Thursday, October 15, 2020

Free Art E-book | Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century

Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century
Burcu Dogramaci, Mareike Hetschold, Laura Karp Lugo, Rachel Lee, and Helene Roth (eds)

Exile and migration played a critical role in the diffusion and development of modernism around the globe, yet have remained largely understudied phenomena within art historiography. Focusing on the intersections of exile, artistic practice, and urban space, this volume brings together contributions by international researchers committed to revising the historiography of modern art. It pays particular attention to metropolitan areas that were settled by migrant artists in the first half of the 20th century. These arrival cities became hubs of artistic activities and transcultural contact zones where ideas circulated, collaborations emerged, and concepts developed. Taking six major cities as a starting point — Bombay (now Mumbai), Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, New York, and Shanghai — the authors explore how urban topographies and landscapes were modified by exiled artists re-establishing their practices in these and other metropolises across the world. Questioning the established canon of Western modernism, Arrival Cities investigates how the migration of artists to different urban spaces impacted their work and the historiography of art. In doing so, it aims to encourage the discussion between scholars from different research fields, such as exile studies, art history, architectural history, design history, urban studies, and history.

Contributors: Brian Bockelman (Ripon College), Laura Bohnenblust (Universität Bern), Margarida Brito Alves (IHA-FCSH / Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Rafael Cardoso (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro), Katarzyna Cytlak (Centro de Estudios de los Mundos Eslavos y Chinos-Universidad Nacional de San Martín), Rachel Dickson (Ben Uri Gallery and Museum), Burcu Dogramaci (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Margit Franz (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz), Ya'ara Gil-Glazer (Tel-Hai Academic College), Mareike Hetschold (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Frauke Josenhans (Yale University Art Gallery), Daniela Kern (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul), Laura Karp Lugo (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Eduard Kögel (Independent scholar, Berlin), Giulia Lamoni (IHA-FCSH / Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Rachel Lee (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Sarah MacDougall (Ben Uri Gallery and Museum), Kathryn Milligan (University College Dublin), Partha Mitter (University of Sussex), Helene Roth (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Elana Shapira (Universität für Angewandte Kunst), Cristiana Tejo (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Joseph L. Underwood (Kent State University), Elvan Zabunyan (Université Rennes 2)

For more information about the authors, visit

Open Access ebook, ePDF 9789461663245, ePub 9789461663252
Paperback, € 55,00 / £49.00, ISBN 9789462702264, 15,6 x 23,4 cm, 438 p.

Buy the paperback edition 
Download the free ebook at OAPEN Library, JSTOR or Project Muse


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

7th Athens Biennale ECLIPSE | Spring 2021 | Athens, Greece

The 7th Athens Biennale ECLIPSE moves through serie sounds and fallen symbols, signaling the moment of transformation. What is to come?

Inspired by the constant state of uncertainty, AB7: ECLIPSE explores tomorrow’s potentialities through sonic and visual signs of the past, the present and the future, leading up to the exhibition’s opening in Spring 2021.

Full-moon soundscapes: A synesthetic experience

A series of soundscapes, functioning as a synesthetic link among the various AB7 concepts, introduce us to the exhibition’s forthcoming experience. Every full moon, the 7th Athens Biennale invites music and sound artists to cast their vision of ECLIPSE into a single mixtape, inspired by a thematic spectrum spanning from African music to the most mystical, experimental and electronic sounds.

In August full moon, Teranga Beat crosses 50 years of African music with Hybrid iD, a mixtape that reinstates primal vibrations and rhythms. In September, K.atou sends out Moon Frequencies, taking us through hollow beats and cosmic synths in a journey to all things invisible to the human eye. For October’s double full moon, the Waiting Room project grasps the sound of time interval and the differential subjective experiences inside it: GRΞΤΑ narrates the story of a memory lapse after an Avalanche, while on the last day of the month Ayshel follows up with her own sonic perception of this quasi-void period.

