologies. My relationship with technology develops very slowly, technology develops very quickly. The problem is that artistic research is something very slow, at least for me, it is a non-technological human process.

So sometimes getting to something takes many years, remaining with a certain coherence, and not always “jumping” onto new technologies. Trying to lightly explore what has arrived, perhaps trying to have a deeper approach to particular technologies, for a prolonged period of time, is something that allows me to address certain issues in depth.

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Quayola, Storms, 2021
Installation view of the exhibition Digital Impact, Disseny Hub Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 2023

D.: You have approached and reworked works of painting and sculpture from other centuries with your contemporary tools, comparing yourself with the artistic and aesthetic canons of other periods. What stimulates, attracts and inspires you – in general – about the art of the past, in particular?

A.: Even though I “escaped” Rome at the age of 19 to go to London in search of new languages ​​and new experiments, it happened – in an almost paradoxical way – that I began to get closer to what I left behind.

I think it’s also something linked to my history, it came quite naturally to me, having grown up in Rome. Over the years, therefore, there have been many projects and research based on the analysis of objects of historical importance, be they paintings or sculptures. Then slowly, over time, the work is evolving into a slightly different methodology, in the sense that the research – for example – on the tradition of landscape painting is not in this case a research on paintings, but perhaps on places that they were painted, to which I return.

In the same way I began to develop, with sculpture, research into some classic poses: for example research into some poses that come from Greco-Roman wrestling, using particular scanning systems. I actually work with fighters, and I capture particular moments, which I then work on.
Gradually the work detached itself from the idea of ​​starting from an existing object, from another era, moving towards the idea of ​​”capturing data”, whether through observation of the natural world, or through other themes.
However, this idea of ​​relationship with some historical practices remains, such as landscape painting or my references to Michelangelo’s “unfinished”. It doesn’t mean going to scan Michelangelo’s “unfinished” objects, but it means – for me – exploring this idea of ​​a new robotic algorithmic gesture in “unfinished places”, which are totally my creations.

There has been a path over the years that, to date, has deviated a bit from the initial one.

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Quayola, Pleasant Places, 2015
Installation view at Glow Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2015

Q.: Do you think there are points of excellence in the world for developing the arts linked to new technologies, or places that are more ready to welcome them?

A.: In my personal experience, as I was saying, I “escaped” from Rome to go to London. That was a very beautiful period, of great excitement.

At another point in my life, in my career, and also in the world – which has evolved in the meantime – I instead “escaped” from London, to return to Rome. I actually couldn’t say why, it’s linked to several factors. Surely at one time these languages ​​were something particularly hidden, niche, very experimental. Today they are starting to be languages ​​that are now taught in many universities around the world, they are starting to be something for which there is no need to go to particular places in the world. Our company is networked, so that we can develop projects almost anywhere.

I think it is very important, however, to always relate to the international community, because today the communities of artists actually relate to each other on an international level. I think this exchange is important. At least knowing English could be one thing that helps (smiles)!

Chorus in Rememory of Flight
Chorus in Rememory of Flight

It is with honor and pleasure that Metro54 opened this Spring season with a thought-provoking exhibition by poet, artist, and filmmaker Julianknxx, accompanied by a public program that offers a melody to Black diasporic life. The project marks the start of Metro54’s multi-year program, Seasons of Diasporic Life, that zooms into Black diasporic cultural practices and the ways artists and cultural producers address, document, reflect deeply or imagine otherwise the urgency of Black social life and realities in Fortress Europe.

Julianknxx is a visual artist and poet based in London, whose artistic practice is rooted in poetry, which is the foundation for his cinematographic work as well as his collaborative performances. At Metro54, Chorus in Rememory of Flight manifests itself as two immersive cinematographic environments that offer an intimate pathway to diasporic stories and everyday histories. Chorus in Rememory of Flight, which is not only the title of the show but also a work that weaves together through a music and poetic refrain different diasporic choirs and voices that narrate personal anecdotes, migratory histories of their diasporic communities.

As a homage to the city, where this project of Julianknxx began in 2021, he created a new work: “And if a tree sees it all.” This video installation is a poetic, cinematographic reflection on memory-making, communal archiving, and witnessing. “De boom die alles zag” (“The tree which saw everything”) has been a silent witness since the Bijlmermeer disaster 30 years ago, and serves as a powerful symbol of resilience and collective mourning in Amsterdam Southeast.

