Interconnection: On Bodies of Water
The exhibition called Interconnection: On Bodies of Water is the second output of the long-term project Islands: Possibilities of Togetherness launched in 2019 by Jindřich Chalupecký Society. Involving a number of partner organizations from various countries, the entire project revolves around issues of togetherness and mutual relations and bonds between individuals and collectives on a general level. The Interconnection exhibition held at the Swimming Pool focuses on aspects of coexistence and collectivity that go beyond the human level. The exhibition will thus employ a planetary, interspecies perspective which will interweave the entire Islands project, addressing themes such as sustainability, ecology, utopia vs dystopia, ethics, communication and symbiosis.
The main ideological foundation of the exhibition is constituted by ecofeminism and the ideas of hydrofeminism as currently elaborated by Astrida Neimanis, Australian theorist and researcher at Sydney Environment Institute, and author of the book Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (2017). Water, the basis of life, constitutes over 80% of the human body; the percentage being even higher in a number of animal and plant species. Water interconnects us with all organic and inorganic matter on this planet in constant circulation during which it goes in and out, blurring boundaries. As if each living creature, each cell was an island in an endless sea which inevitably links us all. The exhibition will thus focus on the motif of water as a condition for life, the motif of circulation and merging of life forms, the search for a non-human perspective which perceives the human as a part rather than the highest life form within our ecosystem.
The world we live in is changing. Scientific findings about the global warming of Earth’s climate, collected for dozens of years, are now joined by our immediate experience with unprecedented weather fluctuations here in Europe, which are no longer the subject of traditional polite conversations, rather becoming a disturbing topic for society-wide discussion. We fear extremes like torrential rain, floods, heat waves and drought. Water, the key factor for the existence of life on Earth, plays a crucial role in all these questions. However, the transformations of global systems consist not only in the now undeniable global warming (which is currently advancing at critical speed) but are fundamentally related to the rapid decrease in biodiversity (i.e. the massive disappearance of animal species) and unprecedented chemical-physical processes contributing to the overall pollution of ecosystems. All these interrelated processes are strongly stimulated by human activities and the current development is provably heading to a collapse that is most likely to endanger the very existence of human civilization.
While the Interconnection: Bodies of Water exhibition is loosely based on the knowledge of these facts, it does not aim to deepen environmental anxiety and grief, nor does it strive to preachingly wag a warning finger or immediately document the manifestations of the environmental crisis we are facing today. Our approach is rather subtle, loosely drawing on the ideas of ecofeminism and hydrofeminism, as currently developed by Astrida Neimanis, Australian theorist and researcher at Sydney Environment Institute, and author of the book Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (2017). The main axis of the exhibition is the idea of interconnectedness, with water serving as a metaphor for this interconnection. As Neimanis reminds us: water, which constitutes approximately 80% of our body, its proportion being even higher in a number of animal and plant species, links us to all organic and inorganic things on this planet in a constant cycle, going in and out, blurring boundaries. As if every living species, every cell was an island in an endless sea which inevitably connects us all. While this connection is factual-material, it also generates a basis for a specific notion of subjectivity. Neimanis, whose thinking falls within the broader current of today‘s posthumanism, accentuates literal fluidity, the fluidity of the individual. Flowing – into me, in me, through me – means becoming.
From this holistic perspective, we are never separate from each other. As John Donne poetically put it: “No man is an island (…) Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” However, in the concept of hydrofeminism, there is a mutual connection not only between people but also between other “bodies of water” including other organisms, rivers as well as global circulation systems. As Neimanis observes, while the total quantity of water on the planet is essentially constant, what changes is its distribution and quality; along with the quality of life. Water as such may still be here for thousands or millions of years. However, how long will our bodies be among the bodies of water?
Through visually outstanding and yet very distinct artworks, the Interconnection exhibition focuses on the motif of water as a condition of life, on the motif of the circulation, flow and merging of life forms, and figuratively on the search for an extra-human perspective which sees the human as a part of life rather than the highest life form in our ecosystem.