A digital platform for the omens of our daily life

Fleeting stimuli we come across everyday and trigger feelings οf tomorrow’s potentialities — scenarios of unspoken expectations, imminent dystopias and hopeful perspectives. A stray black cat, a ray of light in total darkness, a broken mirror, a writing on the wall; plain coincidences or callings of the forthcoming? Spotting and capturing the signs around us that give away different future contingencies, AB7: ECLIPSE invites us to jointly assemble the pieces of the obscure mosaic of our era.

As a call to be primarily unfolded through Instagram, ECLIPSEomens aspires to pivot our attention to long-ignored messages, lingering in our everyday routines, hidden in the photos we take, on our old albums, in our social media feeds.

Share your own omens with us, mentioning @athensbiennale on your Ιnstagram stories and using the #ECLIPSEomens on your Ιnstagram posts.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Topophilia | Edwin Monsalve | Galería Fernando Pradilla | Madrid, Spain

Galeria Fernando Pradilla starts its exhibition season with the show 'Topolia (Topophilia)', the new project of Colombian artist Edwin Monsalve (Medellín, 1994). It is his second exhibition in Spain and it opens simultaneously with APERTURA MADRID GALLERY WEEKEND, organized annually by the Arte Madrid Association.

The Topolia (Topophilia) project is framed within Monsalve’s research on contemporary nature and landscape iconography that the artist has been doing since the beginning of his career with projects such as Expedición/Extinción (Expedition/Extinction, 2008-2011), Naturaleza y articio (Nature and artice, 2012-2013), Prototipos para una naturaleza rehabilitada (Prototypes for a rehabilitated nature, 2013-2014), Sala de rehabilitación (Rehabilitation room, 2014), Naturaleza transmutada (Transmuted nature, 2014), La imposibilidad del paisaje (The impossibility of landscape, 2015), Narcissus (2016) y Geodesia (Geodesy, 2017-2018), among others. In all of them, Monsalve has aimed to expose the dichotomies that underlay in the reection of concepts such as space, territory, landscape, surroundings; transforming this conceptual material into aesthetic-preceptive constants that singularize his work and that translate his concerns on ecological, economic and political matters.

In reference to Topolia (Topophilia) Edwin Monsalve states: “Not only what is observed from a high standpoint is landscape. It is also the psychological spaces, of symbolic construction and that remain in the memory. Therefore, Topolia (Topophilia) is a sense statement, a particular way to evoke and transform the place into landscape.” This remark by the artist ts with his thesis that holds the mental construction of the landscape, a subjective product “that every observer constructs from sensations and perceptions that it apprehends during the contemplation of a place, whether its rural or urban. Thus, from a cultural standpoint, landscape is not nature, not even the physical medium that surrounds us or where we stand, but an intellectual construct that we make through certain cultural phenomena. In the same manner that landscape is not nature nor territory, the ‘urban landscape’ is not the city, norany of its signicant landmarks, but the image that exudes from it, whether its individual or collective.”

With these presuppositions Edwin Monsalve proposes a treatment of landscape that subverts the scenographic, romantic, exotic or sublime visions that have permeated the notions of this genre in art history, introducing a cultural dimension that transcends the topical idea of a geographic representation, to become an expanded concept that includes sociological, political subjective and emotional aspects; into reective looks on the way that mankind connects with the spaces that inhabits and transforms.

For Edwin Monsalve the categories being and to be converge in Topolia (Topophilia); a term “that speaks about the affection to certain places in life, to those spaces that have been ours and have allowed us to remain. Something like the nostalgic notion that brings us the idea of landscape to our memories, and that have been the goal of my investigations.”

The exhibition Topolia (Topophilia) includes various canvases of medium and large format, as well as an installation made from acrylic cubes over wood pallets. Graphite, mineral charcoal, gold and copper leaf are once more the materials that Monsalve uses to construct the abstractions of his landscapes. An innate explorer, the artist discovers a different way to look and reect each time on that house that we have “transformed into place, into landscape,
into art.”