Next to the two cinematographic works this show consists of performances, film screening and conversations which will be hosted in collaboration with partner organizations such as Buro Stedelijk and Bijlmer Park Theater.

Upcoming gatherings
May 16: Metro54 x Bijlmer Parktheater present: Resonant Harmony: Take me to church. On choirs and polyphonic voices in Amsterdam Zuidoost.

May 25: Closing event Julianknxx @ Metro54: on Black Cinepoetics.

Link: metro54.nl

Heliopolis – Marko Tadić

Heliopolis – Marko Tadić

On Friday May 17, the PAV is pleased to present Heliopolis, a solo exhibition of the Croatian artist Marko Tadić (1979) curated by Marco Scotini. The exhibition is part of the annual programme that sees reusing and circularity not only as an ecological and cultural strategy but, above all, as a utopian means of survival.

Marko Tadić’s work rereads the history of Yugoslavian socialist modernism by means of a comparison with the practices of the great authors who were producing at the end of the 1950s in Croatia, amongst whom were the avantgarde designer, sculptor and architect Vyaceslav Richter (1917–2002) and the filmmaker Vladimir Kristl (1923–2004) from the Zagreb School of Animation, acknowledged as one of the cornerstones of the European environment. Using a methodology that tries to “make History starting from the waste of History”—as Walter Benjamin would have said, quoting Goncourt—Tadić identifies, from within the inert residues of memory, an active potential that can be used to reread and generate new possibilities of narration. Through the reusing and reworking of old objects, such as postcards, geographic maps, slides, notebooks and personal photographic archives, Tadić brings back into being a submerged archive on which he overwrites.

The exhibition, created specifically for the PAV, includes a nucleus of works by the artist dedicated to the interaction with the thoughts of Vjenceslav Richter, one of the founding members of the EXAT 51 group of avantgarde artists, architects, designers, and theorists active between 1950 and 1956 in Zagreb. Their aim was to promote and achieve a synthesis and intersecting of all forms of art. Richter, a series of whose original works are in the exhibition, dedicated almost two decades of his life to the perfecting of technical-utopian projects within a town planning ambit that attempted to respond, through planning, to the specific needs of a socialist society. In Richter’s utopian city, whatever was required was readily available and its planning responded to the need to reduce mobility times in order to guarantee more free time.

In the exhibition Tadić imagines and plans his utopian city by contaminating Richter’s project with a science fiction imagination and by imposing an ecological reflection on these complex systems. Through drawings, collages, and animations, he hypothesizes an expansion that includes these new issues relating to the relationship between humans, the environment and technology while using renewable resources.

Heliopolis consists of four thematic islands: Leaving the FrameFlow DiversionsThe Open Future and From the Shell (of the Old) in which the relationship between ecology, utopian architecture and science fiction is investigated by means of a multi-layered perspective. By varying the scale by means of which a system is represented, it is possible to enrich our understanding of it and formulate new readings. Using miniaturisation, Tadić transforms detritus and scraps into toys in a Benjamin type sense. “Collective products” that recall a comparison with the world of the adult that allows them to be liberated without being deprived of their value as documents.

In Heliopolis, Marko Tadić’s work rereads Vjenceslav Richter in order to propose a model that aims to establish a harmonious rhythm to society’s metabolism, in the continuous search for a delicate equilibrium between construction and cancellation, between possible futures and the transmitting of memory.

Link: parcoartevivente.it 

düsseldorf photo+ 2024 – On Reality / Ways of Seeing
düsseldorf photo+ 2024 – On Reality / Ways of Seeing

The third edition of the Biennale for Visual and Sonic Mediadüsseldorf photo+ will take place under the heading On Reality, from May 17 to July 14, 2024. Throughout Düsseldorf, visitors explore contemporary photography and media-based art in all their multifaceted forms in exhibitions, concerts, talks, panel discussions and other events. The artists involved will reflect in a variety of ways on how media continues to significantly shape our understanding of reality today and how it has done so in the past. Computer-generated images and sound worlds are omnipresent in our world. At the Biennale, they form an integral part of our offering alongside audiovisual realities created by analogue means. In total, the Biennale presents almost 300 artists and contributors and spans over 50 exhibitions and events at venues including museums, private collections, galleries, independent exhibition spaces and universities.

