The exhibition is part of a research project Eastern Sugar by the artist Ilona Németh, which examines the history of the sugar industry and its wider social and environmental impacts. The autonomous exhibition project LISTENING TO VOICES follows the discourse of the Eastern Sugar project developed on the platform of international cooperation.
Listening to Voices - in the frame of the EASTERN SUGAR project
Artists: Melanie Bonajo, František Demeter, Nicoline Van Harskamp, Satch Hoyt, Thomas Kilpper & Massimo Ricciardo, Khvay Samnang, Pilvi Takala
Curators: Mira Keratová, Caroline Krzyszton
Exhibition architect: Tomáš Džadoň
15th January – 18th April 2021
Centre for Contemporary Art FUTURA, Prague
The concept of the exhibition follows possible perspectives for the decolonization of the future from the deconstruction of the following colonial ideologies related to land and further capital, respectively wealth, through the decolonization of language, education, technology, etc. Through decentred positioning, the idea of the exhibition is to address inherited and unconsciously adapted, perpetuating oppressive systems of neoliberal post-growth era, characterized by grief from climate change and deepening inequalities, which remain the dominant and uninterrupted social concept even in times of global pandemic.
The aim of the exhibition project LISTENING TO VOICES is to contribute to the ongoing emancipation processes that anticipate the future of healing and justice through psychoanalytic and feminist approaches of: Radical Ethics with its psychology of contemporary trauma and using a relational perspective as an empathic projection towards ethical co-emergence with Others; and Ethics of Care, which, in contrast to the idea of so-called Universal Justice, instead of abstract principles of morality, deals with justice based framework through Relational Ethics, developed through the individual relational acts in a concrete real-life situations and through responsibility to Others, who are, however, specific individuals.
Visual representation and aesthetic reflection of social or political conflicts should aim at sensitizing the viewer, exploring the ethical dimension of political action and a liberating vision of the world of equality: from questioning fixed norms of behavior (P. Takala) to situational learning (S. Hoyt), through the involvement of digital ecofeminism (M. Bonajo) and traditional cultural rituals related to the environmental impacts of neocolonialism (K. Samnang) to the critique of the new (capitalist-consumer) ethics commodifying the needs (F. Demeter) – from solidarity and inclusive justice (T. Kilpper, M. Ricciardo) to dialogical engagement of dystopian feminism (N. Van Harskamp), to the act of the fictive language of social constructs and shared ideas.
EASTERN SUGAR is an international, interdisciplinary, contemporary visual art project with strong focus on artistic research. Project reflects the recent facets of European history through the case of sugar industry in Central Europe. By the means of artistic research, curatorial cooperation, creation of new artworks, five international group exhibitions, participative installations, public and educational programs, and a comprehensive interdisciplinary publication the project investigates the “clearing” process of the Central- European sugar production. Thus, sugar can be understood as a metaphor for the notion of Europe and world under constant transformation. EASTERN SUGAR strives to bring the attention to the history of sugar industry in Central Europe and to place it on the global map of the story of sugar. While doing so, it considers colonial impact of the past as well as the present.
The exhibition is realised with the support of: Creative Europe, Visegrad Fund, KULT Minor, Ministry of Culture in Czech Republic, The City of Prague.
Melanie Bonajo, Night Soil / Fake Paradise, 2014
HD video, color, sound, 32 min 40 s
Melanie Bonajo (b. in Heerlen, Netherlands) makes films about the development and connections between intimacy, technological progress, stigmatization around gender and equality, feminism, ecology and feelings of alienation. In experimental documentaries, Bonajo uses humour and staged situations in order to highlight communities that find themselves in the margins of society, through cultural exclusion or illegality. These films are presented in installations designed in close collaboration with designer Théo Demans. In addition, Bonajo creates books, performances, music and events.
Night Soil is a series of short documentaries (the trilogy: Night Soil: Fake Paradise 2014; Night Soil: Economy of Love 2016; Night Soil: Nocturnal Gardening, 2016) exploring three growing movements that actively counter or destabilize the pervasiveness of global capitalism and patriarchal structures. Engaging with women users of ayahuasca, sex work activists and an array of alternative farmers, the trilogy considers the socially and ethically progressive facets of these practices – some of which are currently deemed illegal. Asserting new attitudes and perspectives toward sexuality and the natural world, Bonajo’s approach to her subjects challenges traditional divisions between humans, nature and technology.
František Demeter, Architecture of homelessness, 2020
steel and polycarbonate, site specific installation, variable dimensions
Originally a painter, František Demeter (b. in Vranov n. Topľou, Slovakia) took a break from his main medium a few years ago. From the position of modernist revisionism and critical revision of classical painting, he expanded his practice into site-specific installations, which, subtly or more robustly refer to the innate structure of painting. In the last years, he creates site-specific architectures by constantly recycling and recompositioning his previous works, most of which refer to his temporary accomodation and particular elements of its architecture as a sort of spatial archive of his private but still semi-public physical space.
