27.09.2019. - 19.10.2019.

Earth song's low frequency tones

Heba Y. Amin, Gildo Bavčević, Staš Kleindienst, Mikko Lipiänen, Kolektiv Ljubavnice, Cauleen Smith, Lana Stojičević, Katarina Zlatec

Curator: Irena Borić

(It is not only species that are becoming extinct, but also the words, phrases, and gestures of human solidarity, Guattari Felix, The Three Ecologies, 1989.)

Different visions of nature arise from concrete political arguments justifying social, political and economic hierarchies. Fast technological development, growing economic and social inequalities contribute to creating the environment marked by violent and inhumane power relations. Within that framework, the exhibition Earth Song’s Low Frequency approaches the complex relationship between “Man” and his surroundings via the works by Heba Y. Amin, Gildo Bavčević, Staš Kleindienst, Mikko Lipiäinen, the art collective Ljubavnice, Cauleen Smith, Lana Stojičević and Katarina Zlatec. It thereby relies on posthuman critical theory which criticizes the humanist ideal of “Man” as the measure of all things and precludes species hierarchy and the assumption of human exceptionalism (post-anthropocentric approach). By means of their critical and contextual approach, the presented works – taking specific case studies or speculations about the post-catastrophic future as their starting points – reveal the vampire logic that capitalism imposes on the environment.

With the work Two Degrees, the art collective Ljubavnice evoke the possibility of a catastrophe if the average global temperature rises by 2 °C. This bleak scenario is set in 2517 when all that is left of trees are memories and “the local flora and fauna haven’t been active for 300 years”. The monologue from the galactic encyclopaedia is delivered by a female voice for which we cannot say for certain whether it is human. Juxtaposing human and geological time, Ljubavnice speculate about the possible catastrophe as the result of globalization, technological fantasies, late capitalism and climate changes.

Cauleen Smith also tackles the idea of an end in her work Song for Earth and Folk (2013). The melancholic dialogue from Earth and its ignorant inhabitants closes with the words “We end” that indirectly opens other questions that the artist poses: “What needs to end in order for life, culture, and society to reconstitute itself into more equitable, organic and just forms? When will we concede defeat in this transnational corporate neo-liberal project? How many will have to perish before we do?”[1] The artist talks about the end of patriarchal capitalism that rests upon the accelerated fossil fuel extraction, exploitation and accumulation of capital. That is why the future is female, while the legacy of Afrofuturism is extremely important because as a  technological speculation, it offers the black body a method by which the alienness of terrestrial belonging is re-scripted, re-coded and re-organized into alternative narratives of being and becoming.[2]

Lana Stojičević also creates an alternative narrative in her work Black Hill (2015). Dressed in a fictional folk costume which, due to its mask, looks like a hazmat suit, the artist situates herself in a black environment made of 200 000 tons of silicomanganese alloy. Although this location is well known to the inhabitants of the village Donje Biljane under the name Black Hill, the photographs with the masked figure seem dystopian. Even though this landscape has a tendency to negate life, the ethno-warrior adjusts to the new circumstances, resisting her own disappearance. The recording of a conversation with a local inhabitant whose personal story contextualizes the history of the contaminated landscape provides a documentary counterpoint to the fictional narrative.

Contrary to Lana Stojičević who uses photography as proof of contamination, artist Mikko Lipiänen is interested in what happens in the absence of visual proof in his work There's an Invisible Place Far Away (2012). In the video he dramatizes the editing of a Wikipedia page on “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch” during which he repeatedly poses the question why there are no photos of the phenomenon and whether it is real at all if there are no photos of it. Since the relationship between Earth and “Man” has been additionally made complex due to “technologies and techniques of visualization, sonification, calculation, mapping, prediction, simulation,”[3] the work There's an Invisible Place Far Away questions the image as crucial evidence about the existence of the environment beyond human reach.

Visual mediation enables us to perceive the planet in ways inaccessible to the human eye and that is why the proliferation of satellite images has never been bigger. Collecting big data from space simultaneously provides a false sense of control over a situation and acts as a surveillance apparatus. Like satellite images, the areal perspective present in Staš Kleindienst’s paintings evokes the atmosphere of surveillance. Measurable Reason depicts an amorphic pink creature surrounded by experts that are trying to understand it by means of pointless measuring. The work Tourists shows figures trapped in a landscape where they do not belong, while the Blue Monster represents an abandoned aqua park where the protagonists look like wandering zombies from a failed project.

Katarina Zlatec documents the uncanny atmosphere of a desolate landscape in her photo-series  Bright Fields (2016). She records trees, fields and bushes exposed to the nightlight of gas processing stations, seeming as though being part of a staged set. Although gas processing stations do bring certain prosperity, they, at the same time, harm the local population and the environment. In a way, the night landscapes provide favourable photographic lighting and it is their aestheticization that emphasizes the problematic origin of the light source that signifies the traces of industry in the now damaged landscape.

Gildo Bavčević breaks the silence and the idyllic scene of Cetina canyon by hitting a protective helmet against a rock in a performance Plastic man machine (2015). Naked, with a white helmet on his head, he simultaneously defies nature and recklessly destroys it. In the video Ignavi – people without a stance (2018), Bavčević is positioned like a classical ancient Greek statue with a white flag in his hand. His still act is juxtaposed with a forest burnt to a cinder in 2017 not far from Split. The title evokes the ignavi from Dante’s Devine Comedy who do not belong to heaven and not even hell would take them in. In the work 021_123 (2017), the artist with simple acts like moving backwards, jumping or lying on the ground counterpoints the aimless wandering of tourists during the peak tourist season in Split city centre.

Like Bavčević, Heba Y. Amin uses performance as a mechanism of resistance to apathetic surrounding. In the work Walking a Watermelon in Cairo (2016)[4] she seeks to perform something critical in public space and use a camera without it being deemed as something threatening”. In that sense, the streets of Cairo echo Egypt’s uprising, in which participatory tools on social media were widely used, but also the consequences of increased censorship against institutions, artists, and activists. By questioning the ways in which performance and the use of absurdity can evade the threats of repressive governments the artist throws light on importance of reclaiming public space in order to reclaim acts of revolutional solidarity. (Irena Borić)

 

[1]             Cauleen Smith, “Song For Earth and Folk”. Retrieved: http://www.vdrome.org/cauleen-smith/, Sept. 1, 2019.

[2]             Rossi Bradiotti and Maria Hlavajova (Eds.) (2018) Posthuman Glossary, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. p. 17

[3]     Ibid., p. 111

[4]     Heba Y. Amin, Walking a Watermelon in Cairo. Towards a Spatial Imaginary: Walking Cabbages and Watermelons. See: http://www.hebaamin.com/works/walking-a-watermelon-in-cairo/, Sept. 1, 2019.

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Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin grounds her work in extensive research that looks at the convergence of politics, technology and architecture. Techno-utopian ideas, as they manifest in characteristic machines of colonial soft power, are at the heart of Amin’s work. Amin teaches at Bard College Berlin, is a doctorate fellow in art history at Freie Universität and a current Field of Vision fellow in NYC. She is the co-founder of the Black Athena Collective, the curator of visual art for the MIZNA journal (US) and co-curator for the biennial residency program DEFAULT with Ramdom Association (IT). 

Gildo Bavčević (Split, 1979) is an author of numerous performances, video installations and art actions. He was awarded at the 39th Split Salon for the video performance Plastic Man Machine and won first prize at the Festival of Croatian Film Production for the movie Solidarity Network, his graduation project in 2013, thus gaining an MA in Film and Media Art at UMAS where he works as a teaching assistant. In addition to his solo projects, he also collaborated on various group projects, from performance to film and video art and music. He also records and edits sound and image for film and cinema projects, music productions, etc. He is a member of the Croatian Freelance Artists' Association and Croatian association for artists in Split.

Staš Kleindienst (born 1979) finished his BA in painting in 2007 and MA in fine art in 2009 at the Academy of Fine Art and Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 2014 he won the OHO Group Award, the main national visual arts award for young visual artists. He lives and works in Vipava, Slovenia. His art practice focuses on issues of space, social rituals and production of collective identity. He is interested in landscape as a genre which does not only represent reality but is rather its fictional extension and has the potentiality to address relationships between power, (sub)consciousness and social imaginary.

Mikko Lipiäinen (Tampere, 1975) is an artist-activist whose work is socially engaged and multi-disciplinary, spanning from community organizing, problematizing gentrification, challenging the art world and mainstream media, addressing issues related to migrant labor through open source design processes to presenting media activists through performance and participatory drama. He works mainly in Finland where he organizes many local and international activities in Hirvitalo cultural center. He is a member of the organizing team of Pixelache Festival, one of the notable new media art events in Europe.

The art collective Ljubavnice has been active since 2014 and is made up of six young artists: Tamara Bilankov (1988), Hrvoslava Brkušić (1982), Stella Leboš (1988), Luana Lojić (1991), Ivana Pipal (1990) and Ana Vuzdarić (1984). The collective is focused on an interdisciplinary approach to art and science so their every exhibition includes a collaboration with scientists and various experts. Ambient installations in the form of site-specific projects constitute an important segment of their activities. During the last three years the collective has realized a number of projects covering the topics from the field of astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, hypnosis and regression, energetics, sustainable development and the current problem of climate changes.

Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist who roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. She lives in Los Angeles and is Art Program faculty at California Institute of the Arts. She has BA in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University and MFA, University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater Film and Television. Smith is the recipient of many awards: Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Creative Capital Film/ Video, Chicago 3Arts Grant, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chicago Expo Artadia Award, and Rauschenberg Residency, Herb Alpert Awards in Arts in Film and Video 2016 etc.

Lana Stojićević (Šibenik, 1989) graduated in Painting in 2012 from the Arts Academy in Split. Her works were featured in numerous exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. She received several national and international vocational awards, among others, the Metro Imaging Mentorship Award at the exhibition New East Photo Prize and the annual HDLU Young Artist award. She is a member of the Croatian Freelance Artists' Association.

Katarina Zlatec (Đurđevac, 1986) After graduating from the School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb, in 2012, she co-founded an architectural-design studio Oblok in Đurđevac. She is one of the co-founders of the association Mjestimice whose festival Mjestimice svjetlo tackles dilapidated urban spaces and their revival with the help of light interventions. As an independent associate for the city Durđevac, she has been in charge of the brand development strategy and city’s visual identity projects since 2015. As a designer and photographer, she has received notable awards and her works have been featured in numerous relevant exhibitions.

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For help in realization of the exhibition thanks to Ultrasonic [https://ultrasonic-audio.com] and HDLU, Zagreb.

The program of Galženica Gallery is supported by the City of Velika Gorica, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the Zagreb's County.