This year’s düsseldorf photo+ has been organised under the artistic direction of Pola Sieverding and Rupert Pfab, along with Ljiljana Radlovic, with the generous support of Cultural Office Düsseldorf and National-Bank Essen. The symposium and main exhibition have been curated by Pola Sieverding & Asya Yaghmurian.

On Reality symposium
May 18–19, 2024
at K21 The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Ständehausstraße 1, 40217 Düsseldorf, Germany

Since the advent of photography, reflections on human access to what we call reality and its translation through media have gained urgency. With the introduction of computer-generated images, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, the question remains more relevant than ever: Have reality and image switched roles? Is it even possible to distinguish between the two?

The symposium On Reality, a collaboration of düsseldorf photo+ Biennale for Visual and Sonic Media and K21 Kunstsammlung NRW, will invite artists, researchers, philosophers, and media theorists to explore how visual media relates to the notion of reality, and to which extent the medium influences our perception and comprehension of it. The symposium looks at photography as an everyday ‘cultural technique,’ linking it with philosophical, sociological, and ethical discourses. It critically examines how reality is constructed through techniques of visualization and naming, addressing the challenges brought by contemporary ‘imaging techniques.’

Gabrielle Moser: A Disobedient Gaze: Artists in the Colonial Photographic Archive.
Sim Chi Yin: One Day We’ll Understand.
Federico Campagna: World-building Imagination.
Hannah Darabi: From Enghelab Street to Persian Square.
Stan Douglas: The Black Mirror or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Photography.
Ana Teixeira Pinto: The Parallel History of Optics and Ballistics.
Elena Esposito: The Real Effects of Deepfakes: Reportage, illustration, and truth in AI-generated images.
Jon Rafman: Reality Shifting with Ron Jafman.
Julie Favreau, Elaine G. Goldberg, Marie-France Rafael: Imaging Realities: The work of art in the age of digital experience.

Ways of Seeing exhibition
Opening May 17, 6–9 pm
düsseldorf photo+ lab
Kapuzinergasse 24, 40213 Düsseldorf

Artists: Harun Farocki, Forensic Architecture, Geocinema, Kyriaki Goni, Jill Magid, Clara Mosch, Jon Rafman, Natascha Sadr Haghighian

In his 1972 BBC series “Ways of Seeing”, John Berger argues that the way we look at images reveals to us something about ourselves and the situation in which we live. Drawing on Walter Benjamin, he argues that the meaning of images changes as a consequence of reproducibility. Today, the human, too, constantly morphs into images and data: documented, analysed, and sorted by smart instruments and algorithmic operations. The effect of mechanical reproducibility dislocates the image as well as the act of observing itself. The exhibition Ways of Seeing seeks to explore unfolding connections between mechanisms of power, control, social responsibility, and narratives of freedom, examining their manifestation or refraction in the presence of and through the lens of observation. Out of the technical image evolves a technical imagination, no longer oriented toward the human observer. Focusing on various situations of surveillance, the exhibited works emphasize new ways of seeing that articulate unknown sites of consciousness, experience, and communication.


Ensembles and Monsters

Ensembles and Monsters

Sophia Ioannou Gjerding (b. 1989, Denmark) and Mark Tholander (b. 1988, Denmark) are presented together in the exhibition Ensembles and Monsters. Inspired by the quote “If categories are unstable, we must watch them emerge within encounters” by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing, it explores how collections and encounters often create assumptions that we take for granted.

The exhibition consists of a series of new productions. In them, Mark Tholander works with performance to explore the identity-creating nature of communities, while Sophia Ioannou Gjerding uses video installation to examine how different collections create narratives.

Various experiences influence how we encounter the world. We are influenced by our interpersonal relationships, through culture, and by what we learned in school or at home. In Ensembles and Monsters, both artists explore the so-called baggage we bring with us when we engage with the world around us. In her work, Sophia Ioannou Gjerding begins by exploring how our relationship to other beings are influenced by video games, and in particular how certain video games mirror the act of gathering or foraging, but to the extent to which it becomes hoarding. She then considers different things that we consider to be heritage: first, a spoon from her grandmother, and then inherited knowledge about insects from an entomological collection at the University of Lund (where a large proportion of their specimens were donated by “amateur collectors”). Through this she highlights how, in themselves, collections can direct us and act as storytelling devices.

