Ben Rivers, Look Then Below, 2019, 16mm/HD video
Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry Gallery, London
Noémie Goudal, Cindy Coutant, Kim Farkas, Daiga Grantina, Antwan Horfee, Botond Keresztesi , Roy Köhnke, Claire Van Lubeek, Ben Rivers, Yan Tomaszewski
Exhibition from June 5 through July 24, 2021
[ Vernissage/opening Saturday, June 5, 2021 ]
“The infinite is the sign of the empty space that science fiction faces, of what can still change, an excrescence born in the finite that the journey exceeds. It manifests itself as that which does not tolerate anything prescribed, no meaning, no property which would be eternally fixed or unchangeable because one would suppose it already completed in principle.” – Jean-Clet Martin, Logique de la science-fiction. De Hegel à Philip K. Dick, 2017.
“As the cultural anthropologist must resist and be conscious of his own cultural limitations, and bigotries, and prejudices—he can’t get rid of them, but he must be conscious of them—I think a science-fiction writer has a responsibility to do the same thing if he’s inventing what he calls a different planet, a different race, alien beings, and so on. His beings can’t just be White Anglo-Saxon Protestants with tentacles. You do have to do some rethinking—and with a certain self-consciousness of your own bias.” – Ursula Le Guin, “Naming Magic,” Interview by Dorothy Gilbert, The California Quaterly, no. 13-14, Spring/Summer 1978, The Last Interview and Other Conversations, 2019.
TOI 700d. All separate letters—this name designates an exoplanet discovered by NASA in January 2020. Which may as well be an eternity for our small humanity affected by the Covid-19 virus. In the heart of the Dorado constellation, 100 light years away, the existence of TOI 700d was recorded by the Transitory Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) sent into space in 2018 to locate celestial bodies the size of our planet and to measure their brightness. While TOI 700d’s mass and radius are quite similar to those of Earth, its rotation around its star, a red dwarf with a spectral type of MV, requires only thirty-seven days. It has shown no sign of eruption to date, but it will be a long time before we know, with any precision, its light spectrum, which is to say the stellar flux emitted at this star’s surface. The observation of these fluxes generally makes it possible to determine in a partial way a planet’s composition and thus to start to obtain a representation.
For the time being, TOI 700d is above all a formidable speculation machine. Its emission lines already allow us to mention the presence of certain molecules such as cyanide, methylidine, carbon monoxide, and titanium oxide. Now, TOI 700d is located in an area that is considered to be suitable for life as we know it. But whether focusing on its wind-blown rocks or oceans with powerful currents, it’s still only science fiction. For all that, this genre is not to be understood here as the expression of a pure abstraction, a rejection of reality in favor of a distant fantasy that would offer us the possibility of escaping our earthly condition. On the contrary, evoking this astronomical discovery—with all that it implies in terms of the unknown and of fabulation—is a way of integrating the immensity of the universe into the heart of what we call the Anthropocene or the Capitalocene.
More than a mirror reproducing an exact image, TOI 700d is this chemical and mental impulse, sensual and neuronal, which invites us to play with its environment, which we sense could have similarities with our planet, despite the considerable distance. It is then a question of developing a fictitious typology of affinities and deviations in relation to the territories that shape us and that we produce in a vertiginous movement of vortex whose acceleration seems to go hand in hand today with crises and destructions.
As an exhibition, TOI 700d thus associates figures that work in an allusive mode with what we know while often resorting to deformation. Between dissimilarities and correlations, it aggregates a multiplicity of differences that seeks to create emotional electricity by not submitting strictly to a concept. The works presented here are both emotional and semantic hypotheses, true encrypted languages that approach the act of creation as a material thought that doesn’t need words to justify itself.
As such, TOI 700d takes on the appearance of a vast biotope where distinct organisms mingle with each other in an attempt to obtain something other than a complete representation of this new planet. Should we then define this physical entity in which the viewer can get lost or resist? I wager that indeterminacy has a real appeal which connects with the power of dissemination, provided that we accept that reason is no longer the sole organizer of our ways of being in the world. The rigor of classification—characteristic of the modern age—is replaced by the plasticity of mutations and the stimulating register of contradictions.
In fact, it’s a question of making galaxies and stars no longer simply synonymous with idealism, with prolonging the utopian tradition of the “better worlds” of the 20th century. The stars must participate in a physical approach where the imagination is stretched between insolence and contemplation. From this point of view, TOI 700d ventures on the side of artistic proposals that do not exclusively return to the perspective of elementary biomorphic forms but that open on complex and unstable assemblies—sometimes escaping understanding to better seize the chaotic part of our existences, which is to say what cannot be related to an obvious structure.
TOI 700d chooses troubled identities and uncertain otherness in order to provoke unpredictable encounters. It exhibits “celestial bacteria” to use the expression used by Greg Egan in his novel Quarantine published in 1992. This denomination is not to be understood only in a metaphorical mode. For what one can see developing within the Galerie Filles du Calvaire is a regime of proliferation which makes it possible to affirm the necessity of disparate bodies. Although such a variety perhaps recounts the ripping apart of the unitary aesthetic space, it also shows the multiverse which constitutes us. Therefore, TOI 700d is a sensitive shoot that comes to add itself to this scientific discovery. All it has left to do is to bud in your heads since it ultimately has only one goal: to convey the importance of both nervous and analogical ramifications.