Artists: Ursula Biemann, Isabelle Hayeur, Michelle Claire Gevint, New Mineral Collective (Tanya Busse and Emilija Škarnulytė) and Fiona Tan.

28th september 2017 (Thursday), 7 pm
Center for Contemporary Art LAZNIA 1, Gdansk Dolne Miasto

Curator of the review: Vanina Saracino

The Impossibility of an Island brings together a selection of artists’ films that address human-made planetary destruction through geographically distant stories, deeply connected by two major liquid forces: oil and water. The first narrative concerns the global sea level rise, which is quickly erasing lands and coastlines and forcing entire communities to migrate, as well as the destructive consequences of plastic and other debris drifting on the ocean’s surface. The second addresses the issue of fossil fuels, whose massive extraction is running geology backwards by bringing to the surface a substance that took the planet millions of years to bury, and whose combustion is reinserting polluting elements into the atmosphere at unprecedented speed. Oil and water as liquid forces equally connect and divide peoples and territories on the physical, economic and social level. They form the basis of modern narratives of conquest and colonization, ultimately shaping the intangible battlefield of our struggle for the planet’s increasingly scarce resources.
New Mineral Collective (Tanya Busse i Emilija Škarnulytė)
Hollow Earth
wideo SD, 23’
New Mineral Collective (Tanya Busse and Emilija Skarnulyte), Hollow Earth (2013)
Hollow Earth (2014) is a visual meditation and examination of contemporary resource conditions within the circumpolar areas of the North. Combining research material, landscape shots and archival footage, this short film hopes to offer a reflection on the changing image of the North: a site where violence, desire, greed, and emotions all play out.
Michelle Claire Gevint
The Sweet Stench of Sulfur
wideo 4K, 9’
Michelle Claire Gevint, The Sweet Stench of Sulfur (2017)
On the outskirts of Israel’s Dead Sea, a recent geological phenomenon is forming: sinkholes, which are exponentially ‘swallowing’ man-made habitats due to rapid evaporation, climate change and human intervention. Although they are extremely dangerous and unpredictable, there is much beauty in these pools of green, orange and blue liquid which bring to mind Martian landscapes and have been a mysterious source of new microbial life in an ecosystem infamously known for its barrenness. The voice-over is based on an interview conducted with a geologist who was ‘swallowed’ by a sinkhole. Spending hours inside a cavity in the earth, he went through psychological extremes ranging from hope to despair. The film blends documentary, historical essay and fictional elements by merging the resonances of a mythical fable with apocalyptic elements that seem like fragments of dreams and hallucinations. It invites us to examine human interaction with nature and the way in which nature reclaims itself through powerful and transformative natural disasters.
Isabelle Hayeur
wideo HD, 15’
Isabelle Hayeur, Castaway (2012)
Castaway was filmed in the murky waters of Witte’s Marine Salvage at Staten Island (New York). The largest boat cemetery on the Eastern Seaboard, this uncanny, desolate place is the final resting place of numerous wrecks of all varieties and several eras : ferries, barges, fishing boats, even old steam tugs. Their hulks slowly rot away in the mud of Arthur Kill, a refinery-lined inlet still busy with tankers. Located near New Jersey’s Chemical Coast and the former Fresh Kills landfill, these now toxic shores, originally home to salt marshes, forests and freshwater wetlands, have seen their share of ecological disasters. This behind-the-scenes look at industrial development, revealing its dark underbelly, may offer a glimpse of an unsustainable capitalist economy’s eventual shipwreck.
Ursula Biemann
Deep Weather
wideo HD, 9’
Ursula Biemann, Deep Weather (2013)
Oil and water are two proto-liquids that form the undercurrents of all narratives as they are activating profound changes in planetary ecology. The video draws a connection between the relentless reach for fossil resources that will continue its toxic impact on the climate, and the consequences this has for many indigenous populations in remote parts of the world. Melting Himalayan ice fields, global sea level rise and extreme weather events increasingly define the amphibious lifestyle imposed on the Bangladeshi population. The video documents the gigantic community effort of building protective mud embankments. Physical work done by thousands of people without the help of machines is what climate change will mean for most inhabitants of the deltas of the global South. These are the measures taken by populations whose lives progressively shift to water, in fear that large parts of Bangla will be submerged and water is declared the territory of citizenship.