Mark Tholander looks at the baggage of ideals embedded in communities. Through performance, different roles—ranging from family member to citizen—are explored. An array of actors and musicians allow Tholander to explore how these interpersonal relationships constitute our worldview, and how they change what or who we meet. The concept of “community” is predominantly perceived as positive, but communities have also been used to exclude: cohesion can turn into the othering and alienation of those things that do not fit into what is considered the norm. By using a collective working method to explore social gatherings, Tholander focuses on how, when we move in and out of sync with one another, cohesion can dissolve.

In Ensembles and Monsters, the practices of Sophia Ioannou Gjerding and Mark Tholander begin to overlap in several ways. They work from different vantage points on the concepts of gathering and gatherings, as well as collections and collectives. Moreover, their practices are also both collaborative in nature, with their works created—as a joint effort—with others. Several props created by Kristina Steengaard, and puppet costumes designed by Aroque Kwon, expand Gjerding’s work beyond the video installation (and as a result it constitutes a collection in itself), while the sound design for the film installation was produced with Xenia Xamanek Lopez. Tholander’s performance work was a collective process executed in collaboration with Faye Fadem, Kasper Jensen, Laura Marie Møller Madsen, Søren Høi and Sarah Owens.

Link: www.kunsthalaarhus.dk

Future Positive: Norman Foster, Foster + Partners

Future Positive: Norman Foster, Foster + Partners

Presented in collaboration between the Seoul Museum of Art and Foster + Partners, Future Positive: Norman Foster, Foster + Partners (April 25–July 21, 2024) introduces the renowned architect Norman Foster to Korean audiences for the first time. The largest of its kind in Asia, this exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the illustrious career of Foster and the activities of Foster + Partners, the practice he founded in 1967. Based in the United Kingdom, Foster + Partners boasts a global presence. Of the over 500 projects led by the practice, from the 1960s to the present, Future Positive pays particular attention to the studio’s significant contributions to public spaces for culture and the arts, including art galleries and museums. Notably, the exhibition highlights Foster and the practice’s forward-thinking ethos, tracing their early commitment to sustainability and visionary outlook for the future.

Born in 1935 in Manchester, England, Norman Foster studied architecture and urban planning at the University of Manchester before earning his master’s degree from the Yale School of Architecture. It was at Yale where he crossed paths with fellow British architect Richard Rogers. With sisters Wendy Cheesman and Georgie Wolton, they established Team 4 in 1962. Together, they embarked on pioneering projects that leveraged the cutting-edge technologies of the era, including the Reliance Controls project of 1967. Transitioning from Team 4 after a four-year tenure, Foster and Cheesman – now married – co-founded Foster Associates, laying the foundation for what would eventually become Foster + Partners. Today, the firm stands as a global architectural powerhouse with a headcount of over 2,000 individuals. Incorporating dozens of specialized in-house teams across the genres of architecture, urban design, engineering, industrial design, interior design, urban and landscape design, and research and development, Foster + Partners has reshaped urban landscapes and redefined contemporary living through transformative projects like the Great Court of the British Museum, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters in Hong Kong, Apple Park in the United States, and London Stansted Airport.

While Norman Foster is widely renowned as a trailblazer of innovative and technology-focused architecture, known for drawing upon advanced engineering and computer technology, this exhibition focuses on his and Foster + Partners’ commitment to sustainability as a fundamental philosophy underpinning the practice. Since the 1960s, Foster’s work has extended beyond technological innovation to designing environmental masterplans and carbon-neutral cities, and exploring the utility and user experience of living environments. This practice, along with future-facing visions for new modes of building and living, profoundly influences his approach to his most widely-known and large-scale projects. Future Positive, conceived as part of the Seoul Museum of Art’s 2024 agenda on architecture, offers a wider examination of the experiments by Norman Foster and Foster + Partners. By bridging past achievements with contemporary aspirations, it aims to inspire new thinking and imaginations of the coming future.

Future Positive is structured into five sections: Introduction to Sustainability, Culture + Retrofit, Wellbeing + Technology, Public + Placemaking, and Future. It features an array of over 300 artifacts from 50 significant projects, ranging from architectural models to drawings, videos, and archives. Norman Foster and Foster + Partners remain ever optimistic and enthusiastic about the future because they work to seamlessly integrate forward-looking research findings into present-day practice, thereby establishing a virtuous loop and nestling the built environment in harmonious coexistence with its surroundings. This pursuit of sustainability amid temporal and physical transformations reflects an idealistic philosophy informed by meticulous analysis and research. Above all, their narrative of change is distinguished by their uncompromising emphasis on the needs of people and planet.