Edwin Monsalve lives and works in Medellin. In 2017 he was awarded with the EFG Latin American Acquisition Award in association with ArtNexus, one of the most relevant prizes in visual art support for contemporary Latin American artists. His work has been exhibited in different Colombian museums, galleries and institutions, among which we must highlight the el Museo de Arte del Banco de la República (Bank of the Republic Museum) in Bogota, el Museo de Antioquia (Antioquia Museum) in Medellín, the Gilberto Alzate Avendaño Foundation in Bogota, where he presented his site specic project Narcissus, which won the 4th edition of the Plastic and Visual Arts Biennial Award. In 2020 he was invited by the curator Juan Canela to make a solo Project at the ZONA MACO SUR 2020 Art Fair, presenting the project Estructuras de poder (Power structures, 2019 – 2020). Currently he is a professor at the Antioquia University and the Fundación Universitaria Bellas Artes.

Topolia (Topophilia)
10/09/2020 - 17/10/2020

Galería Fernando Pradilla
Calle Claudio Coello, 20  
Madrid, Spain, Europe

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Monday, October 12, 2020

As above so below | Raquel Bautista & Alba Mayol | Tangent Projects | L'Hospitalet, Catalonia

The second hermetic law of alchemy, as above so below, seeks to evidence a dialectical, choral and polyphonic exchange between various potential states that any entity can have. There are material, esoteric, and mesoteric semblances, echoes and mirrorings that resonate just as metaphors resonate with their subject of interest. Thousands of mutants and cyborgs reside between the upper and lower strata of existence and perception; products of fiction and fusion. This in-between is constituted by a simulacrum that seems like but is not, that disobeys any fixed anchorage in veracity. Either but neither. This seemingly paradoxical phenomenon is what generates a very peculiar dizziness: an existential horror towards the ambiguous, indeterminate, inverted, what it reminds us of but is not.

We are thus faced with what is called Postmodern Vertigo, a panic, a dislocation of the senses and of the very structure that sustains our reality. It is not a rejection of reality or its existence, nor a denial of our existence as subjects. It is, rather, a questioning of the substratum we understand as truth and of the adjacent simulacrum that develops in the mind while perceiving and grasping what surrounds us. In this attack of vertigo, of Sartrean nausea, everything seems a fabrication to fill a perceptual and structural void in a reality too perfect to be true. In this way we propose an unfolding, a transfer of strata, perception and vision; a vertigo that turns things upside down, generating an altered, mutated and strange familiarity.

Raquel Bautista Useros

Raquel has lived in Barcelona since she began her studies in Arts and Design at the Escola Massana, which was later complemented by those in Art History (Universitat de Barcelona). In these years she has developed an investigation practice that could be described as an epistemological drift: What is set in motion in the hand, the eye and the word when we are faced with the unknown? Her practice becomes a kind of reclamation for images and stories as the sole way to condense, for a second, the uncertainties that arise from any certainty about this world.

Her projects, intertwining the visual, the performative and the installation, have so far been shown in group exhibitions in Barcelona (Centrifugacions III, Escola Massana), Cergy (Por Au Feu 3, ENSAPC) and Moscow (Innovative Costumes of XXI Century, Bakhrushin Theater Museum). She has been invited to participate in the recently created Proyecto Pardito residence in the Alcudia Valley.

Meanwhile, she is developing editorial research projects under the collective Luftmeer, which was born as a space for the reflection of visual and graphic manifestations as "visible thought".

Alba Mayol Curci

Graduated in English Studies from the University of Barcelona and MA in Aesthetics and Theory of Contemporary Art from the Autonomous University of Barcelona - Fundació Joan Miró, she obtains a postgraduate degree in Visual Culture from the University of Barcelona, and studies photography at Central Saint Martins College and translation at the AUB. 