In his site-specific work Architecture of homelessness, Demeter refers to squatting and transforming spaces rooted in a modernist social housing while relating the environment to his own, very personal situation and difficulties with accomodation, since nowadays the shelter becomes a super commodity. In line libertarian socialism thoughts on turning men into machines within the context of the critique of capitalism and commodity character of labor, further on the commodification of needs, the work refers also to a famous psychiatric story of Joey, "a Mechanical Boy”, published in 1950s with rich documentation of drawings: the story about a child not being able to communicate with the world, who converted himself into a “machine”, a sort of mechanical robot connecting his body to a complex of machine-like tools.
Nicoline Van Harskamp, PDGN, 2016
single channel HD video projection, color, sound, 15 min 40 s
Nicoline van Harskamp (b. in Hazerswoude, Netherlands) is an artist whose work considers acts of language and solidarity. In her recent works, she uses varieties of internationally-spoken English to propose a future shaped by the ubiquity and constant evolution of the language, and its inevitable divergence from hegemonic norms. Devised with actors, students, and sometimes linguist, van Harskamp’s performative actions, plays, documents and video works bring out the correspondence between content and the aesthetic framework in which it comes into force.
PDGN is a short fiction video that portrays a future in which a new link language is developing between people across the world through voluntary self-instruction. The script for PDGN was constructed from actually spoken, non-native English recorded in van Harskamp’s past work and in a series of workshops. Mixed-language participants lent their voices to the script on such topics as the tower of Babel, cultures of naming and historical female figures. Some aspects of language and narrative were borrowed from feminist fiction that proposes systems of language-change, such as Marge Piercy’s Women on the Edge of Time (1976) and Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue (1984). The language for the script was further developed by applying common and expected factors of language evolution in the areas of syntax, lexicon, and phonetics. These “distorting factors” were conceptualized with the help of academics in fields such as creole studies, computational linguistics and language acquisition as well as Esperantists, recreational language inventors, and the lead actresses. Subtitle versions with Czech, Swahili, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, German, Irish, Swedish, Dutch and French subtitles exist, but none in “contemporary” English.
Pilvi Takala, The Stroker, 2018
two-channel video installation, color, sound, 15 min 16 s
Pilvi Takala (b. in Helsinki, FI) uses performative interventions as a means to process social structures and question the normative rules and truth determining our behaviour in different cultural contexts. Her works emerge out of research in a particular community while further elaborated within different media, especially videos overlapping the genres of documentary making and performative practice. Takala’s works show the process of learning about the implicit rules of social situations by its disruption.
The Stroker was created within an artist’s two week-long intervention at Second Home, a trendy East London coworking space for young entrepreneurs and startups. Artist posed here as a wellness consultant named Nina Nieminen, the founder of cutting-edge company Personnel Touch, allegedly employed by Second Home to provide touching services in the workplace. The performer's behavior, being overly friendly to everyone while stepping into their personal space and lightly touching them, gets responses varied from polite to a visible discomfort further resulting in the coworkers visibly bonding over a common confusion through office talking, gossiping and nicknaming interventionist the Stroker. Thus recordings visualised nuances of movement as an embodied negotiation of the physical boundaries and dilemmas of being mediated bodies under social pressure controlled by the tacit conventions of acceptable behaviour.
Satch Hoyt, Ruler 1, 2016-20
wooden rulers, magnets & steel, 200 x 190 cm
Satch Hoyt, Ruler 4, 2016-20
wooden rulers, magnets & steel, 200 x 190 cm
Satch Hoyt (b. in London of British and African-Jamaican ancestry) is a visual artist, composer and musician working in diverse media. His practice investigates subjects pertinent to the African diaspora his ongoing project is Afro-Sonic Mapping which includes the research of mnemonic networks of sound from the continent of Africa and the trans- national African Diaspora. wHis is long term project is the further investigation of what he terms The Eternal Migration of the Afro-Sonic Signifier and its various hybridizations. Through research he unmutes the dormant music archives . This process leads to their eventual restitution to the African countries from which they were originally stolen along with the various artifacts..
Rulers investigates the notion of expansionist colonial measurement. In 1884, at the at the request of Kaiser Otto von Bismarck, 14 European leaders were invited to attend a conference in Berlin, known as the Congo Conference or Scramble for Africa. After cutting up the continent like a cake, they employed the metric system to create the borders (of which many exist today) that divided stolen colonial territories. Not one African ruler was invited and many of these invented borders are still in place today. The series also alludes to African fabric designs, more specifically Ewe and Kente woven fabrics from Ghana. Initially, The Rulers series also investigates music in regards to measures or musical bars. There are eight vivid lines in each panel, depicting an octave, as each panel is an un-fixed graphic score that can be played in an improvisational manner. Thus, the idea is to assemble an octet (eight musicians)
to perform a live improv conduction with a complete series. Works are made from used extendable or folding rulers which the artist purchased over a 4 year period at various flea markets in Berlin.