Link sema.seoul.go.kr

Seeing Forest by Robert Zhao Renhui
Seeing Forest by Robert Zhao Renhui

“Secondary forests are resilient and adaptable spaces for wildlife in Singapore…
They don’t discriminate against who belongs and who doesn’t.”(1)

With almost 9,000 people per square kilometre, Singapore is the second most densely populated nation in the world. Yet it is also home to thousands of different species of amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants, with vegetation covering roughly half of its 735-square-kilometre landmass—and spontaneous, non-managed growth accounting for almost 30% of that.(2)

The artistic practice of Robert Zhao Renhui involves exploring these in-between spaces called secondary forests, thresholds between old-growth or primary forest and developed areas. Hundreds of hours of film and close to a decade of research have culminated in Seeing Forest. The exhibition, produced in collaboration with curator Haeju Kim and presented in the Pavilion of Singapore in Venice, invites us to consider a complex web of human and non-human co-existence.

As we enter the exhibition, we step into an uncharted forested zone where history and memory, humanity and nature, native and invasive intertwine. Moving between the human and more-than-human, invention and reality, Seeing Forest encourages a reflection on the ways in which urban design and human history can shape the natural world (and vice versa).

The central work of the exhibition, The Owl, The Travellers and The Cement Drain (2024) is a filmic essay that reveals a series of hypnotic scenes from the forest that are complemented by an unstable, fluctuating narrative of two human characters as they journey through it. By eschewing familiar documentary approaches, ecologically-minded activist perspectives, and the certainties of linear narrative, Zhao aims to transpose the forest into a new register: a mutable space of possibility.

In conversation with this film is Trash Stratum (2024), a sculptural video installation with screens arranged around a deconstructed cabinet of curiosities built from Nyatoh.(3) These reveal compelling scenes featuring various creatures that visit a makeshift watering hole in the form of an abandoned dustbin. Within this structure, objects from the forest can also be found, a poignant reminder of the presence of human histories so often entangled with those of nature. The dismantled wunderkammer references colonial systems of classification, destabilising natural history narratives in favour of more imaginative and fluid ways of drawing out relationships and networks.

Zhao’s practice has often included photography and its indexical quality, which is reflected in Buffy (2024), a digital print of a bird native to Southeast Asia, the buffy fish owl. In this image, the owl has its back turned to us, an evocative reference to the Heraclitan fragment, “nature loves to hide”, perhaps suggesting that concealment and discovery are somehow connected.

Complementing Stranieri Ovunque—Foreigners Everywhere, the theme of the 60th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, Seeing Forest offers a tribute to the undomesticated and free forests found along the margins of our urban lives, while exploring Singapore’s histories of settlement, colonisation, migration, and mutual co-existence amongst species.

Artist Robert Zhao Renhui said: “I have studied secondary forests for close to a decade and they yield constant discovery, surprise and meaning to me. They exist on the margins of the city, unwanted and overlooked, but they are the spaces where there is a sense of wildness, an equilibrium of forces resulting not from control but being allowed to just be. There is a rich intermingling of past and present, nature and culture, native and invasive, which makes these spaces radically hospitable and free.”

(1) From the essay, “Surprised by birds: A conversation between Robert Zhao and Yong Ding Li”, which is included in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.
(2) From the essay, “More Than Natural: Robert Zhao Renhui’s Ecosophy” by Jeffrey Kastner, which is included in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.
(3) Nyatoh is the collective trade name of several species of hardwood found in Southeast Asia rainforests.


NEXT Festival 2024
NEXT Festival 2024

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University presents its annual NEXT Festival, a celebration of graduating students’ work, in Washington, D.C. Open from April 17 to May 16, the festival features 47 exhibits, 22 live performances and four panels and research-based presentations. 

The festival kicked off on April 17 with a Dudley Memorial Lecture given by John Troutman, curator of music and musical instruments at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, on building restorative blues history. In addition, this year’s students in museum studies and exhibition design have collaborated with graphic design students to produce an exhibit focused on the history of the movement for DC statehood. Apart from the inherent interest of the subject matter, Onkey said, she is excited by the way both graduate and undergraduate students have worked across programs to think about how an exhibit is put together.

“That’s the kind of collaboration that I think is really exciting,” Onkey said, “when we can get the students to work in sync across disciplines, because they ask different questions depending on where they are seated.”

