Ecosystems of Relations
Super Dakota is proud to present Ecosystems of Relations, a new edition of Super Room dedicated to present works which relate to the concepts and environments of connection / closeness / togetherness / empathy and community. The online exhibition will be on view from 16 February through 23 March, 2021. In the times when our digital avatars float through the endless stream of social networks it is more essential than before to reflect on the irreplaceable agency of relations and importance of re-experiencing the common sources of connection.
This platform honours and refers to Poetics of Relations, a theoretical text by Martinique-born philosopher Edouard Glissant who called attention to means of global exchanges that do not homogenize culture but produce differences from which new systems can emerge. It presents a wide range of works stretching over paintings, sculptures, videos, writings, texts and installation by following international artists, researchers and writers: Denise Bertschi, Alex Clarke, Jeremy Deller, Tenki Hiramatsu, Pieter Geenen, Carmen Kirkby, Bent Van Looy, Real Madrid, Connor McNicholas, Sadé Mica and Alberta Whittle. The online exhibition intends to re-discover the ongoing presence of the infinite relations between myself and a friend or neighbour, between us and our surroundings, between knowledge and mystery and towards something invisible which is larger than the place we occupy.
Manthia Diawara, "Édouard Glissant: One World in Relation", K’a Yéléma Productions, 2009, 48 min., film still
The selected artworks relate to the notions of mutual exchange, the power of participation and togetherness in the age of privilege. They magnify and vocalise the effects of the colonialism, continuous inequality and evolving identity politics. What is then the impetus behind discovering and deepening relations between each other? These works and texts invite us to re-scale our empathy and nourish mutual support, solidarity, complementarity, respect for others and care for the horizontal and radiant plentitude of the living that we call an environment.
One of the research pillars behind the Ecosystems of Relations is bell hooks. In her writings – American author, professor, feminist and social activist reminds us the urgency of reoccurring fundamental questions — “What is the state of love and intimacy in the age of Internet, social media and high capitalism?”, “How can we put an end to continuous race oppression?”, … We are left alone to answer these questions; as it is our choice to determine the articulation and implementation of empathy, solidarity and the end of oppression of any kind from our very own positions.
Installation view, Alex Clarke, "first-person", Hope Sandoval, London, 2020.
Alex Clarke (b. 1988) lives and works in London. He holds a BA from Central Saint Martins, London and a post-graduate diploma from The Royal Academy Schools in London. Since 2016 he has been an Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins, London.
Alex Clarke’s works examine the essence of relationships and the gestures of exchange and discussion to reclaim intimacy through language between connection and connectivity. “Tenselessness Togetherness”, one of his most recent paintings that was showed along with sculptural works during his solo exhibition at the experimental space Hope Sandoval in London, refers to the ways in which we communicate, how we speak to one another, how friends, partners, ideas and artworks can feel connected to each other.
Clarke essentially builds and narrativises his works from the stories which are intertwined with physical and psychological closeness or distance and reappear within these relational spaces of intersubjectivity. His narratives move in between canvases, like the ghosts of our zeitgeist searching for the soulmates and they reconnect with us once we seem to recognise our own stories (with/in them). The fictional texts that appear on the surface of Clarke’s canvases might remind us the story of American adaption series “Euphoria”, an essential dive-in into the search of belonging – to someone or anyone that can become close – online or offline. These works create thoughts of exchange about discussion-ridden day-to-day life with empathy and candor.
Sadé Mica (b. 1995) is a British artist living in Manchester. They hold BA in Visual Arts from University of Salford, Manchester. Their current practice is rooted in exploring the self. The self in relation to gender and performance; how the world around them affects their relationship to their queerness and the body they inhabit. How movement is policed by environment and us and how fraught the control we have over our perception is when thrust outside of solitary environments. Sadé explore how their body is both freed and restricted, posturing against vast landscapes foreign to them, capturing the stillness of their form and thoughtful movements as well as those more chaotic and less considered. Their work was featured in several exhibitions at galleries and museums, including the Jerwood Arts, London (2021), Leeds Art Gallery (2020-2021), Somerset House Studios, London (2020), Trans Vegas Digital Online (2020) and others. Their film Posturin was commissioned by Tate Collective for Black History Month.