She participates in workshops and seminars with Dora García, Gayatri Spivak and others, on psychoanalysis, feminism and deconstruction. She begins to work with text, drawing and photography out of an interest in marginal practices and techniques, and against the grain of received academic discourses on literature and visuality. From this point she moves towards a link with political contexts, to explore the possibilities of approaching the concept of militancy or activism from the areas of subjectivity. 

She exhibits and develops projects at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Bòlit Center d’Art Contemporani, Can Felipa Arts Visuals, Eastern Bloc Montreal, Arts Santa Mònica, Museu Abelló, Sala d’Art Jove, Fabra i Coats, among others. She has simultaneously worked in the Cooperativa General Humana project, on the possibilities of dissecting theatre as a bourgeois genre, interrelating installation, action and performance with video-art. Projects have been presented at, among others, Hamaca-Museo Reina Sofía, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Madrid Escena Contemporánea, Fokus Videoart Festival Copenhagen and Loop Videoart Festival. She has published writings in a number of specialized media such as A*Desk, Unlikely Journal for Creative Arts, Graf and L’Espill Universitat de València.

Margot Cuevas & Gabriel Virgilio Luciani

Using as a conceptual framework the affective-corporal relationships between humanity and technology, Gabriel and Margot’s practices revolve around and through the emotional structures of semiotics and its somatic articulations - such as shedding light on the invisible structures of biopolitics that govern us, making them visible through theory and poetry. Their approach is emphasized by atmospheres and affective climates, using these as an expository approach to reflect our generational, emotional and relational inquiries.

As above so below
Raquel Baustista Useros & Alba Mayol Curci 

October 16th - November 13th 2020
Curated by Margot Cuevas & Gabriel Virgilio Luciani

Tangent Projects gallery
L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Catalonia, Europe

Opening reception Friday, October 16th from 18:00.

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Tàpies at 30 | Fundació Antoni Tàpies | Barcelona, Catalonia

This exhibition is part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. It focuses on the period 1953–63, when Tàpies was in his thirties. These were decisive years in the evolution of the artist’s work and its reception for three reasons. Firstly, from 1954 he discovered his own language through which he would achieve artistic maturity. Secondly, it was from this time that he achieved international resonance and recognition in the form of awards and participation in competitions and exhibitions, both in Europe and the United States. Thirdly, he refused to be exploited by the Franco regime, which at this time sought to use modern art to present a more liberal image of itself before the international community. 

In 1953, Tàpies left behind the influences of Surrealism and the social line his work had previously taken: he experimented with pure colours and contrasts between tones, with elementary shapes and lines. He also began experimenting with texture, which was to prove especially relevant to the subsequent evolution of his work. Tàpies used tarlatan, fabrics and cardboard on the surface of his paintings; he made stains with solvents or materials that don’t mix, such as oil with gouache or acrylic; he scraped the varnish, overlaid transparent forms, and covered the support with thick layers of matter, including the use of earth for the first time. Influenced by the evocative powers of music, Tàpies also tried to make his painting suggest emotions and moods.

In 1954, this research led him to accentuate the material quality of the paintings. Tàpies used all sorts of elements – such as sand, coloured earth, whitewash, marble dust, hair, thread, rags, paper – and the textures became more evident. His colours favoured the earthy and grey range, while his paintings took on the characteristic wall-like appearance of his mature work.

This interest in materials was part of a widespread focus on matter, which, after the Second World War, was shared by artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Experimentation with materials allowed him to evoke reality, not through the kind of a naturalism that relies on the artist’s ability to represent, but utilising the suggestive force of matter itself, either through textures, or the use of outlines or other shapes in the painting. The images that emerged in his work became more iconographic from 1965 onwards, when he began to title some paintings with the formula ‘matter in the form of’, e.g., Matèria en forma de peu, Matèria en forma d’aixella. 

1953 was an important year, marking the entry of Tàpies’ career onto the post-Second World War international circuit. That same year he received an award at the II Bienal de São Paulo and, above all, had his first two exhibitions in the United States: at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, and the Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (Martha Jackson also offered to represent him in the United States). The paintings he showed were from 1948 to 1951, and therefore did not reflect the change that was taking place in his most recent work. Despite the poor response to the exhibitions, his trip to New York allowed him to encounter American Abstract Expressionism in situ and to see works by artists such as Tobey, Pollock, Kline, De Kooning and Motherwell.

