CO–EXIST 2.0 /simbiosis/ SUMO
SUMO 2022 – CO–EXIST – Prague House Gallery in Brussels
Curator: Richard Bakeš (AGSU – Berlinskej Model)
DUNA (represented by Lenka Bakeš)
12. 10. – 22. 11. 2022
Prague House Brussels
Av. Palmerston 16, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
The exhibition project CO–EXIST, subtitled /simbiosis/, was created for the Prague House in Brussels as a loose continuation of this year’s edition of the international festival SUMO, which is now in its third year in Prague and is organized by the Alliance of Czech Contemporary Art Galleries (AGSU). The artists were selected in direct cooperation with the galleries that make up AGSU. The galleries collaborating in the exhibition are Lucie Drdova Gallery (Daniel Vlček), hunt kastner (Anna Hulačová, Jiří Thýn), Polansky Gallery (Jakub Choma), and Berlinskej Model (DUNA, Miroslava Večeřová).
What exactly does an autonomous individual mean in nature or in the universe? Where does one organism end and another begin? Organisms can never be understood in isolation, for they are a set of active agents that make up our environment and which are studied by the science of ecology. The extent to which some living forms can coexist is perfectly illustrated by an organism that covers more than 8 % of the globe – the lichen. This organism and its unique concept of survival is the loose inspiration and leitmotif for the entire concept of the exhibition at the Prague House.
We are gigantic colonies of symbiotic genes*
Lichens have been the subject of heated scientific debate since the nineteenth century, and they continue to confound our notions of identity to this day. A lichen is a symbiotic community formed by a fungus (a mycobiont) and an algae or cyanobacteria (a photobiont). Thanks to their relationship, the two counterparts can live in places where neither could survive alone (Daniel Vlček – Re-adaptation, 2022). It is a beneficial and fortifying parasitism. The entire system of operation of this organism even contradicts Darwin’s theory that species arise by growing away from each other so that their evolutionary lineages branch out like the crowns of trees. In this case they have run together.
Symbiotic partners rapping metabolic songs
For the study of lichens, an entirely new terminology had to be invented, and so in 1877 the German botanist Albert Frank coined the term SYMBIOSIS, which would not burden the described relationship of two or more entities in an organism with preconceived notions. Thus, a new biological principle emerged from the study of lichens. Evolution is not competition and conflict. Evolution is not a football match or a war in which one side tries to defeat the other: lichens, by confirming the hypothesis of duality, thus created a basic model example of positive cooperation not only between species but also between kingdoms.
The whole is much more than the sum of its parts
Many inhabitants of our ecosystem still think only in terms of “me or them,” with surveys showing that up to a third of the people on the planet do not cooperate with others. Of course, lichens also have their destructive mechanisms – for example, through etching they can eat away at the stone or concrete on which they grow. But after they die, they decompose and form the first soil in the new environment, and it is thanks to them, for example, that minerals can enter the metabolisms of living beings. Most of the minerals in our bodies have in fact probably passed through lichens at some point. The art of cooperation – of proximity to strangers – based on coexistence in a particular environment is therefore always ultimately constructive and strengthens, among other things, the dynamic resistance of all living things, their so-called resilience (Jakub Choma – Blow off the settled dust and Ladybugs remains, from the exhibition Resilience, 2019).
In his book Down to Earth, Bruno Latour remarks: “We must agree to define a dwelling place as that on which a terrestrial depends for its survival, while asking what other terrestrials also depend on it?”
Sources: *Richard Dawkins, Merlin Sheldrake: Entangled Life; Bruno Latour: Down to Earth
Jakub Choma (*1995) is an artist based in Prague, Czechia. Choma’s work materializes the affects of exhausted technologies. Corrupted machines relentlessly parcel anonymous poetry. Resilient generators erupt with contaminated, sick images imbued with secret inner lives. Volatile, disembodied battery voices, both promiscuous and repressive. Compulsory productivity. Consciously oblivious. Hysteria decomposes just as paranoia condenses. Jakub Choma’s work operates at the interstice of the physical and the virtual, invisible abstraction and brutal materiality. The displayed artworks suggest questions around the mutation of an alternative reality, as something pervading to the present from a dystopian, utopian future. This mutative reality of networked objects allows a glimpse into the preemptive future, one that has already been executed. The permanence is haunting, the maintenance of the new techno-systems is up to those who are left behind. Clearly, that won’t be us.
Miroslava Večeřová (*1985, Prague) is a Czech multimedia artist currently based in the UK. In the exhibition, she will be presenting works from the fields of sculpture, drawing, and video performance, including the video Low Tide Quest. Her work deals with her mixed feelings regarding her identity in relation to her gender and migration status in the post-Brexit environment. She touches on a general disillusionment with the narrative of human progress while contemplating the future of diverse ecologies. She also addresses topics such as eco-sex and biophilia. The massive sedimentary rocks in her video become sites for various forms of self-recovery, including stoneworking, skygazing, and burning ground mugwort – a plant with strong medicinal, ceremonial, and psychoactive components. Low Tide Quest is inspired by the artist’s extensive research into cosmology, divinity, and geological time, her training in self/collective holistic healing, and recent scientific discoveries.
