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Big-bang, fish sex and watching grass grow. Agency of Living Organisms

13-02-2017 10:40

Big-bang, fish sex and watching grass grow. Agency of Living Organisms

Sunday, February 5th was the last day for visiting the Agency of Living Organisms, curated by Pauline Doutreluingne. The exhibition has explored the relationships that become established between the different living phenomena in our environment, the latter encompassing flora and fauna, sea and forest, the urban and rural environments and the human race, but also the different layers of air breathed by all inhabitants of planet Earth. This is the leitmotiv of the project for its young curator: the coexistence of all elements that make up different life systems, acknowledging what they have in common and the importance and effects of each one.

In this post we look at some of the highlights which, from our perspective, have shaped this curatorial project.

The first of these is the active role of a geologist. What does a geologist do in a place like this? Two artists and a geologist take part in the exhibition, and Koenraad Van Driesche’s inclusion has been key to developing the curator’s thesis. His knowledge of evolution from a geological standpoint has added a dimension of history that transports us back to times as distant as the tertiary period, and repositions us in the Anthropocene era, which has practically just begun. Koenraad proposed a series of walks through the city of San Sebastián to show us the footprints exposed in the Earth’s layers, and to convey that the human being is but a trivial inhabitant in a 14-million-year time line that started with the Big Bang.

Originally from Belgium, Koenraad has lived in the Basque Country for many years and knows the mountainous Basque landscape inside out. For the German Anne Duk Hee Jordan, however, it was her first time visiting these parts. Pauline invited the German to explore the underwater world of the Basque coast, and with the help of local experts, the artist plunged herself into the waters of the Cantabrian Sea. The result of this residency and various collaborations was a video installation titled Ziggy and the Starfish which looks at sexual mutations in fish caused by human-induced changes in the sea.


Whatching the grass grow. Maider López

The process has also been flipped around: a non-local curator inviting a local artist. During her winter residency in 2015 we put Pauline in touch with various local artists who have common work and research interests. Maider López and her work created expressly for this exhibition is one such example. Under the title Watching the Grass Grow, Maider recorded a 21-day video cycle that shows grass growing at its natural rate. Recorded using a camera mounted to show the view of an insect on a lawn, the artist offers us a change in dimension and animal scale and challenges our concept of time.

The exhibition finished with a performance against the clock. The Basque-Iranian Nader Koochaki set himself a challenge: to read mountain race champion Kilian Jornet’s book Correr o morir (Run or Die) aloud, as fast as possible. Performed live in the darkness of the exhibition hall, the exhausted Nader, as the middle-distance runner, read Kilian’s experiences and efforts in the first person, binding himself almost in real time to Kilian's own struggle described on the pages.

There were other aspects to the exhibition throughout its run, but the parts we’ve talked about here mark the end of an experience as intense as any other curatorial process. Except this time it talked about that process, addressing the living agencies which spread and show mankind that something is always changing, helping us to be aware of the changes of state all around us, of the visible and the not-so-visible.



Ane Agirre Loinaz
Head of exhibitions and Artists' Space


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