Sadé Mica, "For Home", 2019. Courtesy of Sadé Mica.
One can feel that their inner resources, unedited and untouched by any distracting gaze, aim to overcome systems of dominations and notice we need to extend ourselves for another. They do so by awaking us from the privileged places of our own, as Deborah Joyce Holman, artist, curator and Associate Director of London-based arts organisation Auto Italia refers — “Acknowledging that I am read as cis-gendered, that I am light-skinned, that I am able-bodied. It’s not about my personal advancement, it’s not about me in my position, it’s about realising that I have privileges that I need to use for the advancement of others as well." (1)
Sadé Mica, "Tests in Malham", 2020. Courtesy of Sadé Mica.
Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow. Photo: Patrick Jameson.
Jeremy Deller (b. 1966 in London) lives and works in London. Deller studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute and at Sussex University. He won the Turner Prize in 2004 and represented Britain in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. He has been producing projects over the past two decades which have influenced the conventional map of contemporary art. He began making artworks in the early 1990s, often showing them outside conventional galleries.
Deller’s “Stonehenge — Built by Immigrants” feels like a doubtful notice, an alert to reassemble our trusted knowledge in history and presence. Set in the confrontation between ancient and modern social histories, it is a perfect marker of contemporary hierarchical divisions.
The work creates an opposition between the two worlds. On one side Stonehenge, a British cultural icon and a prehistoric monument and on the other side, an immigrant, a pejorative word which emerged in 1792, originally in American English, present participle of immigrare “to remove, go into, move in” depicting something unwanted, something we allocate as foreign, therefore unrelated and disconnected. “In “Built by Immigrants”, Deller adapts the form of a typical British road sign from designs by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir who created this signage in the 1960s to make a political point. Frequently considered as a symbol of the nation, the artist explores Stonehenge’s relation to xenophobic nationalism within Britain. Here, by crediting immigrants with the creation of a very British icon, the artist is highlighting their importance and contribution to our society.” (2)
The contradiction of inclusion and exclusion, erasure and replacement resides on new conceptual shores through Deller’s infusion of freedom. His works of art invite not only “art crowds” but broaden the audience to the wider public sphere, in turn gaining further acclaim for its accessibility. The work was presented at his latest exhibition “EVERYBODY IN THE PLACE, AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF BRITAIN 1984-1992″, 2019 at Modern Institute, Airds Lane, Glasgow.
Jeremy Deller at Stonehenge. Photograph: David Levene/Jeremy Deller with Fraser Muggeridge
“The everyday can be very odd, very strange - and funny as well. I'm very much into recording daily life with these amazing things within it. A mixture of the everyday and the fantasy. "
- Jeremy Deller
Pieter Geenen, "mirador", 2016. © Pieter Geenen.
Pieter Geenen (b. 1979 in Hasselt, Belgium) is an audiovisual artist, photographer and filmmaker based in Brussels. Together with Sirah Foighel Brutmann, Eitan Efrat and Meggy Rustamova he is a co-founder of the artist-run collective Messidor, a platform for reflection, production and distribution. His work revolves around places, communities and events situated between appearing and disappearing, forgetting and remembering, destruction and resurrection, the utopian and the dystopian. They are subject to imperialism, war, oppression and persecution, migration, economic changes, globalisation, powers of nature, etc. Through strategies of inversion, mirroring, repetition, deconstruction and restructuring he approaches landscapes, spaces and elements where and around which people gather, coexist or live in conflict.
Video 16:9, color, stereo, HD, 25 minutes 46 seconds
Edition of 5 + 2AP
Geenen’s mirador speaks of an in-betweenness, it connects people and places who don’t seem to share a common ground at first sight and remain merely exotic to the western mind. However, working across communities and locations activates potential new readings of the past and the present, and opens our understanding of concepts like land, borders, colonisation, (im)mobility, belonging and identity.
