'Over and over and over' we become | Exhibition
Kristine White, Three Ecologies, 2023
7 – 9:00 pm CEST
This exhibition is part
of SEA Foundations’ longer-term
research of art and sustainability
fold #06 on Reimagining
Text by Michaela Davidova
‘Over and over and over’ we become is a group exhibition exploring the humanature relationships as synergetic, interdependent and crafted through the process of making as well as language. It encourages the viewer to reimagine ways of relating. ‘Over and over and over’ is a passage borrowed from a text written by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a Mississauga Nishnaabeg writer, who explains that many stories have already been told and therefore, the new erupts in repetition; if we are willing to tune in.
The group exhibition at SEA Foundation is presenting the work of artists in residence Kristine White and Alberto Maggini, together with the artwork of Cecilia Casabona, an Italian artist based in the Netherlands who was invited to join the exhibition. The show is closing our currently researched fold VI. on reimagining.
Kristine White’s practice is often made in collaboration via theatre and stage design, with puppetry and shadow play. This interactive way of working is based on the ongoing process of communication and socialising with people. During her residency at SEA Foundation, White turns her focus to the self and questions if the artistic practice is ever made in solitude. Although her artworks are made by her hands, the complicated web of relations gets involved spanning from materials formed in the Earth’s crust, or labour delivered around the Globe to multiple actions that might stay obscured to us during a day in our life. The self is never living and working alone but is deeply interdependent.
To identify one’s self in the complex world, however, does not only require the acknowledgement of worldly entanglements, but also calls for subjectivity (not being confused with individuality) that allows all those intertwined to express (or conceal) themselves in the diversity. In her research, White refers to Three Ecologies (1989) written by Félix Guattari who expands the notion of ecology from environmental to social and mental. Because the latter two are also prone to degradation, they must be taken care of as part of the environment. According to Guattari, human subjectivity is always realised in relation and he highlights the processes of subjectification above the subject. We might think that ecology is not composed of things but it is rather the thinging of things.
Kristine White wants to emphasise the three relational ecologies through the process of making. For the exhibition at SEA Foundation, she creates 3 textile banners embroidered with symbols manifesting each ecology. These are depicted as Rhizoms reminding us of the network of physical matter, the Hand as an open gesture that gives and receives, and the most peculiar one is a Book and the snails sitting on a person’s tongue which expresses the slowness, and the mental reconciliation. However, one might also consider the physical likenesses of snails and tongues (perhaps the mouth is a tongue’s shell). Or we can speculate over the particular placement of snails in the mouth thus thinking of connections between the way the animal and human expresses themself through language (regardless of whether such language is understood via words or senses).
Along these lines, the process of making and thinking goes hand in hand as the embroidering practice is reclaiming the wasted cutouts of fabric into something tactile and meaningful. The repetition of symbols, materials, stitches, and stories takes a significant place in White’s process. She is, after all, not aiming to imagine new ideas. Instead, she is sharing a quote from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: “All the stories have always already been told. You just tell the same ones over and over and over and eventually, if you are patient, something you forgot breaks through.” (Betasamosake Simpson, 2022, p. 82).
Kristine White residency
Similarly, as in his previous works e.g. Same as our tongues we are melting with the landscape (2022), Maggini encourages us to unlearn the body and deconstruct it into parts to become anew in metamorphosis. This process of transformation is needed in order to recontextualise the humanature relationship which is until now, in Western logic, placing a human figure in the centre only on the backdrop of nature.
For his work at SEA Foundation, Alberto Maggini takes inspiration from female whiptail lizard species which are known to procreate without the need for the male sex. Like Doris Lessing in her novel The Cleft, Maggini gives importance to the rise of a matriarch. While Lessing is concerned with re-creating the mythology by presenting a woman as the first human, Maggini aims to queer the human and narrate the person who synergizes with nature. He reimagines human re-creation through the synthesis of a woman and a lizard. This utopian eco-fabulating allows him to rupture established normative codes and binaries that are used to identify us.
Although the lizards create offspring through the parthenogenetic process – their chromosomes are cloned and thus their embryos are not developed via fertilisation – each new lizard stays genetically very different. Also, Maggini avoids homogeneity and seeks a new species liberated in diversity. Exploring the queerness within our inner selves is, according to him, a step toward alternative futures in which “our true selves are realised fully and are free from the confinement of patriarchy and prejudice.”
To achieve this process of transformation and to explore identity-making, Maggini is recreating traditional Italian items and symbols of desire and femininity such as tablecloths and laces. Together with artist Giulia Cauti, he made bio-based second skin and he is incorporating the botanical knowledge acquired during his studies of natural sciences. However, in his artworks, Maggini does not categorise the plant beings but reframes the human beings instead – as becoming part of an extending Earthly body.
Alberto Maggini residency
Language as an apparatus
Interdisciplinary research designer, Cecilia Casabona, is interested in rethinking the way humans (co)habit the world – even with critters other than themselves. The work she is showing at SEA Foundation is a short film called How a plant comes to plant (2021). The film incorporates the methods of participatory performance and mediates a relation between an artist and a houseplant. The plant that is originating from Tanzania was named by a German botanist and now it can be purchased in almost any Dutch supermarket. Casabona is following up on Karen Barad’s term posthuman performativity which states that nature is not a product of cultural performance, in contrast, it is an active agent which is untranslatable via language.
Here comes the dilemma of an artist, who finds herself accompanied in the world by the world itself. And as it is not up to humans to know what the world is, Casabona contemplates asking plants because they are the world. However, knowing the answer is not there to be heard yet. Casabona is then figuring out the origin of her name and the name of her plant and how these categorise them. She asks questions such as What effect does a name have on perceiving the other? or How does the perception of the other change with the change of a name? or What if one becomes a plant through language? Since humans use language as an apparatus to classify the world around them, there must be a way the world communicates too.
As well as to Karen Barad (2003), Casabona is referring to Carlo Rovelli and his book Helgoland: Making sense of the quantum revolution (2020), who both find it necessary to understand objects not as objects in themselves but rather through intra-action with others. The phenomena which the artist studies is thus the act of relating which she learns and unlearns over and over and over.
Cecilia Casabona website