Another exhibition curated by art history and museum studies students, “Art After Duchamp,” is open at Gallery 102. It features work by 17 artists created in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, the great Dada provocateur. The works were selected by Lisa Lipinski, associate professor of art history. Her students were given hands-on experience in deciding everything from where and how the works she selected would be displayed to what kind of type should be used on posters for the exhibit.

An additional highlight will be the Spring Dance Concert presented from April 18–22 in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Students will perform their own choreography as well as work created by faculty and guest choreographers.

There will be several theatrical performances, including an installation in the Flagg Building of elements from last fall’s production of “The Laramie Project.” Excerpts will be performed at the Extravaganza.

Themes that guests will encounter this year include sustainability, social justice and climate change. There will be nuanced stories of queer identity and consideration of storytelling as a whole. Future technology and AI will play a role, along with established crafts such as ceramics, quilting and woodwork. In short, Onkey said, there will be something for everyone.

“Because of the breadth of our programs here in the Corcoran School, we have students who are makers and performers, and also students who are researchers and scholars,” Onkey said. “For NEXT this year, we’ve really tried to find ways to feature researchers, scholars and emerging museum studies professionals as well. NEXT showcases the arts as a kind of giant tableau at GW.”

A complete schedule of events is available in the NEXT festival guide. The NEXT exhibition is open to the public in the Flagg Building at 500 17th Street NW through May 16, Wednesday through Sunday from 1–5pm.

Link: corcoran.gwu.edu 

Trail Dust – Āmantēcayōtl
Trail Dust – Āmantēcayōtl

Fernando Palma Rodríguez: Āmantēcayōtl

Canal Projects is pleased to announce a new commission by the Nahua artist Fernando Palma Rodríguez (b. 1957, Mexico). A pioneer of Indigenous robotics, the artist’s new project Āmantēcayōtl: Auh inihcuac huel ompoliuh, mitoa, ommic in meztli presents an installation that emulates a corn field on the slopes of the Teuhtli Volcano in Milpa Alta, Mexico. At Canal Projects, the exhibition features three robotic entities that represent different deities of the mesoamerican pantheon.

Together, the mechanized entities make evident the sacred relationship that exists between Nahua cosmologies and the cultivation of corn, bean, and squash, which are grown together in what is traditionally known as the Milpa. At the center of the exhibition, the Cincoatl snake glides through a corn field while the Tezactipoclas interact with viewers, embodying traditions involved in caring for and being in community with the land. The artist’s invocation of the sacred pantheon, more than a personification of these deities, redefines the very notion of the robot as a conduit for the recuperation of the Nahuatl language, earth technologies, and the positioning of Aztec cosmologies.

Palma Rodríguez combines his training as an artist and mechanical engineer to create robotic sculptures that are activated through internet-sourced climate data from the Milpa Alta region. His works respond to issues facing Indigenous communities in Mexico today while also underscoring that the struggles for the protection of life and the defense of territory are inseparable from the recuperation of traditional ways of life. Central to Palma Rodríguez’s practice is an emphasis on ancestral knowledge, both as an integral part of contemporary life and as a way of shaping the future.

Curated by Sara Garzón.

Trương Công Tùng: Trail Dust

In the Lower Level, Canal Projects presents the exhibition Trail Dust. This exhibition features recent work by the Vietnamese artist Trương Công Tùng (Đắk Lắk province, b. 1986), exploring the artist’s ongoing interest in the histories, rituals, and mythologies of land stewardship as a living practice.

At Canal Projects, Trương reimagines a living garden as a heavy beaded curtain. Draped along the edge of the gallery, the curtain is woven with beads that originate from forest trees including those that were introduced to Vietnam during the process of industrialization, such as coffee, avocado, rubber, and cashew trees. According to Vietnamese folklore, it is believed that the last things seen by an animal before their death are permanently captured in their eyes. In accompanying video, The Lost Landscape #1 (2021), viewers are taken through the Natural History Museum in Paris, honing in on close-up shots of the glass eyes of taxidermied animals.

Akin to the way a gardener nurtures a parcel of land, Trương tends to his work over time, allowing it to evolve, change, and iterate in response to the specifics of each site. Combining natural materials with found objects of an inorganic, disruptive, or incongruent nature, Trương reflects on the interruption of Indigenous practices by the forces of modernity, colonialism, and conflict. Rather than lamenting what has passed, Trương’s poetic sensibilities find resilience in a reimagining of the land as a site of communion between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Link: us@canalprojects.org