Around the southernmost tip of Europe, the European and African continent almost seem to touch. That explains the importance of the Strait of Gibraltar as an important migration route, not only for the migratory birds spotted there, but also for refugees trying to reach Europe. At the Mirador del Estrecho panoramic lookout tourists gather to take pictures of the stunning landscape, and comment on the view of Africa that they are being offered. mirador is centered around spectatorship and the act of watching itself. Like silent witnesses the tourist, the immigrant, the audience and the camera look at the landscape and indirectly at each other. They look to the other side, facing a continent that appears like a fata morgana. The seducing power of the image is selling us all a dream while this situation of ‘we’ versus ‘they’ and ‘here’ versus ‘there’ holds up a mirror and reveals a postcolonial gaze in a world of increasing mobility and globalization.
Working together since 2015 Real Madrid address questions of about identity and belonging in specific social contexts, often through the lens of evolving sexual experiences and practises. Taboos and (binary) gender stereotypes still shape how people act on their desires and think about erotic pleasure. Commercially commodified eroticism is everywhere, yet the aura of the forbidden, smutty, and shameful clings to sexuality. Real Madrid probe dilemma of continuous stigmatisation between what some lament as hyper-sexualization and persistent prudishness in installations that combine humorous commentary with an unmistakable sense of tragedy. Their visual idiom draws on mass media and vernacular culture, using familiar elements to facilitate subjective engagement with their art and heighten its emotional impact. (3)
Real Madrid, photo © Dahahm Choi.
In their search for the personal, the emotional and entry points of empathy, Real Madrid addresses direct and quintessentially high-powered messages through works such as “Bright Futures”. The poster presents a sentence from a Wikihow page on how to write narrative involving LGBTQ+ characters. To be able to relate to and to encompass the ideas Real Madrid invokes, we need to think about fragility with which each independent sexuality is shaped and protect its freedom of choice from the very beginnings.
Through his “An Apartment on Uranus” writer, philosopher and curator Paul B. Preciado reflects on defending queer child when he writes — “Who defends the rights of the queer child? Of the intersex child? Of the trans child? The rights of the little boy who loves to wear pink? Of the little girl who dreams of kissing her best friend, who happens to be female? The rights of the different child? The rights of the non-binary child? Who defends the rights of the children to change gender if they want to? The right s of the child to free self-determination of gender and sexuality? Who defends the rights of the child to grow up in a world without either sexual or gender violence?” (4)
As much as Preciado’s text seeks for the places of acceptance, protection and right to free self-determination of gender and sexuality, a poster by Real Madrid reminds us reevaluation of our own sense of empathy and action towards the others, for the characters that seek the bright lights to connect and to relate to.
Alberta Whittle, "between a whisper and a cry", 2019, video still. Courtesy of Alberta Whittle.
Alberta Whittle (b.1980, Bridgetown, Barbados) is Glasgow-based artist, researcher and curator who works in film, sculpture, performance, collage and choreographed installation. She was the recipient of the 2018-19 Margaret Tait Award, in 2020 was one of the 10 artists to receive a Turner bursary award from Tate Britain, in place of the annual Turner Prize, the Henry Moore Foundation artist award 2020 and the Frieze Artist Award 2020. Whittle is currently a Research Associate at The University of Johannesburg.
Her creative practice is motivated by the desire to manifest self-compassion and collective care as key methods in battling anti-blackness. Oscillating between cutting humour and sensitive poetics her work ranges across media and across continents. Over 2021, Whittle will be sharing new work as part of Art Night London, British Art Show 9, Liverpool Biennial, Glasgow International and Right of Admission at the University of Johannesburg. She will also have a solo exhibition at Copperfield and will participate in exhibitions at Lisson Gallery, London; Viborg Kunstal, Denmark; AGO, Toronto; Tate Modern, London; and Kunstal Trondheim, Norway. In 2022 she will represent Scotland at the 59th Biennale di Venezia.