The DUNA group is an open collective of artists (Lenka Bakeš, Ladislav Kyllar, František Svatoš) which focuses on themes of the future, such as ecology and technology. Adaptus is a speculative project in which they explore the borders of humanity and the complexity of the fragile relationship networks that form between various entities. In the exhibition for the Prague House, the group is represented by Lenka Bakeš, whose latest work from the extensive series Adaptus takes an ecological approach to the very level of creation. She deconstructs previous videos and texts and, using a collage-like method, assembles them into new visual forms and meanings. In the exhibition Co–Exist /simbiosis/, she presents a transparent fabric with motifs of interspecies mutations symbolizing the permeability and openness of cellular genes and the fragility of the boundaries of the planetary ecosystem.
In his work, Jiří Thýn (*1977) explores the possibilities of photography and tests the boundary between the photographed and the seen. Although he arranges his photographs in cycles, he does not create numerous series of images on a single theme. In his work, the photographic tradition is effortlessly intertwined with contemporary post-conceptualism. He often proceeds from a depiction of the human body or architecture but abstracts it and emphasizes its symbolic value.
Anna Hulačová (*1984) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (in Jiří Příhoda’s Intermedia Studio II). In 2010 she participated in a study program at the Korea National University of Arts in Seoul, South Korea, and in 2014 she completed a residency at CEAAC in Strasbourg. She is a distinctive contemporary sculptor whose work updates traditional crafts and translates inspiration discovered in ancient mythologies, Eastern cultures, Czech folk traditions, and original Christian symbolism into the language of contemporary art. The motifs of microbes and the internal composition of organisms in the Brussels exhibition reflect, among other things, Hulačová’s interest in the ideas of Australian theorist Astrid Neimanis, who works with the concept of so-called hydrofeminism to describe the interconnectedness of all living things and inorganic processes on our planet. For Neimanis, the membrane that enables protozoa to move and take in food is a metaphor for permeability – the water that flows through our bodies then becomes, in an absolute sense, part of the clouds, the seas, and other living organisms around us.
Daniel Vlček (*1978) is a Prague-based multimedia artist, musician, and producer. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In the exhibition, he presents an object called Re-adaptation, composed of scrapped street lamps that no longer met the parameters for sustainable energy operation. These lamps are covered with the lichen Protoparmeliopsis muralis, which has such a slow rate of growth (0.1 mm per year) that it is safe to say that it remembers even the ancient political regimes. It grows not only on the walls but also on the fiberglass, which it is slowly eating away at. In the exhibition, the object is illuminated with a special light for plant cultivation so that even inside the room, the lichen is still photosynthesizing, thus creating sugar and continuing to grow at its natural rate.
SUMO Prague is an international gallery co-op program which brings together gallerists, artists, curators, collectors, and art journalists in Prague. The third edition, subtitled CO–EXIST, will have its opening days from September 1 to 4 and run through October 14, 2022. This year’s theme underlines the ever increasing need for communication, exchange, and solidarity in light of recent events. The participating galleries present exhibitions, performances, lectures, and other events in cooperation with international partners as well as local institutions. SUMO’s aim is to expand our artistic networks and to draw a wider audience to contemporary art.
The Alliance of Czech Contemporary Art Galleries (AGSU) is a partnership of contemporary art galleries whose primary principle is to act as a platform from which we can more formally initiate cooperative projects, share ideas, and initiate discussion about how we can most effectively work together to help cultivate an original, high-quality art scene that will be mutually beneficial for us all.
DUNA (represented by Lenka Bakeš)
Adaptus X, printed outdoor flag, 2022
I Love You Misha, photography, light box, 2018
Microbes, concrete, pigment, 7 pieces, 2017–8
Untitled, concrete, Super Sculpey polymer clay, 2 interlocking pieces, 2020
Singing Alien, concrete, polymer clay, 2020
Resilience (Blow off the settled dust), various materials, 37 × 32 × 15 cm, 2019
Resilience (Ladybugs remains), various materials, 200 × 100 × 20 cm, 2019
Slow Fall, various materials, 60 × 40 × 3 cm, 2019
Re-adaptation, lamps, lichen, printed fabric, 2022
Low Tide Quest, video, 20 minutes, 2021
Untitled, 2-piece chalk sculpture, 2021
Untitled, from the series The Two Ends of a Distance, color photograph, lambda print, framed, 134 × 90 cm, 2015
Untitled, lambda digital print, 100 × 140 cm, 2006
Composition (1,2), color photograph, lambda dust print, mixed media, 138 × 110, 2017