The end of 2023 is marked by an increasing intertwining of social and environmental themes. In Latin America, the very first Amazon Biennial, the São Paulo Biennial, and the MASP highlight indigenous artists intrinsically connected to the environment and biodiversity. These indigenous experiences also enrich a broader eco-feminist movement with a significant audience, particularly at the Barbican Art Gallery. In Asia, artistic programming adopts a less anthropocentric perspective on environmental issues with a major exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. Finally, this season also offers exhibitions of prominent and engaged artists in galleries.
Latin American Biennials
A groundbreaking project in Belém, Brazil, Bubuia: Waters as a Source of Imaginations and Desires, the very first Amazon Biennial, reveals an unknown portrait of the Amazonian complex. This edition was inaugurated with 120 artists and collectives from indigenous communities, as well as the nine countries and eight Brazilian states it traverses. Curated by Sandra Benites, Flavya Mutran, Keyna Eleison, and Vânia Leal, the Biennial establishes the existence of a pan-Amazonian culture in a context of environmental and social violence generated by extractivism in the region. Ecuadorian artist Sofía Acosta Varean, in her video installation Chapter 01: Petróleo, depicts 50 years of oil exploration in the Amazon, while Armando Queiroz’s photographs raise awareness about the dangers of mining. Through the use of charcoal, Nohemí Pérez rekindles the memory of charcoal and environmental resource exploitation in conflict zones on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
The second oldest biennial in the world after Venice, the Biennale de São Paulo São Paulo Biennial is no less innovative for its 35th edition, titled Coreografias do Impossível (Choreographies of the Impossible). By also adopting a collective curatorial approach, it aims to promote equal contributions from all members. Bringing together 121 artists, this edition is particularly representative of artists from the Southern Hemisphere, using dance as a starting point to address decolonization, environmental concerns, and resistance to oppressive political powers. In his evolving installation Outres (2023), composed of mushroom spores, Daniel Lie observes the effects of time on a dying ecosystem. Other works presented at the Biennial examine the evolution of spiritual and natural worlds from the perspective of indigenous peoples, such as Edgar Calel’s embroideries depicting a Guarani house surrounded by yucca plants, or Aida Harika Yanomami’s poetic documentary Thuë pihi kuuwi (Uma Mulher Pensando) about the Yanomami tribe.
Also in São Paulo, at the MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art), a major exhibition titled Indigenous Histories has been underway since October 20th. It brings together 285 works by approximately 170 artists from indigenous peoples in what are now known as Brazil, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Norway. The objective is to provide a concise yet relevant sample of these histories, allowing them to resonate with narratives from different parts of the world.
New Eco-Feminist Exhibitions
A movement that originated in the 1970s, eco-feminism establishes a direct connection between the exploitation of the planet and the oppression of women. In London, at the Barbican Art Gallery, the new collective exhibition RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology documents the evolution of eco-feminist movements, bringing together 250 works by 50 women and non-binary artists from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition showcases significant archives, such as photographer Dionne Lee‘s collages exploring how racism in the United States is linked to notions of land ownership, Pamela Singh‘s photographs of members of the Himalayan eco-feminist Chipko movement protesting deforestation, Carolina Caycedo‘s Multiple Clitoris on the impact of dams in South America, and Judy Chicago‘s performance documentation based on Immolations IV (1972), which evokes the self-immolation of Buddhist monks protesting the Vietnam War.
The New Museum in New York dedicates a retrospective to American artist Judy Chicago, juxtaposing her six decades of activism with the work of artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Zora Neale Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Hilma af Klint, and Virginia Woolf in an installation titled The City of Ladies.
In Germany, the Georg Kolbe Museum hosts a significant exhibition dedicated to Lin May Saeed, who sadly passed away two months ago. Drawing parallels between the oppression experienced by women and the exploitation of animals, the German-Iraqi artist devoted her life to animal advocacy. The Snow Falls Slowly in Paradise reflects this deep commitment and offers a poetic journey through time, focusing on the relationship between humans and other animal species, drawing from fables and myths. This reflection on a shared future, supported by the past, features a variety of the artist’s polystyrene works and wall installations in dialogue with the animal bronzes of German sculptor Renée Sintenis.