Through the activism arising from her practice, Alberta seeks to pose questions and unsettle people from their positions of privilege and passivity. Key themes in her work include anti-blackness, legacies of slavery and apartheid, the erasure of black people and people of colour in everyday society as well as precarity rooted in environmental deprivation. Whittle’s photo collages perform and re-perform rhythmic actions and inter-actions between history and the body. Her vision pulls to the surface gestures and responses at play and at work as 21st century Black folks bob and weave among the historical terrors of tomorrow and futuristic pleasures of the past. These collages create zones of inter-tidal perceptions and reflections where the immediate ingredients and historical antecedents of a moment become visible as they swirl into emergent, gestural patterns. (5)
Alberta Whittle, "between a whisper and a cry", 2019, video still. Courtesy of Alberta Whittle.
“...the idea that we might not be able to repair Earth, that we might not be able to repair the land or the sea, really haunts me. It really haunts me: when I spoke to people who were in the Bahamas or who had family there they spoke about (the lingering stench of death and the repeating loops of these traumas.)"
— Fernando Chaves Espinach, "I would like people to listen more": An interview with Alberta Whittle
The works in Business As Usual depict the need to manoeuvre as well as Whittle’s nimble skills at that playful and dreaded labour of manoeuvres, all in relation to ever-shifting contemporary terms of violence and captivity. In history as in daily life, often enough the only welcome messages from the racially subjected are exactly those most violently compelled. Whittle’s series in Business As Usual swaps out the historical for the galactical as the backdrop for our viewing and listening. Her Afro-futuristic ‘expanding spatiality’ in mind, as for example in Business as Usual, with its twin diamonds resting in twin palms. Diamonds, forever, so we are told: historically a key symbol of colonial economics in extractive capitalist design. Elsewhere, however, even – galactically speaking, quite nearby – in our own solar system, massive lightning strikes burn through frozen gases leaving clouds of carbon. Under pressures beyond earthly possibilities, these clouds release hailstorms of diamonds, which themselves ‘fall’ toward centres where, under pressures even more extreme, they’re emulsified into plasma-like substances.
Alberta Whittle’s playful and pressurised collages welcome and compel rhythms of repeated viewings, and listenings. In this tidalectic work our stories collide and combine into brackish images of ourselves and others. At times, and at their best, these works produce glimpses, moments when we’re other to – and therefore newly – ourselves. In such an insoluble solution, the substance – both practical and speculative – of what we can mean to each other itself becomes an ‘expanding spatiality’. (6)
Denise Bertschi, "Helvécia, Brazil", 2017, video still. Courtesy of Denise Bertschi.
Denise Bertschi (b. 1983) is an artist based in Switzerland. Her artistic research-based practice is reflected in video-installations, photographs and the format of publications. Building on the materials she collects, in archives and elsewhere, she develops her own forms of narrative, in which the documentary – traditionally understood as a pure representation of reality – begins to dissolve. Bertschi has been dedicating herself since several years to unmask Switzerland’s political neutrality as an impossible balancing act. Meanwhile, she examines how national identities were created through collective memories and cultural myths. Within this matrix she searches for that which is hidden, secret, overlooked or repressed, while presenting these detections in subtle works.
Denise Bertschi, "Helvécia, Brazil", 2017, HD video. Courtesy of Denise Bertschi.
Helvécia, Brazil, 2017
Originally three-channel-video installation
HD colour, with sound, loop, 20 minutes
Edition of 1 of 3
Denise Bertschi takes up historical events in her work to question Switzerland’s relationship to the world. She addresses invisibilization of Switzerland’s colonial history, with “colonialism without colonies“ and reflects on the concept of “neutrality as fiction“. The video installation Helvécia, Brazil (2017) was conceived in Helvécia, a village in the south of Bahia, which is today is an officially recognised “Quilombo”, a community of descendents of enslaved people.