The Interconnection exhibition at the Swimming Pool gallery wants to bring attention to the level of coexistence and collectivity that is broader than the human one. Therefore, the exhibition takes a planetary, interspecies perspective which will run through the entire Islandsproject in themes like sustainability, ecology, utopia vs. dystopia, ethics, communication and symbiosis.
Catherine Biocca (*1984) graduated from the master’s programme under Georg Herold at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf and completed an additional two-year stay at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Her work is concerned with the possibility of generating a new reality with a critical reflection on violence and brutality while utilising a wide range of media and materials. In 2015, she participated in the Ural Biennial and won the 2015 Strabag Art Award.
Valko Chobanov (*1991) graduated from the scenography programme of the Academy of Music, Theatre and Dance Arts in Plovdiv. Currently, he is enrolled in the master’s degree programme in the Department of Digital Arts at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. His work spans painting, illustration, performance, new media and digital arts. He has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Bulgaria and in Europe.
Nona Inescu (*1991), based in Bucharest, Romania, completed her studies in 2016 at the National University of Arts in Bucharest at the Photography and Video Department, after studying at the Chelsea College of Art & Design in London and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In her interdisciplinary approach, which is concerned with the redefinition of the subject in posthumanism, she combines a variety of media, including photographs, objects, installations and video, with a distinctive interest in natural materials.
Maria Nalbantova (*1990, Sofia) earned her master’s degree in illustration from the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. She has also studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Universidad de Granada in Spain as part of her Erasmus exchange. In her practice of bookmaking and alternative printmaking, she combines narrative, image and space. Since 2017, she teaches illustration at the National School of Fine Arts (Sofia) and is currently nominated for the 2019 BAZA Award for Contemporary Art.
Jakub Nepraš (*1981) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague at the studios of New Media of Michael Bielický and Veronika Bromová, and at the Sculpture Studio of Aleš Veselý. In his work, he is preoccupied with the acquisition of scientific and philosophical knowledge and with the concepts that relate to the positions of individual organisms in a larger structure of nature and society. Since 2006, he has been part of the Trafačka studio and actively contributes to Trafo Gallery in Prague.
Petr Nikl (*1960) is a multidisciplinary artist who works in painting, performance, music and theatre to build a bridge between art fields. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in 1987 and won Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 1995. His work is highly influenced by research on social matters. After exhibiting at Rudolfinum Gallery in Prague in 2000, he participated in the Czech exposition at World Exposition in Aichi in 2005 and presented his exhibition Orbis Pictus at the Czech Centre in Paris in 2006.
Tabita Rezaire (*1989) is based in Cayenne, French Guyana and after receiving the Bachelor of Economics degree in France, she got the Master of Research in Artist Moving Image degree at Central Saint Martins in London. She is a founding member of the artist group NTU, half of the duo Malaxa and the mother of the energy house SENEB. In her work, spirituality and technology intersect and aim towards the possibility of connection, emancipation and the healing of the soul.
Karolína Rossí (*1983) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague at the Studio of Graphic Arts of Vladimír Kokolia. She spent one semester of her studies at École supérieure d'art d'Aix-en-Provence in France. Working with painting and media such as watercolour collages which extend into the domain of spatial installations, she explores the possibilities of imagination and contingencies of making through introspection. Currently, she exhibits in Czech independent galleries.
Pavel Sterec (*1985) has studied at several studios at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and received his PhD at the Studio of Photography at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He was a finalist of Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 2015 and 2011. His conceptual installations are based on his interests in myth and ritual, experienced through objects that challenge the social and political status quo. He has exhibited mainly in Central and Eastern Europe and took part in a number of international residencies.
Johana Střížková (*1984) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague at the studios of Miloš Šejn, Veronika Bromová and Jiří Příhoda. She attended the Cooper Union School of Art in New York for one semester. In 2013, she participated in the FONCA residency programme in Mexico City. She was a finalist of Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 2016. Currently, she exhibits primarily in Czech independent galleries and is recognised for the purity of her aesthetics and her concern for human embodiment and its surroundings.