Exploring Biodiversity in Asia
For its 20th anniversary, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo brings together 34 artists in the exhibition Our Ecology: Toward a Planetary Living. The exhibition offers a less anthropocentric perspective on environmental issues as seen by Japanese and international artists, including Tetsumi Kudo, Cecilia Vicuña, Julian Charrière, Emilija Škarnulytė, and Apichatpong Weerasethakull. The exhibition also examines art produced and presented in Japan from the 1950s to the 1970s when pollution was a dark consequence of the country’s rapid economic growth, in order to reconsider current environmental issues from a Japanese viewpoint. The Mori Art Museum itself has become an environment in its own right, implementing eco-design measures.
Organized by the Busan Biennale team and situated around Ilgwang Beach in South Korea, the Sea Art Festival presents a collection of works by around thirty Korean and international artists, including Kim Doki and the Danish collective SUPERFLEX. This edition, titled Flickering Shores, Sea Imaginaries and curated by Irina Papadimitriou, seeks to reevaluate our relationship with the sea, evoking both the splendor and vulnerability of our coastlines. The festival also serves as a space for research, exploring alternative approaches to interacting with marine environments.
At the foot of the Great Wall of China, in the Aranya Valley in Jin Shan Lin, the in-situ project of the Aranya Art Center brings together 21 contemporary artists from China and around the world. This sensory journey presents works by artists like Vivian Suter, Katinka Bock, Michelle Wang Yiyi, among others, challenging conventional boundaries that separate the environment from technology and tradition from modernity.
Exhibitions by Engaged Artists in Galleries
The exhibition Weather Conditions by the Swedish artist duo Bigert & Bergström presents works from 2013 to 2023 at the Leu Gallery in Munich, exploring the complex relationship between weather, climate, and humans from an artistic perspective. The selection includes sculptures, installations, photographs, as well as the film The Freeze, which retraces a geo-engineering project carried out at the summit of the Swedish Kebnekaise mountain range.
At the Sean Kelly Gallery in Los Angeles, the exhibition Buried Sunshine by Julian Charrière reveals Los Angeles as a spatial anomaly: a place built not only with hydrocarbons but also on them, with 5,000 active oil wells hidden within the city.
On the other side of the world, Yinka Shonibare invites a community of artists mainly from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the diaspora to exhibit with him at the new location of the Stephen Friedman Gallery on Cork Street. Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun presents a collection of sculptures, masks, and quilts inspired by Dadaist onirism, featuring endangered African bird species. Shonibare combines explorations of the physical effect of wind on African textiles with a reflection on his own role in the history of the African diaspora movement.
In the Roman gallery of Richard Saltoun, Brazilian activist artist Daiara Tukano dedicates herself to deconstructing the colonial legacies that have heavily impacted women in indigenous communities.
The increasing convergence of social and environmental issues is becoming more apparent among artists, as evidenced by the exhibitions at the end of this year. Whether it’s exhibitions giving visibility to indigenous or eco-feminist art scenes, the artists’ objective is unanimous: to highlight biodiversity or demonstrate the effects of climate change. This artistic fervor could be a prelude to this year’s COP28 which is fast approaching…
(An article on exhibitions in France will be published in the next issue.)