The unusual name can be traced back to Swiss settler colonialism. The Helvécia plantation was originally part of a larger colony founded in 1818 by Swiss and Germans and called Leopoldina. After the forest had been cleared by the colonists, with forced labour of indigenous people, it quickly developed into one of the world’s largest coffee plantations. Switzerland also operated a consulate on the grounds of the colony. In its archives Bertschi has found documents relating to the possessions of the Swiss plantation owners, which also included African men and women who worked as slaves. In the video she documents the present-day situation in the town where no coffee has grown in a long time. Instead, the soil is exploited with fast-growing Eucalyptus crops. In this thoroughly transformed landscape, Bertschi goes looking for forgotten and suppressed stories. Inhabitants of Helvécia take her to sites of memory such as an overgrown cemetery or old fruit trees pointing to the Swiss plantation owners.
Denise Bertschi, "Helvécia, Brazil", 2017, video still. Courtesy of Denise Bertschi.
These historical traces are deeply intertwined with the land which they had inhabited and stories they had inscribed within. It could recall the “The Underside of the Landscape”,a short text where Michel Serres narrates: “Beautiful lacework made up of inert matter worked by the time of the living and the history of cultures, and whose sensory information – calls, diverse odors and colors – traverses the hundred folded tissue, the landscape, fragile, in disequilibrium beneath its tranquil serenity, is exposed to the risk of collapse. When two or three deep plates quake beneath it, the Earth seems to want to rid itself of this precarious and aerial interlacing like superfluous clothes, whose rags immediately tear and fall amid the organ rumbling of these shocks and their waves. So, beneath the appearances drawn with great difficulty, for millions of years, by the fauna and the flora, the peasants, the workers, the architects and the gardeners, but destroyed in an instant, the underside of the landscape, what it conceals and how it comports itself without humans can be seen: a veil is torn, a barrier crashes down, a boundary opens before a never seen reality, while the habitual condition of being blind and deaf ceases: a truth appears, which the planet, fundamentally naked, intentionally seeks to have be glimpsed. What to call the terrain discovered beneath these ruins and about which no one knows how to say, on that day of wrath and joy, whether it bears the end or the beginning of the world?” (7)
Installation view, Connor McNicholas, "Where Remote Futures Meet Remote Pasts", 2020. Courtesy of the artist and M23, New York.
Connor McNicholas (b. 1990, Oakland, New Jersey) holds an MFA from ICP-Bard, Queens, New York (2015) and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. McNicholas combines disparate objects and materials from varying times, cultures, and contexts into sculptural assemblages that present nonhierarchical ways for structuring reality. In his approach, McNicholas articulates both poetic variations and diversity while dissolving boundaries between binaries such as past and future, primitive and modern, natural and synthetic, and model and reality.
Hi recent works recall a need for the bonds, “his new materiality induced in his most recent works, McNicholas creates speculative environments from what is already around us. Through looping materialities, McNicholas enters into conversation with ecological and philosophical movements that challenge the life of the object and duration of the ephemeral in the ever-changing temporality of our world: now more than ever as we are not only considering our distance to the past and the future, but also to each other in the present. (8)
Installation view, "Sincere Intentions", Robert Grunenberg Gallery, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Grunenberg, Berlin. Photo © Nick Ash.
Tenki Hiramatsu (b. 1986, Wakayama, Japan) lives and works in Karlsruhe. His paintings interact with the viewer’s imagination. Eyes that become faces or animals merge into landscapes, which are formed from coloured fields and visible brushstrokes. Glowing and unsettled sceneries with creatures showing sharp pointed teeth and eyes ripped open bring us to comprehend wild environmental ecosystems we are part of. Our inseparable, although mostly unbalanced and exploitative human relation to these diverse biotopes is translated in Hiramatsu’s forms and colours which change constantly during the painting process, transforming into figures and vice versa. A balancing act between abstraction and figuration, between humour and tragedy. In a painting, a lie doesn’t matter much and becomes the truth with the process of viewing.
Hiramatsu’s paintings tell stories which are uneasy to capture and continue to shift constantly. His “Fever and new Sun” could also feel like a story of natural catastrophe – a firestorm on an imaginative lands. In it – two terrified and cartoonish entities face the triumph of nature which regained its power, allowing the forms of life can inhabit the planet. Tenki Hiramatsu studied at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künsten in Karlsruhe under Marcel van Eeden and Daniel Roth. His work has been exhibited at Kunsthalle Basel, Orgelfabrik Karlsruhe, Kunstverein Rastatt.
