Longitudes

SAVE THE DATE: 29 June, 19h. Private view of the exhibition "4.543 billion. The matter of matter" at the CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux

Xavier Ribas, Chilean Nitrate publicity postcard, c. 1920 from "A History of Detonations", 2013. Courtesy the artist and ProjecteSD, Barcelona; and Lucas Ihlein, "Under Ground", 2010. Courtesy of the artist.


SAVE THE DATE

Exhibition ‘4.543 billion. The matter of matter’, CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, June 29, 2017–January 7, 2018.  

Opening: June 29, 2017 (6 pm)

With: A.J. Aalders, Lara Almarcegui, Maria Thereza Alves, Félix Arnaudin, Amy Balkin, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck in collaboration with Media Farzin, Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Étienne Denisse, Hubert Duprat, Giulio Ferrario, Ângela Ferreira, Anne Garde, Ambroise-Louis Garneray, Terence Gower, Rodney Graham, Ilana Halperin (also at the Université de Bordeaux’s zoology department), Marianne Heier, Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller, Lucas Ihlein and Louise Kate Anderson, Jannis Kounellis, Martín Llavaneras, Erlea Maneros Zabala, Nicholas Mangan, Fiona Marron, Alexandra Navratil, Xavier Ribas, Alfred Roll, Amie Siegel, Lucy Skaer, Alfred Smith, Rayyane Tabet, Pierre Théron, Pep Vidal, Alexander Whalley Light, Stuart Whipps (also at the Musée des Beaux-Arts) as well as documents and objects lent by the archives of the CAPC, the Archives Bordeaux Métropole, the Archives départementales de la Gironde, and the geology collection of the UFR Sciences de la Terre et de la Mer, Université de Bordeaux.

Curated by Latitudes

With contributions from more than 30 artists, “4.543 billion. The matter of matter” is a major exhibition that addresses works of art, collections and cultural histories in relation to ecological processes and a geological scale of time. It presents a continuum of materials and temporal landscapes – films, works on paper, photographs, sculptures, documents, and other meaningful things – and springs from the CAPC building’s former life as a warehouse for colonial commodities whose limestone walls were once deep in the ground and whose wooden beams were once part of a forest.


A central proposal of the exhibition is that works of art are part of geophysical history as much as art history. 4.543 billion attempts to take into account both a micro-local and a planetary perspective, and to rethink some of the histories of art as fragments of broader narratives about the Earth and how our place in it has been represented. What is at stake when art and museums take on greater temporal and material awareness? How might they move beyond a spatial framework of “think globally, act locally”, to “think historically, act geologically”? 

Collections are accumulations of real physical matter in time as well as of ideas, decisions, fashions, knowledge, and use. Likewise minerals and organic matter might be regarded as both cultural evidence and archival storage media. This exhibition takes a situated view of the past that resists an undifferentiated narrative in which modernity in general is at fault for global ecological disarray, or humanity in an invariably abstract sense must take responsibility.


Accordingly, the artists included instead often address the specific roles and purposeful effects of individuals, practices, states or corporations in an account of how mineral agents and organic processes have intertwined with and underpinned culture. Marianne Heier’s contribution, for example, documents a project addressing the decisive roll North Sea oil has played in shaping art and culture in Norway. Rayyane Tabet’s works deal sculpturally with the legacy of the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line, a joint venture by three American oil companies that came together in 1946 to construct an pipeline from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean. Incorporating a fragment of Breccia Pernice marble from the lobby of Trump Tower, Dynasty (2017) by Amie Siegel weaves Italian geology into the political turmoil of the present. 

Several of the more documentary projects on display (including those by Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck and Terence Gower) trace the relationships between Modern art, the museum, and wealth created through extractive industry, combining approaches framed by Earth sciences with colonial history, sociology and political reportage. Yet other works take a more atmospheric, filmic, sculptural or graphic approach to extraction, economy, energy and global exchange, whether orbiting around sunlight, forests, synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels (a subject addressed by Alexandra Navratil), or the services and substances entailed in buildings that display art (as seen through the work of Lucas Ihlein and Lara Almarcegui).
In addition to two new projects in development for the occasion (by Christina Hemauer & Roman Keller and Ilana Halperin), the exhibition will include many works kindly lent by the artists and international galleries, as well as those from the CAPC collection and its archives. Loans from Bordeaux institutions include those from the Archives Bordeaux Métropole, the Archives départementales de la Gironde, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Musée d’Aquitaine and the geology collection of the UFR Sciences de la Terre et de la Mer, Université de Bordeaux.


Located at opposite ends of the galleries will be two imposing works that bookend the exhibition conceptually as well as physically. Originally made for CAPC in 1985, Jannis Kounellis’s nine-metre-long Sans titre is a slab of steel draped with coffee sacks that spits flames. On the other side, Ancient Lights (2015) is a two-screen video installation by Nicholas Mangan that is powered by an off-grid solar system with panels on the roof of the CAPC building. With sections filmed at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, and a salt-storage solar plant near Seville, Mangan’s looped videos speculates on the ideology and politics of energy. 