Fundació Antoni Tàpies exhibition 'Tàpies at 30', Barcelona, Catalonia.

Two years later he exhibited his matter paintings for the first time, to great critical acclaim. First in Paris, as part of the collective exhibition Phases de l’art contemporain, organised by the poet and art critic Édouard Jaguer at the Galerie Raymond Creuze. And later in Barcelona, at the III Bienal Hispanoamericana de Arte, where he was awarded a prize by the Republic of Colombia. In Paris, he met the French art critic Michel Tapié, a theoretical exponent of Informalism and a very influential figure in contemporary Parisian artistic circles. Interested in his work, Tapié invited him to join the Galerie Stadler, which was about to open in Paris.

It was in this gallery in 1956 that Tàpies had his first solo exhibition in the French capital. Featuring exclusively his matter paintings, the show proved a great success with both public and critics. For a little while longer, Paris remained the capital of the avant-garde. Tàpies signed a contract with Rodolphe Stadler that offered him continuity and a certain degree of economic stability. Martha Jackson, on the other hand, was reluctant to show Tàpies’ recent work, and although she exhibited it in 1957, it was not until 1959 that she fully accepted the artist’s new language. 

This change of heart was due to the successes Tàpies achieved in 1958. On the one hand, he received the first prize from the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh with an all-star jury: Marcel Duchamp, Lionello Venturi, Raoul Ubac and the Americans James Johnson Sweeney, Mary Callery and the famous B-movie actor and important contemporary art collector, Vincent Price. In the same year, he presented fifteen works in the Spanish Pavilion of the XXIX Biennale di Venezia, where he won the UNESCO Prize and the David Bright Foundation Award.

From then on, his works travelled increasingly around Europe and the United States: he participated in the II Documenta in Kassel (which in 1959 was devoted to abstract art) and in the inaugural exhibition of the Guggenheim Museum in New York; and had solo exhibitions in, among other places, Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Eindhoven, Essen, Munich, Washington DC and Buenos Aires… In 1962, the first retrospective exhibitions of his work took place in Germany, the United States and Switzerland: at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, curated by Werner Schmalenbach, an exhibition that toured to the Kunsthaus, Zurich; and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, curated by Thomas Messer. By 1963, when Tàpies reached 40, his work was consolidated and he had established an international reputation. On moving into his new studio-house designed by J.A. Coderch, he finally fulfilled his dream of a ‘true’ studio where he could work more comfortably on the large format paintings that he had begun making in recent years.

In the context of the Cold War, Franco’s Spain was an interesting proposition for the anti-communist bloc. In 1953, Spain and the United States reached a military and economic agreement in exchange for military bases, which, together with the concordat signed with the Vatican that same year, signalled the beginning of Spain’s emergence from diplomatic isolation. The inclusion of Barcelona in the tour of the influential exhibition of modern American art from the MoMA collection, incorporated into the III Bienal Hispanoamericana de Arte in 1955, was made possible thanks to the bilateral relations between the two countries. In its official position, the Spanish regime began to accept modern art, though only in an attempt to appear more liberal to Western democracies.

In the context of the Cold War, Franco’s Spain was an interesting proposition for the anti-communist bloc. In 1953, Spain and the United States reached a military and economic agreement in exchange for military bases, which, together with the concordat signed with the Vatican that same year, signalled the beginning of Spain’s emergence from diplomatic isolation. The inclusion of Barcelona in the tour of the influential exhibition of modern American art from the MoMA collection, incorporated into the III Bienal Hispanoamericana de Arte in 1955, was made possible thanks to the bilateral relations between the two countries. In its official position, the Spanish regime began to accept modern art, though only in an attempt to appear more liberal to Western democracies.

