Curated by Gregory Volk
Online Launch: December 10, 2021
Dimitar Solakov, Stick (2014-ongoing) (HD video, 3:30min, looped) video still
We are proud to announce the third and final edition of our collaborative project with Structura Gallery, the online exhibition Contact curated by Gregory Volk. The exhibition is now live and can be viewed on our platform www.whatisnormal2021.com.
Artists: Rebecca Bird (US), Marta Djourina (BG/DE), Adam Frelin (US), Klara Hobza (CZ/DE), Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens (CA), Ragna Róbertsdóttir (IS), Oscar Santillán (EC/NZ), Dimitar Solakov (BG) Leda Vaneva (BG/FI).
In this time of crisis, namely the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, it is imperative that we reexamine and radically change our fundamental approach to nature. Contact is an international exhibition featuring distinctive and compelling artists, working in diverse mediums, who collaborate with nature in its many different forms, not at all from an anthropocentric perspective but instead with the deep understanding that we, as humans, are part of nature and share the bountiful world with all that is in it.
As Volk explains in his essay,
“Contact is not about sublime, beautiful, and inspiring nature, which I’ve certainly experienced in droves as an ardent backpacker. Instead, it involves distinctive artworks made in conjunction with nature, ones that also challenge the anthropocentric fantasy that we—quite recent additions to a four and a half billion-year-old planet—are somehow separate from and masters of nature.
This fantasy of human exceptionalism is looking not only absurd but also perilous. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, withering droughts, and amok forest fires are wreaking havoc everywhere. In my country (the US), as of this writing. 790,000 people have died of Covid-19, many stridently opposed to vaccinations, masking, and social distancing, many convinced of their superiority and invulnerability to a dangerous virus, although viruses predate our ancient human ancestors on the planet by some 3.5 billion years.
While Contact (and this includes its online format) was conceived and developed during the pandemic, as well as, most obviously, during global warming, it is not about either. None of the works are didactic or issued-oriented. Instead, all involve fruitful and sometimes surprising contact with nature, including lava, water, trees, birds, plants, fungi, singled-celled organisms. and sunlight. In her excellent book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010), Jane Bennett has written convincingly of “thing-power”—the agency and vitality of non-human organisms and objects—and has described them as “the vital materialities that flow through and around us.” Contact involves human and artistic interaction with these “vital materialities.”
What is Normal is a three-part collaboration between Radiator Gallery, New York, and Structura Gallery, Sofia. It takes place online while creating a unique curatorial platform for the exchange of ideas, presented in a series of exhibitions with curators Naomi Lev, Boris Kostadinov and Gregory Volk.
This online collaboration was conceived during the Covid pandemic crisis in 2020. Galleries and museums were closed and the future seemed hopeless. Strangely, the world had united in common battle and suffering. It was then that we dared to jump out of the comfort of local life and embark on overseas cooperation. Under normal circumstances Structura and Radiator would not likely have met each other, considering their physical locations. It turned out that isolation opened new doors and provoked conversations for which otherwise there wouldn’t have been time, money, or enough energy. Abnormality gave birth to a different normality and to communication that we would otherwise have missed.
The resulting project, What is Normal, is not only a showcase but also an attempt to re-examine currently popular formats for presenting contemporary art online. We began relying on visual communication highly dominated by words and enabled by Zoom and other “live” Internet formats. The first exhibition in the series, Words and Actions, curated by Naomi Lev, shakes up this new reality by presenting an online discussion among four women art collectives engaging with remote geographies and socio-political issues. It is followed by Boris Kostadinov’s project Between Beasts and Angels, exploring the mechanics of human’s interaction with art, in which the machine is the central instrument, mediator and inspiration. Shifting the discourse back to nature, Gregory Volk curates the last show in the series, Contact. Author Jane Bennett has written of “things” in nature as “the vital materialities that flow through and around us” and ascribed to them “thing-power.” Jettisoning an anthropocentric orientation, the artists in Contact collaborate with such “materialities,” which maintain their own vitality and agency.
All the projects are available on the specially designed website www.whatisnormal2021.com and through the online platforms of Structura and Radiator.
National Culture Fund, Bulgaria: “One-year program to support private professional organizations in the field of arts”