“Eclipse”: 7th Athens Biennale by

by November 24, 2021

Seeing science as a mystical process — a process that has to do not only with deductive reasoning, but with creating power and posting new social myths. — Tricia Rose interviewed by Mark Dery in Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture

A planet, a satellite, and a star, in constant dialogue, magically aligned. When an eclipse occurs, a celestial body interferes with the principal light source of a planet and, for a few moments, the impression of the real is modified, almost darkened. Night and day overlap to give birth to a third enigmatic light hybrid. In Athens, this optical-astronomical event has been invoked by witches, mermaids, bio-machines, and cyber-aliens. Some of these composite entities design interactive arcades, cast spells, and game rules >>> THE WORLD IS REMIXING ON REPEAT / I FOUND YOUR BODY WHILE I WAS UNBECOMING.1 An internet Morgana is in connection with Quantum Spirits2 to shape hallucinogenic alchemical diagrams, Nonbinary Xenogender Cosmic3 monsters prowling the digital galaxies equipped with Antifa lasers, and a mythical being “cross-pollinates the natural and the unnatural.”4 Talismans, potions, magic formulas, and rituals allow us to enter into an alternative version of the present. The body gets a mediator, implemented by technologies as organic extensions, and through it we intercept proliferative interconnection amid limitless cosmos/virtual/spiritual spaces.

Among the buildings of the ancient polis, epicenter of Western philosophy, a techno-shamanic tribe has settled. Each component becomes the mediator of another dimension, whether transcendental or symbolic, post-physics or meta-human, divine or holographic. The passing of time is punctuated by Nascent’s totemic timepieces, designed to follow crypto-economic fluctuations, to synchronize the servers around the globe and to measure the quartz’s time accuracy, so that the phantasmatic skeleton of a shopping mall can be transformed into a trans-capitalist habitat ruled by archaic-technological energies. From this station it is possible to intervene in a digitized version of the Earth’s ecosystem, through the multiplayer videogame Eco presented by the Mycological Twist. Imagine a different course of events from prehistory to civilization, one in which novel political and economical organizations, in dialogue with the gaming community, proposed ways to avoid natural catastrophe.

Nature and progress are asking us to understand the rules, to make connections, to teleport across space and language: change, mutation, and transformation, from one generation to the other, from one level to the next, from one species to multispecies. Beyond the dichotomy individual–collective new possibilities of perception are being tested: altered experiences between singularity and plurality. What kind of entities are we becoming? Where are our minds and our bodies are guiding us through this technologically advanced world?

HellFun (Josefin Arnell & Max Göran) in The Vacation x EXTRA EXTENDED The Road Journey (2021) act out a parental-model crisis to embrace an ambiguous childhood, the consumable product of an alien parenthood. The genetically modified relationships from Octavia E. Butler’s stories are getting closer: “She undulated slowly against me, her muscles forcing the egg from her body into mine.”5 Species are merging into one another in a linked chain of mixed and telepathic DNA. What is the difference between me and the others? How do our bodies separate us, and how are bodies separated? Doreen Garner saves relics from enwrapped organs to crystalize the painful scarring of a still-open wound.

History and geography shape, and sometimes mark, identity. These states of transition need to be handled with care, thoughtfully preserved and studied. We imagine a transmission system that transcends the bond of blood to be sublimated in a fluctuation of spirits. “On our way to a new consciousness, we have to leave the opposite back,”6 toward a collective identity that encloses all opposites, all cultures, all identities “in a state of perpetual transition,”7 something that lives and propagates through “multidimensional connection and multiple connections between entities.”8

OMSK Social Club, co-curators of the exhibition with Larry Ossei-Mensah, have claimed on more than one occasion that you need a story to displace a story. Intervening on the real. Changing paradigms. And The Critics Company, a group of young sci-fi fans, have faced this challenge by founding a YouTube-based entertainment company in Kaduna, in the heart of Nigeria.

On Earth, different species of activism are flowering, growing, infesting; eco-armies are forging available weapons to cope with the urgencies of the present: voices, sounds, gestures, languages. “Sí! (Negra!) / Soy! (Negra!),”9 declaims Victoria Santa Cruz in 1978, accompanied by the rhythmic steps and choirs of her compañeras. Fifty years later, the performer Ndayé Kouagou asks us if we can stay comfortable when we are cornered, with statements that become manifestos — “IT WAS LIKE THE WORLD WAS CHANGING, WEIRD!”10 — while Moor Mother’s productions, here and in the music industry, are transforming protest songs into prayers and curses, in an alchemical-dialectical spirit. Astrit Ismaili’s voguing steps, Huntrezz Janos’s armored avatar, Miles Greenberg’s bodies, Jacolby Satterwhite’s orgies, and Cajsa von Zeipel’s well-equipped fetishistic Amazons are consumed through mirrors, monitors, platforms, and arenas. We have a non-reproductive sexuality, because here new life forms are generated from the flow of information. Organisms are mechanical and the mind is artificial.

Billy Bultheel’s phantoms wander within architectural bowels, tuning the past with the present as if time was a metallic musical instrument. In this underground, Bultheel has implanted the rolling “machinic heart of the biennale,”11 and above ground Primitive Art have put geography and urbanism under a sonic magnifying glass.

To move to the next level of our techno-mind we need the help of extra tools, astral maps, neologisms, and instruction manuals, useful for decoding natural and unnatural languages. “Eclipse” highlights a novel connection amid transcendence and activism and sketches possible projects for a universopolis.12 What are the rules and rituals of an airborne humanity? “Our civilization is not flying because it’s not built according to the laws of aerodynamics,”13 said one of the interviewees, ironically, in The Corporation documentary, but today the cosmos looks closer. There are those who are gearing up for cosmic activism, and, as in every passage in history, the ethical questions are multiplying.

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Leonardo Caldana