Incantations – Entwinement, Endurance and Extinction
2022

Digital color print on self-adhesive vinyl film, paper pinwheels

Dimensions variable

Courtesy of the artist

Exhibition view of PLANET B. Climate Change and the New Sublime, Palazzo Bollani, Venice, Italy, 2022

 

Incantations – Entwinement
2022

Installation view of PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime. Part 1: Every exhibition is a forest, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, Venice, 2022
Photo: Emanuela Lazzari

 

Incantations – Entwinement and Endurance
2022

Installation view of PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime. Part 2: Charles Darwin and the Coral reefs, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, Venice, 2022
Photo: Andrea Avezzù

 

Incantations – Entwinement, Endurance and Extinction
2022

Installation view of PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime. Part 3: The Tragic Death of Nauru Island, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, Venice, 2022
Photo: Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano

 

Installation view of PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime. Part 3: The Tragic Death of Nauru Island, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, Venice, 2022
Video: venicedocumentationproject

 

Haegue Yang is known for her large-scale installations and sculptures that often employ sensorial elements. Lesser known is the growing number of wallpapers she has produced since 2011. An important field of experimentation for Yang, the wallpaper was initially employed to explore the notion of “flatness,” in which objects, artifacts, and artworks lose their scale, weight, gravity, legacy, and context. In collapsing these elements as a flattening of abstraction, a new space altogether is recomposed. To respond to the panoramic expanse of the wallpaper, the artist often initiates research into the as-yet-unknown, diving into an unexplored yet pressing topic or phenomena to gain her own perspective about a new place, its people, and its history. From her research, images and motifs emerge and coalesce into an illusionary backdrop for Yang’s sculptures to inhabit, an unfamiliar landscape in which existing conventions and hierarchies are shuffled.

For Planet B – Climate Change and the New Sublime, Yang was commissioned to conceive a wallpaper, which encompasses all three acts of the group exhibition: Every exhibition is a forest, Charles Darwin and the coral reefs, and The tragic death of Nauru Island. The resulting wallpaper, Incantations – Entwinement, Endurance, and Extinction, has been realized through alteration, accumulation, as well as an exemption and expansion of images according to the thematic focus of each act. This metabolic principle of imagery in three transformational phases is central to the commission.

The first act, Incantations – Entwinement, sees an intriguing clash between diverse shamanic practices, which are only partially familiar to the artist. In Jeremy Narby’s seminal text The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (1998), which was based on two years of fieldwork in the Pichis Valley of the Peruvian Amazon, the author inferred that connections exist between the shamanic practice of ingesting Ayahuasca (a psychoactive brew) and molecular biology. Referencing Narby’s speculations on the transmission of knowledge at the molecular level, Yang offers a view to the sky through the forest with colorful arcs and gradated masses relating to photosynthesis traversing the composition, while her own creations based on paper props used in Korean shamanism become enmeshed in the dense forest, in concert with ascending serpents. That scenario bleeds into a giant image of “the blob”—a unicellular slime mold with an insatiable appetite that challenges our understanding of intelligent life through its adaptive learning and communication skills. Hidden in this complex composition of metallic bells and floating double helixes are details made with the encoded repeating pattern of “magic eyes.” For Yang, these mysterious patterns symbolize the “defocalizing” act needed to challenge scientific rationalism. Ultimately, her forest of wallpaper becomes a “television,” allowing us to perceive scenes that we have never experienced.

The second act, Incantations – Entwinement and Endurance, takes inspiration from Charles Darwin’s The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842), in which he describes the gradual formation of coral reefs over thousands of years as a form of sublime. Drawing on the accumulation of coral in atoll formation, Yang adds motifs in transparent vinyl to the wallpaper: various types of corals, red formations based on Darwin’s coral reef drawings, and a graph indicating the rising temperature of the ocean.

For the third and final act, Incantations – Entwinement, Endurance, and Extinction, over 300 black pinwheels are arranged in a beguiling formation. Made of lightweight paper and animated by two fans, which evoke the warm winds of the Pacific, they slowly rotate and bring movement to the wallpaper in a lament of the devastation of Nauru, once dubbed “Pleasant Island.”

 

Exhibition History

PLANET B. Climate Change and the New Sublime, Venice, Italy, 2022

 

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