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ALL ASSEMBLIES SHOULD BE TERRESTRIAL ASSEMBLIES

Thoughts on Floating University's most recent exhibition.

  • May 26 2021
  • Dalia Maini
    is a writer, editor and urban mermaid.

To experience the exhibition Terrestrial Assemblies in the best way is to abandon your city shoes, statements of functionality and absence of friction and put on the rubber boots provided by the structure. As each environment requires new navigational equipment, those of Floating University claim for a reassessment of borders between the artificial and the natural, meaning cultural beliefs. 

The unusual habitat of the exhibition is the third landscape of a low water basin, an area in which the vast ecosystem of animals, plants and algae co-develops with the human colony, and a collaborative interpretation of urbanism is pursued by the architecture of Floating University. A zone of negotiation between the regulated and the untamed, the site is enriched and reinterpreted by a new complex layer of meanings given by the site-specific artworks by Ana Alenso, Marco Barotti, Ines Doujak, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Han Seok Hyun, Folke Köbberling, Mischa Leinkauf, Santiago Sierra, Shira Wachsmann, and Clemens Wilhelm. The two curators Pauline Doutreluingne & Keumhwa Kim had assembled them in order to question the terrestrial gap between the omnipresent environmental issues of the Anthropocene, Capitalocene and experiments with hybridity, politics of crossing and naturecultural localization. 

Stepping inside the swamp, the first parameter to be negotiated is movement: the friction between the dense water and the rubber filter of the boots allows in a different  moisture. The visitor becomes part of the assembly itself, where human exceptionalism must be forgotten and new modes of entanglement shall be rehearsed. Clumsy, moving as if an amphibian, the human body glimpses the artworks well nested in specific niches, peacefully opening portals within the environment of possibilities. The first encounter is with Ines Doujak’s digital collage, Untitled (2014) a contemporary ode to the collapse of polarities between past and present, gender roles and environments, which unapologetically reveals the grotesqueness of fixed symbols. At the edge of the pond, hidden by the reeds sits a gigantic egg (The Egg, 2019), Marco Barotti’s work produces sound waves every time that according to the  Worldometer the world population increases because of a newborn or decreases due to another death. The frequencies, mostly undetectable by human ears, but crisping the biome around the sculpture, reflect on the complex impact of humanity on  Earth.  The swamp adventure continues toward Test Phase #5 In Process - Raw Wool in Sludge (2021) by Folke Köbberling, a terrarium which serves to test a traditional water system of filtration which employs raw wool as a speculative solution to our environmental problems. The muddy and densely inhabited water of the basin goes through layers of material in order to become clear. Co-dependent on the basin water is also Ana Alenso’s installation, Liquid Agreement (2021), a system of pipelines and pumps which explores the capacity of water to move through, transforms and dilutes multiple physical barriers, and which contamination is the result of cyclical exploitation. 

The malleability of water is performed by Han Seok Hyun’s My Head in the Clouds- Test Run (2021), which through sublimation tries to recreate the meteorological phenomenon of clouds, a reflection on human obsession of recreating, predicting and imprisoning nature.

Heading to where the rubber boots stop serving their primary function, and water soaks the socks, a tinier pond in the pond unfolds. It is Anne Duk Hee Jordan's Making Kin 2.1 (2020-2021) a living techno-ecosystem, which links up with multiple configurations of places, times, matters and meanings so that new life can be "composted" from the lootings of homos-aeconomicus. Inhabiting the “artificial pond” is Water Crab, a marine robotic being, which cleans human pollutants from the water with solar energy.

The archipelagic discourses intertwined by the installations continue on Floating University’s wooden platforms, which become stained by the visitors' wet footsteps. The moisture of the swamp is dried up while experiencing the video works by Clemens Wilhelm’s A Horse with Wheels (2017), Mischa Leinkauf's Fiction of a Non-Entry (2019) and Santiago Sierra’s Position exchange for two distinct, 30-metre volumes of earth from 2005, which is hidden in the shadowed auditorium room, and  by its positioning materializes and trespasses borders. Slightly removed from the constellation in an elevated tiny cabin the moving image of A Dream (2020) by Shira Wachsmann's focuses on vegetal memory and specifically on the Palestinian Sabra (cactus) and its various "incarnations" and symbologies throughout different time periods in Israel and Palestine:plants as landmarks of national borders. 

Terrestrial Assemblies is a successful example of human interference in an ecosystem which doesn’t need self-evident interconnections and artifacts in order to know its own nature. The show, happily discussing urgent, yet continuously omitted, matters of concerns, once again brings up to human perception the entanglements of things that are less sharply confined and hence much more complex. It is an exhibition which makes the visitor experience what it means to rethink a moving, inhabited and complex world, and it does so by creating a rhizome of interconnections, queering the space, and making humans feel uncomfortable in their own tools, interpretations and over sheltered skin. 


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