Several works by Ângela Ferreira also link diverse histories: those of the Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa, the source of one of the largest gems ever found, and the Chislehurst Caves in South East London, a crucible of counter-culture in the 1960s. In terms of an exploration of the underground – in this case with a sociological dimension – one could also mention All surface expectations disappear with depth (2010) a three-screen video work by Fiona Marron that juxtaposes text from a 1954 field report on working conditions in an American gypsum mine with footage from present-day excavation in Ireland.


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‘4.543 billion’ is the contribution of the CAPC musée to the cultural season Paysages Bordeaux 2017. Within the exhibition framework, Latitudes will lead the month-long residency programme ‘Geologic Time’ at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Alberta, Canada, in September–October 2017.


RELATED CONTENT:

In conversation with Lucas Ihlein for Artlink Magazine

The September issue of Artlink Magazine – a quarterly themed magazine covering contemporary art and ideas from Australia and the Asia-Pacific – includes a conversation we recently made with artist Lucas Ihlein. Ihlein's projects explore subjects as diverse as agriculture, gardening and social ecology, everyday life, avant-garde cinema history, fan culture, urban planning, communication and social relations.

The interview, titled "1:1 scale art and the Yeomans Project in North Queensland", is preceded with an intro contextualising our conversation and how we met:

Lucas Ihlein and Ian Milliss, "The Yeomans Project", field trip. Farmer Peter Clinch demonstrates the keyline irrigation channels at The Oaks Organics, Camden, NSW, 2014. Photo by Caren Florance.

We first met Lucas Ihlein in May 2014 at the recommendation of artist Nicholas Mangan. We had been invited to Melbourne to participate in Gertrude Contemporary’s Visiting Curator Program in partnership with Monash University of Art Design & Architecture, and had taken a few days out to visit the Biennale of Sydney and meet some Sydney-based artists. Nicholas was already familiar with our curatorial interests, stemming from ecology and site-specific practices; indeed, we’ve recently made an extended interview with him for the catalogue of his exhibition "Limits to Growth", so his matchmaking with Lucas was prescient. We talked for hours and have been corresponding ever since, with a view to collaborating further.

We were struck by the breadth and enthusiasm of Lucas’s practice and his voracious approach to the process of learning from the point of view of a novice. Where other people might pain over the policing of the roles of artist, curator or researcher, Lucas happily didn’t spend much time worrying about it. Accordingly, although it was the engagement with social and environmental ecology that initially piqued our interest, we soon realised that his was a collaborative practice that has embraced, for example, the re-enactment of “expanded cinema” works from the 1960s and 1970s (in the form of Teaching and Learning Cinema, run with Louise Curham) as well as a “blogging as art”, an approach that really chimed with our project for The Last Newspaper for which we had edited a weekly newspaper within an exhibition.

Indeed, a key impulse of our approach to the projects we have undertaken as Latitudes around art and ecology, in the broadest sense, has been to resist the narrow restraints of normative environmental-concern ecology, in part following Felix Guattari’s essay "The Three Ecologies" (2000), to encompass social and political relations, human subjectivity as well as historical research. In other words, thinking about a practice that does not necessarily give primacy to exhibition‑making as well as considering what an ecological art project might mean in terms of process and site, and thinking through what acting ecologically might entail in relation to acting curatorially, acting editorially, or acting historically, and so on.

Looking back on our projects in collaboration with the Royal Society of Arts “Arts & Ecology” programme—a public commission for London with artist Tue Greenfort (2005–8), our publication "Land Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook" (Royal Society of Arts/Arts Council England, 2006), and the symposium of “Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change”, 8th Sharjah Biennial (2007)—as well as the exhibition "Greenwashing. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities", Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2008), they now seem to belong to a very specific time when green issues gained wider traction. One might crudely say this began with the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in 2006 and effectively ended, or was overshadowed, by the 2008 financial crisis and its grim legacies.

We begin this interview at a moment when we’re revisiting some of the concerns left in the wake of such projects from the near past while preparing a group exhibition for CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux in 2017 around the carbon cycle and narratives of raw materials. At the time of writing Lucas has just returned from Guangzhou, where he has been exploring the geographical and social dimensions of sea level rise in the Pearl River Delta.


Continue reading... 

Lucas Ihlein is an Australia Council for the Arts Fellow in Emerging and Experimental Arts. He is currently showing alongside Trevor Yeung (Hong Kong) in Sea Pearl White Cloud 海珠白雲 at 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art until 24 September 2016. Ihlein’s collaborative project Sugar vs the Reef will culminate in an exhibition at Artspace Mackay, Queensland, in mid-2018. 


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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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2005—2019