Fiona Tan
News from the Near Future
czarno-biała, kolorowana projekcja wideo, 9’30’’
Fiona Tan, News From the Near Future (2003)
News from the Near Future contains a number of key elements in the work of Fiona Tan: it explores memory and the passing of time through the use of black and white archival footage acquired from the Amsterdam Filmmuseum and tinted in order to create an almost painterly texture. The recurrent motif is water. The viewer is met by the sea, on which all kinds of boats – from small yachts to much bigger steamships – sail. Its waves washing the seashore, landscapes with huge waterfalls, and the disasters that leave floods in their wake remind us of the ambivalent relationship between man and nature.
Sara Tirelli,
6mm video, converted to digital, 4'
Sara Tirelli, Cassandra (2017)
Cassandra develops my artistic investigation about the concept of crisis understood as dynamic of rupture that unleashes chaos. It is a dystopian vision of the city of Venice.The main character, Cassandra, appears as survivor, witness and prophet, moving on a fragile boat on a wasted lagoon, blaming the disaster that has finally destroyed the city. Her words (taken from the poem A Soliloquy for Cassandra by Wislawa Szymborska) are juxtaposed and remixed with scientific data illustrating how the transit of cruise ships and the increasing pollution in the area have impacted the lagoon and poisoned the citizens to a point of no-return. Shot in 16 mm, the video uses the aesthetics of “found footage” to blur the perception of time, evoking the idea of Venice as a city of future past, in which the present contains both traces of the past and visions for the future. This ultimately leaves space for hope that measures can still be taken to avoid the catastrophe, turning Cassandra’s lament into an urgent, desperate cry for love and action.
New Mineral Collective (Tanya Busse and Emilija Škarnulytė)
New Mineral Collective is a platform that looks at contemporary landscape politics to better understand the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth´s surface. As an organism, NMC infiltrates the extractive industry with alternative forces, such as desire, body mining and acts of counter prospecting. Their work has been shown nationally and internationally, including SIART Bolivia International Art Biennial, Göteborg Kunsthall, Tromsø Kunstforening, and most recently with Conflict: Artists’ Film International Season 7, 2015-16 – an international touring programme organized by Whitechapel Gallery in London. Since 2015, NMC is run by the artists Emilija Škarnulytė & Tanya Busse.
Michelle Claire Gevint
Michelle Claire Gevint is an Israeli-American interdisciplinary artist currently based in Brooklyn. She obtained her BFA from Bezalel Art Academy, Jerusalem and moved to NYC after receiving a scholarship from Parsons School of Design to complete her MFA. Selected exhibitions and residencies include: The Bronx Museum of Art, AIM Biennial, Fridman Gallery (New York), Local Projects Gallery (New York), Trestle Gallery (New York), Hermitage Museum (Russia), Beijing Design Festival (China), Ping Yao Photo Festival (China), Auckland Photo Festival (New Zealand), Sotheby's Chicago, MICA (Baltimore, USA), G91 (New York), Marble House Residency (Vermont, USA) and Vermont Studio Center. Her work has been featured in publications such as “The Chicago Sun Times”, Recinema catalogue, Sidney College of Arts and Arts Culture Beat, online Columbia University blog, Art Fuse and The Berkshire Eagle.