ALSO OF INTEREST
Emilio Ambasz, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, Glen Small, Mária Telkes, Mae-ling Lokko, Jeanne Gang, Meredith Gaglio, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Amy Chester, Carolyn Dry, Emilio Ambasz
Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism | 09/17/23 — 01/20/24 MoMA (New York, United States)
Adrián Balseca, Seba Calfuqueo, Julian Charrière, Tamara Henderson, Joan Jonas, Ali Kazma, Elena Mazzi, Uriel Orlow, Shimabuku
The Human Condition, Curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti | 11/03/23 — 11/05/23 Gallerie d’Italia, Artissima special project (Turin, Italy)
Soft ground | 28.09.23 — 17.12.23
Gasworks (London, UK)
Limestone Memories – un maquis sous les étoiles | 21.09.23 – 04.11.23
NıCOLETTı (London, UK)
Craving for Southern Light | 13.07.23 — 07.01.24
IVAM Centre Julio González (Valencia, Spain)
Fabrice Hyber, Lionel Sabatté, Barthélémy Toguo (…)
Chaque nuit j’entre dans les creux des troncs et j’écoute | 14.09.23 — 04.11.23
Galerie C (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
LIST OF EXHIBITIONS MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE
Anna Bella Geiger, Claudia Andujar, Sofía Acosta Varean, Nohemí Pérez, Tabita Rezaire (…)
Bubuia: Waters as a Source of Imaginations and Desires | 08/04/23 — 11/05/23
Bienal das Amazônias (Belém, Brazil)
Aida Harika Yanomami, Daniel Lie, Edgar Calel, Guadalupe Maravilla (…)
Coreografias do Impossível (Choreographies of the Impossible) | 08/04/23 — 11/05/23
35ª Bienal de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil)
Aislan Pankararu, Colectivo Cherani, Duhigó Tukano, Francisco Toledo, Joseca Yanomami, Mariana Castillo Deball, Minerva Cuevas, Santiago Yahuarcani, Tim Pitsiulak, William Noah (…)
Indigenous Histories | 10/20/23 — 02/25/24 Musée d’art de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil)
Ágnes Dénes, Ana Mendieta, Barbara Kruger, Carolina Caycedo, Dionne Lee, Josèfa Ntjam, Judy Chicago, Mary Mattingly, Otobong Nkanga, Pamela Singh (…)
RE/SISTERS (A Lens on Gender and Ecology) | 10/05/23 — 01/14/24 Barbican Art Gallery (London, UK)
Herstory | 10/12/23 — 01/14/24
New Museum (New York, USA)
Lin May Saeed
The Snow Falls Slowly in Paradise | 09/14/23 — 02/25/24
Georg Kolbe Museum (Berlin, Germany)
Ágnes Dénes, Ali Cherri, Ana Mendieta, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Cecilia Vicuña, Hans Haacke, Kudo Tetsumi, Monira Al Qadiri, Pierre Huyghe, Fujiko Nakaya (…)
Our Ecology: Toward a Planetary Living | 10/18/23 — 03/31/24
Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan)
Julia Lohmann & Kayoung Kim, Robertina Šebjanič, SUPERFLEX (…)
Sea Art Festival, Flickering Shores, Sea Imaginaries | 10/14/23 — 11/19/23
Ilgwang Beach (Busan, South Korea)
Katinka Bock, Michelle Wang Yiyi, Richard Long, Vivian Suter
Aranya Plein Air Art Project | 07/07/23 — 10/29/23
Valley of Aranya Jin Shan Ling (Chengde, China)
Bigert & Bergström
Weather Conditions | 10/19/23 — 11/26/23
Galerie Leu (Munich, Germany)
Buried Sunshine | 10/14/23 — 11/04/23
Sean Kelly LA (Los Angeles, USA)
Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, Bunmi Agusto, Okiki Akinfe, Victor Ehikhamenor, Masimba Hwati, Gareth Nyandoro, Nengi Omuku, Ozioma Onuzulike, Emma Prempeh, Uzor Ugoala
Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun | 10/06/23 — 11/11/23
Stephen Friedman Gallery (London, UK)
Kihtimori: Creation Memories | 11/08/23 — 12/22/23
Richard Saltoun (Rome, Italy)
Author: Aloïs Loizeau
Translated by Elisabeth Mbeng
Cover: Emilija Škarnulytė, Arrow of Time, 2023, Video installation, 16 min.
Our Ecology: Toward a Planetary Living, Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan)
Impact Art News, Sep-Oct 2023 #45
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