Satch Hoyt, Michezo Ya Watoto (Children's Games in Swahili), 2014
bullets, acrylic on wood, 68 x 107 x 4 cm
The work is inspired by the publication of anthropologists Mary D. and Louis S. B. Leakey’s Some String Figures from North East Angola from 1949. Like other games, the String Figures of the Tchokwe tribe echo rituals, symbols, insights, superstitions, and events of the specific society, culture, and locality, and play an important role in the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next. String Figures often follow standardised pictographs and are used as a communication tool including the use of so-called serial figures that further develop the story. Some
researchers also discussed their possible use as a mnemonic device in learning mathematics, reducing the need to memorize the whole design to a geometric algorithm.
Satch Hoyt, RIDE CYCLE: Antiphonal Four Unfolded, 2020
Sound installation, 7 min 7 s
RIDE CYCLE: Antiphonal Four Unfolded is in fact one movement in a cycle of four. Each cycle is comprised of four performer’s, who play quarter notes on two ride cymbals. The entire ensemble numbers sixteen performers arranged in two sections of eight situated in an inner and outer oval form where a two meter space between each performer is maintained. The performers in the inner oval face outwards and the performers in the outer oval face inward. Consecutively each performer joins the oval at four bar intervals. Antiphonal Four Unfolded, represents a quarter of the entire RIDE CYCLE. This debut iteration is a solo performance, played by virtuoso drummer Earl Harvin utilizing digital multi track technology.
RIDE CYCLE investigates a plethora of subjects within the canon of the trans-national African Diaspora. Evolving from artist’s current body of work within the rubric of Afro-Sonic Mapping: Tracing aural histories via sonic transmigrations (see Afrosonicmapping.com). The goal is to continue to map the sonic associations, transformations and performances of what Hoyt terms the Afro-Sonic Signifier that derives from the contemporary, diverse, transnational African Diaspora communities within the context of Colonization and transatlantic migrations. It attempts to map out the multiple involuntary Trans-Atlantic voyages made by enslaved African’s. From a Black resistance perspective, it also speaks to the current disenfranchisement and racial divisiveness found in many European and American geographical locations. In its multi layered trajectory, which includes Afrofuturism, it refers to an otherworldly spiritual resolve, the overarching quest of return, the ride back to a promised land, whilst acknowledging the imperative need to construct alternative societies pioneered by luminaries such as James Baldwin, W E B Dubois, Angela Davis Marcus Garvey, and Octavia Butler.
Thomas Kilpper & Massimo Ricciardo, Inventories of Escape, 2014 – 2020
collection of found objects, variable dimensions
Thomas Kilpper (b. Stuttgart, DE) is best known for his large-scale wood- or lino-cut prints composed into extensive installations, which often depict historical scenes or portraits displaying critical statements on political and legal systems. He engages with history and the public sphere to reveal hidden or obscured socio-political agendas. He collaborates with local communities and brings together people’s stories in an effort to create a multi-layered picture of events, which often differs from its official versions.
Massimo Ricciardo (b. Darmstadt, DE and grew up in Sicily, IT) works mainly with archival materials, video and deals with culinary performances. His artistic practice is inspired by models of memory and the effort to visualize the ongoing processes of the so-called living memory.
Since 2014, Kilpper and Ricciardo were collecting lost and abandoned items from refugees and migrants, which they left behind on boats that sailed from Africa across the Mediterranean to Europe, more precisely to the South of Italy. Although they are mostly ordinary everyday objects, they carry a certain inherent quality: the will of their owners to survive and leave behind experienced violence, rape, terror and war. Many of them have been laying on the shores of Sicily, in Pozzallo and Siracusa, and in Lampedusa for several months or even years after the stranded boats were confiscated by the Italian state and then left to rot there. Such an attitude is characteristic of a controversial dealing with the phenomenon of migration to the EU, framed by the paradigm of neglect. The exhibited collection shows the fragility of life and, unlike dehumanizing propaganda, encourages sensitization towards policy-making.
Kvay Samnang, Popil, 2018
two-channel video projection, color, sound, 21 min 59 s
Khvay Samnang’s (b. in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia) multidisciplinary practice critically examines politics of historic and current events, including traditional cultural rituals exposing the humanitarian and ecological impacts of globalization and its links to colonialism and migration in Southeast Asia. Informed by extended periods of artist’s research and investigation on location with marginalized Cambodian communities, Kvay’s multi-channel filmic works and installations articulate the community's deep spiritual and physical entanglement with the land invoking animist spirits against environmental exploitation.
Popil develops a complex dance choreography based around the symbolism of the dragon, generally seen as a symbol for much of East/Southeast Asia, discussing how much the iconography represents specifically Chinese or Cambodian identity formation elements. It features two dancers performing a modern version of the classical Khmer “Robam kbach boran” dance – a prayer in movement for rain and fertility – that mimic the movements of a serpent or the flow of water. The dancers, donning masks which the artist has fashioned from woven fishing vines, enact a contemporary love story of two dragons (one representing Cambodia, the other China). Their twirling, circular movements from North-Eastern Cambodia to Phnom Penh to South-Eastern Cambodia mimic both the flows of the nation’s major rivers, as well as the circulation of capital throughout the nation. The work constitutes a critical remapping of the complex geographies and cultural rites which are enfolded within the wider rotating movements of Cambodian and Chinese relations.
Photo: Tomáš Souček