Curated by Danni Shen
601Artspace, 88 Eldridge St
18 June - 14 August 2021
Please join us for the opening on Friday, June 18th, 6-8pm
Collaborative Survival explores the environmental narratives and ecological relationships that often get overlooked in mainstream consciousness. From dystopian sci-fi films to green technocapitalism, what often trickles down from scientific research on climate change into popular culture are dire visions of Earth’s future. The proposed scientific designation of our present geological epoch as the Anthropocene, in which humans are capable of driving the planet on a universal death track toward extinction, fuels these cultural narratives. However scientifically valid the concept of the Anthropocene may be, such an unfathomable, monolithic framework offers little room for the nuances of human and non-human relationships. While human activities are indisputably over-extracting from the earth, there are other stories to be told amid the ruins.
The artists in this exhibition mine the complex connections between humans and the lifeworlds of plants, revealing social, historical, political, personal, and material histories in the process. By joining feminist, decolonial, and indigenous scholars in taking to task the Western framework that positions “human” and “nature” as distinct and oppositional categories, these artists critique the erasure of other ways of living in the world that are inherently environmentally conscious or sustainable. In Collaborative Survival, plants and humans are bound together through specific, complex, and reciprocal relationships defined by interconnected processes of survival and displays of resilience that complicate the Anthropocene narrative.
Beatrice Glow interrogates the visual languages of luxury and power as they are derived through the exploitation of natural resources. Smoke Trails (2021) features the catalogue, objects, and virtual smoking room of a fictional private family collection in the near future. Named Empire of Smoke (EoS10^15), this mysterious quadrillionaire legacy has self-enriched through centuries investing in businesses related to airborne substances, from tobacco and gunpowder to vape culture and bioweapons.
In Fertility Flowers (2021) Goldie Poblador explores the origins and mythologies behind the Dama de Noche and Peacock flowers, both native to the artist’s home country, the Philippines. Poblador’s eco-feminist approach addresses how flowers are appropriated via trade from their countries of origin, while seeking to decolonize and complicate these histories through reimagination in a glass, video, performance, and scent installation.
Tahir Karmali’s series Paradise (2019) depicts the artist’s family in their home country of Seychelles, using deceptively idyllic imagery to conceal frustration and longing for a homeland fighting imminent climate change. This body of work, and his practice at large, de-neutralizes raw materials such as cotton canvas and sheds light on fraught circuits of production. By engaging both fair-trade community sourcing and zero-waste production, Karmali’s practice questions the possibilities and limits of artistic circulation as well as individual responsibility.
Michael Wang constructs a greenhouse for Brugmansia versicolor plants. Officially designated “extinct in the wild,” the plants are displayed within a life-support system tailored to their unique needs. In collaboration with local horticulturalists, Wang’s research traces species across national borders and cosmologies. This ongoing series by the artist also adapts the greenhouse, principally a modernist structure of displacement, as a human strategy for plant survival.
In her two-part project HyperAdaptation (2021), Jenny Brockmann collaborates with four researchers: Lynn Christenson, ecologist at Vassar College; Peter Grofmann, biochemist at CUNY’s Advanced Science Research Center; Lathan Hardy, woodwind specialist and producer; and Lauhona Ganguly, media theorist at The New School, to steer between the constructed divisions of “nature” and “culture.” Through an interactive sculpture, public dialogue event, and drawn cartography, Brockmann’s project addresses ideas of adaptability/non-adaptability within species, environments, social interactions, and AI.
Collaborative Survival calls attention to the ways in which humans are enmeshed in webs of lively and messy interrelations across species. Drawing upon both new stories and time-honored knowledge, the artists in this exhibition encourage a shift in our collective imagination, from that of a one-way extinction toward praxes that make way for multidirectional futures.
Danni Shen is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn. She is currently an M.A. candidate at the Center for Curatorial Studies, CCS Bard, Research Associate at The Kitchen, and Critic-in-Residence at MICA during the academic year. Previous curatorial roles include at SPRING/BREAK Art Show NY/LA and Empty Gallery in Hong Kong. Shen was also the Curatorial Fellow at Wave Hill, Curator-in-Residence at Residency Unlimited, and Guest Critic at NYU Tisch-ITP. She is a contributor to various publications including BOMB Magazine, Art in America, Heichi Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, Rhizome, onscreentoday介面 included, and is also a recipient of the Art Writing Workshop and the Art Critic Mentoring Program in collaboration with CUE Art Foundation x the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA).