Release of 15.02.2022
TBA21–Academy presents two new commissions by South Africa-born Dineo Seshee Bopape and Portuguese-born Diana Policarpo for the 2022 exhibition program at Ocean Space in Venice. The two solo exhibitions are independent, and yet, they are connected by many common threads. As part of the two-year exhibition cycle The Soul Expanding Ocean curated by Chus Martínez, both commissions give voice and presence to the Ocean as a repository of colonial histories where storylines interconnect past, present and futures. Stories are told by microorganisms and algae and their coexistence ever since the early stages of evolution, rocks, voices, images in movement like the waves, and the earth that holds the memory and the substance of past actions that damaged life in many ways. Both installations are guiding an experience that asks you to come to terms with breaking off the taxidermic separation that disjoints nature and culture, culture and myth, science and belief.
The commissions coincide with the 59th International Art Biennale, the first art edition in Venice in three years since the beginning of the pandemic. TBA21–Academy’s program proposes a systemic understanding of nature's structures and cycles in relation to art and culture and aims to reclaim space for speculative thinking about our ecological future.
The Soul Expanding Ocean #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape
Ocean! What if no change is your desperate mission?
Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work begins with a journey to the Solomon Islands, and from there she moves on to plantations on the Mississippi, to Jamaica, and then back home to South Africa. Travel becomes a language that allows timelines to converge and intersect in the space of waters, a revisit to ‘dogs that are not asleep’. Bopape’s approach merges magical inquiry, historical curiosity, traditional wisdom, a sense of/for illusions, imagination and hope in order to create an operation on the post-post-colonial agency in conversation with the Ocean (being).
The commission is a further step in her practice towards the marriage of the earth and the memory of the Ocean. The rocks Bopape uses in her practice are teaching us to understand that ancient, mythical times are not of the past, since the times of oppression and the colonial are still not of the past, destruction and exploitation of resources are still not of the past. The semiotics of the ‘ghost’ slave ship embedded in the Ocean are conceived as an opening through a complex juxtaposition of artistic materials and language, an opportunity to enchant (and de/re-thread) contemporaneous life, and aid towards its tender transformation. For Bopape, the unseen – as in the spirits and energies moving actions and connecting us with the environment around us – is central to her video and augmented reality works activating a multifarious presence.
Bopape was part of the second voyage to the Solomon Islands organised by TBA21–Academy with the exhibition curator and Leader of The Current II fellowship program, Chus Martínez. Bopape’s experience of the Ocean in the Solomon Islands opened immersive ways to form connections between this new sensorial experience, the ancestors, slavery routes, and a practice capable of touching the audience the same way the spirits of the Ocean touched her. The commission is also informed by a research residency at Alligator Head Foundation, a Jamaican-based marine conservation foundation initiated by TBA21–Academy; managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary and focusing on the intersection of science, art and community.
‘Imagine a seascape of heavy rain, in the Solomon Islands. You were out swimming and all of a sudden you are showered in raindrops falling down, so dense, so powerful as you never experienced before. You go a little bit under the water to seek shelter. Funny, who would have told you that you could submerge in water to have a roof…! With your nose afloat, your eyes witness the millions of drops creating a pattern on the surface of the Ocean. Those patterns are beautiful and yet, you suddenly recall them as marks on the skin left by wounds. Millions of lives have been scarred, touched by weapons, have experienced unthinkable pain, have been thrown into the Ocean and died.’ - Chus Martínez
TBA21–Academy and Pirelli HangarBicocca have co-produced one of the works in the exhibition. Pirelli HangarBicocca will present a solo exhibition by Dineo Seshee Bopape, co-curated by Lucia Aspesi and Fiammetta Griccioli, from 6 October 2022 to 29 January 2023.
The Soul Expanding Ocean #4: Diana Policarpo
For her newly commissioned work at Ocean Space, Diana Policarpo is developing a multimedia installation, using film and audio to enhance a certain sense of presence while capturing her own research process. Taking her point of departure from a research trip to the Portuguese administered Ilhas Selvagens (Savage Islands) in the North Atlantic Ocean, Policarpo creates a case study of mapping colonial histories through tracking natural biodiversity.
With their technological lenses, cameras can see layers of life activity that human eyes cannot. Embedded in the very substance of the installations, these films become another sculptural material and, as such, they have the same function: to create a dramaturgy where we understand that science is implicated in colonial processes and entangled in power relations. While microorganisms have formed part of myths since ancient times and storytelling has a filmic quality, one could say that in both installations the camera is closer to a mouth that tells than to an eye that records.
This new work marks a jump in scale and ambition to constitute Policarpo’s biggest sculptural installation to date, giving the artist an opportunity to unfold her artistic vocabulary in full. In her treatment of sculpture, transparency and fluidity play a key political and aesthetic role. She wants our bodily experiences being affected and transformed; these experiences becoming a liquid substance similar to water and able to respond to the settings created by the artist. The materiality of the artworks contributes to a feeling of being inside the Ocean and thinking from within.
'Our eyes become lenses, we see like a microscope, we see like a camera recording the depths of the seas, we see like a drone. Diana Policarpo plays with our physical presence in space to render visible the many ways the Ocean makes sense to life. The installation is an island, a wild island, untouched by humans.' - Chus Martínez
Co-produced by TBA21–Academy and Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian, in collaboration with Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência.
