Artists from four continents bring together various cultural backgrounds at Elizabeth Xi Bauer

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Artists from four continents bring together various cultural backgrounds at Elizabeth Xi Bauer
Tapfuma Gutsa, The Cypher, 2002. Water buffalo, horn and granite, 107 x 31 x 30 cm. Tapfuma Gutsa. Courtesy the Artist and October Gallery, London. Photograph Jonathan Greet.

LONDON.- Elizabeth Xi Bauer presents a lama, a lama, an exhibition of four contemporary artists and one artist group whose practices acknowledge our climate emergency. In a lama, a lama, each of them turn their gaze to one aspect of our planet, depicting elements such as flora, fauna, water, fire, geological formations and typhoons to address global warming.

The artists in this exhibition are from four continents, thus bringing together various cultural backgrounds that share concerns surrounding the health of our ecosystem. They further share an understanding of the earth as a holistic body, where the wellbeing of one part is indissociable from the wellbeing of the whole.

The exhibition title, Portuguese for ‘it’s the mud, it’s the mud’, is borrowed from Tom Jobim’s eponymous guas de Maro (Waters of March), which the musician wrote in both English and Portuguese. By doing so, Jobim signified the rain-showers that are characteristic of March – or at least used to be – through two geographical perspectives: the Global South, where the rains signal summer is over, and the Global North, whereby turn the phenomena welcomes spring. The announcement of the mud has an eerie parallel with Maria Thereza Alves’ sculptural painting Rio Doce: Sweet No More (2017), which depicts the Samarco dam disaster from 2015 that released several dozens of millions of cubic metres of mine tailings into the Doce River, in Brazil, which is a major water source for the Krenak people.

a lama, a lama features watercolours, on public display for the first time, by Maria Thereza Alves depicting flora, such as sunflowers. Accompanied by handwritten texts, these works describe the absurdities of colonial legacies, in her exploration of historical injustices. For example, in her work An Historical Aspect of the Landscape of Venice (Tinos) (2007), the artist presents to the viewer an explanation of Venice’s tourist tax. These are two diptychs and one triptych.

Alves has worked and exhibited internationally since the 1980s, creating a body of work investigating the histories and circumstances of particular localities to give witness to silenced histories. Her projects are research-based and develop out of her interactions with the physical and social environments of the places she lives, or visits, for exhibitions and residencies. These projects begin in response to local needs and proceed through a process of dialogue that is often facilitated between material and environmental realities and social circumstances. While aware of Western binaries between nature and culture, art and politics, or art and daily life, she deliberately refuses to acknowledge them in her practice. She chooses instead to work with people in communities as equals through relational practices of collaboration that require constant movement across all of these boundaries.

Tapfuma Gutsa’s work upcycles natural elements, re-signifying them, such as with: ruins, bones, pieces of wood, fruits and so on. The artist collects pieces from nature and gives them a second life through assemblages. For example, in The Cypher (2002), Gutsa connects a water buffalo horn with granite.

Tapfuma Gutsa’s practice, both as artist and workshop leader, explores the physical and metaphorical possibilities of materials, from oak to eggshell, bone and clay. His work both advances and subverts the tradition of stone sculpture that dominated Zimbabwean art through the 1960s and 1970s. Beyond the elegant confidence apparent in his choice of materials, he endows the objects he forms with an otherworldly power.

The two-channel video The Vine Chronicle (2016) by ikkibawiKrrr addresses the migration and evolution of plants in the context of South Korean urbanisation and redevelopment. Once sacred trees are covered by the urbanisation, only faint traces of the past communities remain. The group explores the way people and ecology are connected, through the historical migrations that have taken place. Their work addresses plants, but even more so the Gyeongsang and Gyeonggi Provinces’ residents and migrant workers who remain unsettled in unstable conditions.

Oswaldo Maci’s selection of drawings and frescoes depict the destruction caused by global warming within our climate emergency. The alarming Amazon rainforest fires and typhoons are immortalised in his frescoes, Amazonia (2022) and Typhoon (2022). The artist also presents an acoustic work responding to time, place and the ever-changing nature of our planet.

Maci’s oeuvre questions the awareness proportioned by the senses and the relations that are established between humans and the planet. His work also focuses on migration and cross pollination, stimulating questions about how we find our place in the world and notions of belonging. The artist’s olfactory-acoustic sculptures have been exhibited worldwide, creating immersive scenarios.

Uriel Orlow explores the mountain ecosystems which present an interesting contradiction: the climate is warming at a higher pace than the global average, yet the vegetation response is slower than might be expected. However, the plants, often thought of as unmoving, are shifting their habitat ranges in order to follow the conditions they are adapted to.

Himalayan Drift (2022) – which is exhibited as part of a lama, a lama – was created by Orlow using satellite images of the Himalaya Mountain range. These images indicate temperature shifts by focusing on vegetation.

a lama, a lama also features a large wall piece by Orlow compromised of multiple coloured monochrome prints, each varying in colour to represent the yearly temperature of the Himalayas from 1900 to 2020. This works conveys the progressive heating of our planet based on the climate stripes developed by Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading.

The artist’s practice is research-driven, process-oriented and often in dialogue with other disciplines and people. His projects engage with residues of colonialism; spatial manifestations of memory; social and ecological justice; blind spots of representation and plants. His multi-media installations focus on specific locations and micro-histories. Working across installation, photography, film, drawing, and sound his works bring different image-regimes and narrative modes into correspondence.
a lama, a lama is curated by Maria do Carmo M. P. de Pontes.

Elizabeth Xi Bauer
a lama, a lama (It’s the mud, it’s the mud)
August 4th, 2023 - September 16th, 2023

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