Persevering in the strategic attempt to offer an image of modernity that suggested things were changing in Spain, in 1958 Luis González Robles, an experienced professional in both artistic and political circles, was commissioned to curate the Spanish Pavilion of the XXIX Biennale di Venezia. González Robles had the good sense to choose artists that best suited current international trends, and offered each an individual space. The success of the Pavilion was unquestionable. However, Spain remained a dictatorship, as some critics in the international press made clear. The situation troubled many artists, including Manolo Millares, Antonio Saura and Tàpies himself, who, feeling used, decided to play no further part in exhibitions organised by the regime.

For this reason, in 1959 Tàpies refused to participate in the exhibition 13 peintres espagnols actuels organised by the Spanish government at the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, and in 1960 in the exhibition New Spanish Painting and Sculpture to be held at MoMA, New York. However, Tàpies did finally participate in the latter exhibition because, in a strategy designed to overcome the reluctance of certain artists to collaborate in exhibitions organised by the Spanish government, the coordination of the exhibition and the selection of works was put in the hands of the museum staff. In 1962, the Tate Gallery, London, co-organised the exhibition Modern Spanish Painting with the Spanish government. Against the will of the artist, who refused to participate, a collector from Barcelona lent three paintings to the exhibition. Tàpies opposed this by evoking the intellectual property law giving artists rights over the public exhibition of their work, and won the case in court in 1963. On this occasion, he also took the opportunity to make some anti-Franco and pro-Catalan statements in the English weekly newspaper The Observer.

Antoni Tàpies with Martha Jackson (right side)


Antoni Tàpies’ first artistic attempts began during a long convalescence following a serious illness, after which his increasing dedication to painting and drawing led him to abandon his university education. By the 1940s, he was already exhibiting work that distinguished him among the artistic scene of the moment. Co-founder of the magazine Dau al Set in 1948, and influenced by Miró and Klee, he became increasingly interested in iconographic and magical subjects. He gradually began to incorporate geometrical elements and colour studies leading to an interest in matter through the use of heavily textured canvases of great expressive and communicative possibilities.

With these works, Tàpies achieved international recognition by the mid-1950s. In the 1960s, he began incorporating new iconographic elements (writing, signs, anthropomorphic elements, footprints and references to the Catalan situation), and new technical methods (new surfaces, use of everyday objects and varnish). Tàpies’ pictorial language has continued to develop ever since, resulting in a creative and productive body of work that is admired throughout the world.

He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Serpentine and Hayward Galleries, London; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Kunstahaus, Zurich: the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Jeu de Paume and the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia; and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, among many other prestigious institutions.

In parallel to his artistic production, Tàpies is also the author of numerous publications: La pràctica de l’art (1970), L’art contra l’estètica (1974), Memòria personal (1977), La realitat com a art (1982), Per un art modern i progressista (1985), Valor de l’art (1993) and L’art i els seus llocs (1999).

Antoni Tàpies created the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in 1984 with the aim of promoting the study and knowledge of contemporary art, paying special attention to art’s role in forming the conscience of modern man.

Tàpies at 30
From October 3, 2020 to June 6, 2021

Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Barcelona, Catalonia

Curator: Núria Homs

Opening: October 2, 2020, from 6pm. 
Registration is required on the website.

Photography: Antoni Tàpies. El crit. Groc i violeta (1953). Fundació Antoni Tàpies.


Nicolas Sassoon | Galerie Charlot | Paris, France

Since Plato’s 'Myth of the Cave', the «underground» has been the locus of many narratives: in the literary tradition of the West, subterranean environments have functioned as a mental landscape, a social terrain, an ideological roadmap, and a place for hidden realities to dwell. The reasons for going underground can be manifold: a quest for scientific truth, for technological power, for aesthetic inspiration, or an attempt to escape some natural and ecological disaster. Most of the time, those who venture into subterranean realms are both time travellers and spiritual pilgrims. They plunge below the surface of material reality on a quest for the truth that lies hidden below. Going underground means to cross a threshold, to step from light into darkness, and vice versa, physically and metaphorically. In our technologically mediated world, media infrastructures determine what is visible and what is invisible. Despite the current semantic obfuscation (a tale of virtual, dematerialized worlds that exist “on the cloud”), the materiality of information technology is deeply rooted in the soil and the underground, by way of the nonorganic components (rare earth minerals, metals, chemicals) that are so essential to media devices, as Jussi Parikka has shown in his book, A Geology of Media, 2015. 