Note to Editors
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Dineo Seshee Bopape was born in 1981 CE (Gregorian calendar), 1974 in the Ethiopian calendar, the year of the golden rooster, on a Sunday. If she were Ghanaian, her name would be akosua/akos for short. During the same year of her birth, there were perhaps 22 recorded Atlantic Ocean hurricanes and 4 Indian Ocean cyclones close to Mozambique. Umkhonto We Sizwe performs numerous underground assaults against the apartheid state. Zaire is the premier producer of the world’s cobalt; In Chile, the Water Code is established, separating water ownership from land ownership; an International NGO Conference on Indigenous Populations and the Land is held in Geneva; Bob Marley dies; an annular solar eclipse is visible in the Pacific Ocean; USA and Japan are in the leading position in the seabed-mining industry, Thomas Sankara rides a bike to his first cabinet meeting; the Slave trade is officialy abolished in Mauritania; Machu Picchu is declared a heritage site; New Zealand recognised 16 rivers and lakes as “Outstanding” and protected them in perpetuity. Hurricane Katrina brings floods to the Caribbean. A Haiti-US Agreement allows the US Coast Guard to patrol the sea corridor between Haiti and Cuba. It is said that right whales born in that year are taller than right whales born since. Her paternal grandmother dies affected by dementia; Other concurrent events of the year of her birth, and of her lifetime, are perhaps too many to fully know; some things continued, some shifted, others ended, some began, some transformed. The world’s human population was then apparently at around 4.529 billion. Today she is one amongst 7 billion - occupying multiple adjectives.
Diana Policarpo is a visual artist and composer working in visual and musical media including drawing, video, sculpture, text, performance, and multi-channel sound installation. Policarpo investigates gender politics, economic structures, health, and interspecies relations through speculative transdisciplinary research. She creates installations to examine experiences of vulnerability and empowerment associated with acts of exposing oneself to the capitalist world.
Her work has been exhibited worldwide including recent solo presentations at Kunsthall Trondheim (NO), Galeria Municipal do Porto (PT), Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology - MAAT (PT), Kunstverein Leipzig (DE), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (DE), among others. Policarpo has recently exhibited, performed and screened her work at Kunsthall Oslo, W139, Amsterdam; Mars Gallery, Melbourne; Peninsula Gallery; New York; and Whitechapel Gallery, LUX- Moving Image, Cafe OTO and Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Policarpo was the winner of Prémio Novos Artistas Fundação EDP 2019 and the illy Present Future Prize 2021.
Chus Martínez is head of the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Arts and Design in Basel, and in 2021-22, the Curator of Ocean Space, Venice, TBA21–Academy’s center for catalyzing ocean literacy, research, and advocacy through the arts. Previously, she led The Current II (2018–20), a project initiated by TBA21–Academy. The Current is the inspiration behind Art is Ocean, a series of seminars and conferences held at the Art Institute which examines the role of artists in the conception of a new experience of nature.
TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary is a leading international art and advocacy foundation created in 2002 by the philanthropist and collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, representing the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts and public service. All activity is fundamentally driven by artists and the belief in art and culture as a carrier of social and environmental transformation and change.
TBA21–Academy was established as a research center in 2011 by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. A cultural ecosystem fostering a deeper relationship to the Ocean through the lens of art to inspire care and action, for a decade, the Academy has been an incubator for collaborative research, artistic production, and new forms of knowledge by combining art and science. Through its diverse program, TBA21–Academy has built a vibrant and dynamic local and international community at Ocean Space in Venice.
Ocean Space is located in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice, and opened in March of 2019 as a planetary center for catalyzing critical ocean literacy, research, and advocacy through the arts. Established and led by TBA21–Academy and building on its expansive work, this embassy for the Ocean fosters engagement and collective action on the most pressing issues facing the Ocean today.
Pirelli Hangar Bicocca is a non-profit foundation for contemporary art established in 2004 in Milan. Covering about 15,000 square meters of a former industrial plant, it is one of the largest exhibition spaces in Europe. It presents major solo shows by international and Italian artists conceived for this unique architecture. Since 2012, Pirelli HangarBicocca’s Artistic Director is Vicente Todolí and the foundation has presented solo shows by Ragnar Kjartansson, Dieter and Björn Roth, Micol Assaël, Cildo Meireles, João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, Joan Jonas, Céline Condorelli, Juan Muñoz, Damián Ortega, Philippe Parreno, Petrit Halilaj, Carsten Höller, Kishio Suga, Laure Prouvost, Miroslaw Balka, Rosa Barba, Lucio Fontana, Eva Kot’átková, Matt Mullican, Leonor Antunes, Mario Merz, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Sheela Gowda, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Cerith Wyn Evans, Trisha Baga, Chen Zhen, Neïl Beloufa, and Maurizio Cattelan. The exhibition program of 2022 includes Anicka Yi, Steve McQueen, Bruce Nauman, and Dineo Seshee Bopape. Each exhibition is accompanied by a monograph on the artist and a public program of events. Alongside the temporary shows, Pirelli HangarBicocca hosts two permanent installations: Anselm Kiefer’s renowned site-specific work, The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015, and Fausto Melotti’s imposing sculpture La Sequenza (1981).
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian is an international Foundation with statutory aims in the fields of the arts, education, charity and science. Operating from its headquarters in Lisbon and its delegations in Paris and London, a major focus is climate change, as our greatest and most urgent challenge. The Foundation has a museum and a modern art centre, an orchestra and a choir, an art library and archive, and a scientific research institute.
Its Centro de Arte Moderna (CAM) was founded in 1983 as a site for experimentation as well as to house the collection of Modern and Contemporary Art acquired since the 1950s. In 2023, CAM will celebrate its 40th anniversary and reopen to the public with a reformulated building by Kengo Kuma and an extended garden by Vladimir Djurovic. The Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência (IGC) is dedicated to biological and biomedical research and innovative postgraduate training, placing science at the heart of society. It aims to understand how the organism is formed and interacts with its environment, leading to novel approaches towards disease treatment and world sustainability.