Isabelle Hayeur
Born in Montreal in 1969, Isabelle Hayeur lives and works in Quebec, Canada. She is known for her photographs and her experimental videos. Her work is situated within a critical approach to the environment, urban development and to social conditions. Since the late 1990s, she has been probing the territories she goes through to understand how our contemporary civilizations take over and fashion their environments. She is concerned about the evolution of places and communities in the neoliberal sociopolitical context we currently live in. Her art practice proves to be both political and poetic, with a constant striving to blur the lines in order to highlight the ambivalence of our relation to the world. At once seductive and disquieting, her images awaken in us an ambiguous feeling that reflects our discomfort and reveals the flaws of a dehumanized system. Isabelle Hayeur's works have been widely shown. She participated in many major public shows, such as the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (North Adams), the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin), the Canadian Cultural Centre (Paris), Casino Luxembourg Forum d'art contemporain (Luxembourg), the Today Art Museum (Beijing).
Ursula Biemann
Ursula Biemann is an artist, writer, and video essayist based in Zurich, Switzerland. Her artistic practice is strongly research oriented and involves fieldwork in remote locations, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, ice, forest and water. She works the findings into multi-layered videos, interweaving vast cinematic landscapes with documentary footage, sci-fi poetry and academic findings to narrate a changing planetary reality. Recent fieldwork has taken her to Amazonia and the Arctic region, where she conducted investigations for her video works Deep Weather (2013), Forest Law (2014), Subatlantic (2015) and Biosemiotic Borneo (2016). Biemann is the editor of several books, including Geography and the Politics of Mobility; The Maghreb Connection, and Mission Reports. Her video installations are exhibited in many museums worldwide and have been shown at the International Art Biennials of Liverpool, Sharjah, Shanghai, Mexico City, Jakarta, Thessaloniki, São Paulo, Istanbul, and Venice. She is part of the collaborative art project and media platform World of Matter ( Biemann has a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York (1988). She received a doctor honoris causa in Humanities from the Swedish University of Umea and the Prix Meret Oppenheim, the Swiss Grand Award for Art.
Fiona Tan
Born in Pekan Baru, Indonesia, in 1966, Fiona Tan trained in Hamburg and Amsterdam and works primarily with lens-based media. She is best known for her skilfully crafted video and film installations, in which explorations of memory, time, history and the role of the visual are key. Fiona Tan has had solo exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide, including the MCA Chicago, De Pont Foundation (Tilburg), Vancouver Art Gallery, the Sackler Galleries (Washington), the Aargauer Kunsthaus (Switzerland). Tan won the J.C. van Lanschot Prize for Sculpture in 1998, the Infinity Award for Art in 2004 and was awarded the DAAD Berlin scholarship in 2000/2001. She has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and the Artes Mundi Prize. She is represented in many international public and private collections including the Tate Modern (London); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Neue Nationalgalerie (Berlin), Schaulager (Basel), the New Museum (New York) and the Centre Pompidou (Paris).
Fiona Tan lives and works in Amsterdam.
Vanina Saracino
Vanina Saracino is an independent curator currently based in Berlin. She is the co-founder of OLHO, an international curatorial project about contemporary art and cinema initiated in 2015 in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, also shown at the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi (Venice, 2017). Since 2013, she curates monthly programmes of moving image art on the non-narrative television channel ikonoTV, being also in charge of collaborations and projects with museums and institutions worldwide. In 2015, she initiated Art Speaks Out with ikonoTV: a yearly exhibition project on the environment and climate change, also shown at the Istanbul Modern Museum (2015) and within the UN Climate Change Conference (Marrakesh, 2016). Other projects include Uncharted Land (OLHO 2016, in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro); Adrian Paci: A State of Temporary Permanence (Kino Mediteran, Bol, Croatia, 2016); Vertical World – approaching gravity, (General Public, Berlin, 2012); Un Lugar Habitable es un Evento (Centro Cultural Facultad de Artes, Medellín, Colombia, 2012). A graduate of Communication Sciences with a thesis in semiotics of the arts, she holds a Master’s degree in Arts Management (GIOCA, Università di Bologna) and an MA in Philosophy and Art Theory (UAB, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona). She is a member of the IKT, an international association of curators.
Municipal Institution of Culture