As a parallel effect, controlling what is given to us as real, what can be represented, known, discussed, has become exponentially easier. As Hal Foster has reminded in his latest work, What Comes After Farce, 2020, a new form of epistemology is on the rise today: « agnotology, or the analysis of “how it is that we do not know,» or better, how we are prevented from knowing ». This seems particularly true of the ecological and environmental domain. Nicolas Sassoon’s approach to the underground, and to some realities that are “submerged”, both in geological and social terms, follows in the wake of Félix Guattari’s intuition: that we need to think of ecology not only in terms of nature but, at the same time, from the standpoint of subjectivity and social relations. In the exhibition Subterranea, three of Nicolas Sassoon’s latest projects are presented: The Prophets, CORES (in collaboration with Rick Silva) and INDEX, AVENUE, SKYLIGHT. The Prophets, a series of sculptures, is an assemblage of organic, non-organic and electronical components. These aggregates become an interface, a gateway to a «seismogenic process» (Gregory Bateson): the emergence of a new organism splitting from an older one - a playfield for poetry and the unconscious. A prophet or a prophetess do not foresee the future: they «see» what is written in the present, they shed light upon it, and attune themselves to the stream of becoming. The artist makes visible the vitality and memory of matter and the living energies embedded in material formations, in a throwback to Roger Caillois’s Writing of Stones (1970) and its vision of the hylomorphic power of minerals, as well as their archival status as visual media. 

In the spirit of Callois’s “diagonal sciences”, a form of transdisciplinary knowledge in which invisible, subterranean relations have to be unearthed in order for a more complex image of the universe to emerge, Nicolas Sassoon and Rick Silva have created the series CORES. Radically altered and inhabited by an array of abstract patterns, this series of 3D-scanned and rendered stones are masterfully catalogued by Elise Hunchuck and Jussi Parikka. Following forensic, idiosyncratic and mnemonic approaches in his project INDEX, AVENUE, SKYLIGHT, Nicolas Sassoon reconstructs 3 underground venues from Vancouver BC Canada through black and white pixelated animations. A multitude of details, textures, and imaginary figures, described by Nora O Murchú, give life to 3 environments animated by a hidden energy, not unlike what Jane Bennet has called « Thing-Power »: the quaint ability of ordinary, man-made items to exceed their status as mere objects to manifest traces of independence or aliveness (Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, 2009). 

No human figures seem to appear in Nicolas Sassoon’s large-scale animations: just an occluded reality revealed through a process of materialisation and mediatisation of a vital and vibrant matter. The theorists of material vitalism have repeatedly stressed that humans are also nonhuman, as they are made up of material parts (the minerality of our bones, or the metal in our blood, or the electricity in our neurons), and that things, too, are players in the world. Matter is an “actant”, Bruno Latour’s term for a source of action, an agency that can be human or non-human, or a combination of both. Now that our species wields geological force, as the theories of the «Anthropocene» have proved, the goal would be to enhance our receptivity to the impersonal life that surrounds us, and to elicit a more subtle awareness of the complex web of hidden connections that exists between bodies and things, ultimately enabling a deeper awareness of the political ecology we inhabit. 

Valentina Peri, 2020

A booklet with texts by Elise Hunchuck & Jussi Parikka, Nora O Murchú, Valentina Peri and Nicolas Sassoon accompanies the exhibition. Editions Galerie Charlot.

Nicolas Sassoon
Galerie Charlot
Paris, France