Carmen Kirkby (b. In 1996, London, UK) lives and works between London and Plymouth. She finished her BA in Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins in 2019. Kirkby is currently practicing in residence with the Acme Associate Studio Programme in London. Using practice as subtle reactions and comparisons to inhabitants of a metropolis, or quite places, against her own subjections, which are often informed from her journeying, or the idea of travel, and basis of walking, practice is given with trust in material to guide an articulate dialogue with herself, or converse shared with others.
Carmen Kirkby, "Recycled Histories", digital, 2019. © Carmen Kirkby.
Spatial negation, and the context of works, are also given with efforts to react to spaces of, and for exhibiting to an audience, the works trajectories, and the bodies of works relationship with these spaces, with an ease that does not disassociate an environment which a work can be given in. This is to draw further discussion to what practice attempts to subject with chosen materials. What’s more, the role of recognising a relationship to spaces of exhibition is also an action of displaying the artists recognition of previous traces which these spaces hold. These are shadows of traces imprinted as murmurs of precedence, becoming appropriated works of display themselves. Text may be at times, the most appropriate method for expressing observations of inhabited places and their qualities.
Installation view, Bent Van Looy, "The Vessel, The Jerk and the Edge of Reason", Super Dakota, Brussels, 2020.
Bent Van Looy (b. in 1976) lives and work in Antwerp, Van Looy studied painting at the St.Lucas in Ghent. He became well-known as a musician playing in bands such as Soulwax and Das Pop. He exhibited in institutions such as S.M.A.K. Ghent, BOZAR Brussels and galleries Sofie Van De Velde and +1 in Antwerp and Super Dakota, Brussels. Looking at the figures inhabiting the surfaces of his paintings we are reminded of Edgar Allan Poe’s visions, the Période Vache of Magritte or Walt Disney’s early movies. Throughout the practice Van Looy thoughtfully deploys hindsight, left in our time, to evoke a Disneyfied ersatz version of Romanticism.
“The Thrill is a journey into a sensual world of passionate connection, both real and remembered. It explores feelings arising from adolescence, desire and possibility. The woozy blots of the watercolours emphasise the fleeting fragility and fickle nature of the situation. We are forever shaped by thrills like these, bear their invisible scars and traces for the rest of ours lives."
— Bent Van Looy
Van Looy new series of watercolours broaden our perception of more personal attachments. The beauty of his watercolours resides in his ability to balance the weight of their fundamentals and the fragility of his subjects. The hodgepodge cast of seemingly naïve and impassive characters move in a world, much like ours, one which requires connection and resistance.
Bent Van Looy, photo by © Charlie de Keersmaecker
Headline image: Manthia Diawara, “Édouard Glissant: One World in Relation”, K’a Yéléma Productions, 2009, 48 min., film still. © Manthia Diawara.
(1) Brandy Butler, Yara Dulac Gisler, Deborah Joyce Holman and Sarah Owens, “A discussion on Blackness and the Arts in Switzerland”, ON CURATING, https://on-curating.org/issue-48-reader/sarah-owens-discussion.html#.YBwIQi2ZM0q
(2) Contemporary Art Trail, https://www.citycentrecontemporaryarttrail.co.uk/artworks/ArtWorkabout/1
(3) Raphael Gygax, “United BY AIDS” – Perspectives on Social, Creative, and Individual Responses to HIV/AIDS”, Publication, Migros Museum Zurich, 2019, p.239
(4) Paul B. Preciado, “An Apartment on Uranus, Chronicles of the Crossing”, 2019, p.46
(5-6) Ed Pavlić, “Alberta Whittle’s Tidalectic Visions”, Source Magazine
(7) Michel Serres, “The Underside of the Landscape”, 1989, p.57-62.
(8) Text by Emma Leigh Macdonald. Quotation: Donna Haraway, “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016).