Look at Water
The Other Side of Water is a curated group exhibition by artists who have a practice based in extensive research and are interested in dealing with the notions surrounding the politics and poetics of water. The focus of the project—and many of the artists’ previous works, is the ways that bodies of water define our lives. The discourses around political disadvantage and inequality, migration, and environmental degradation as well as trade, colonization, and imperialism have historically been shaped by, and unraveled across, water. In every context (political, as much as geographical) where there is water, the meaning of this most precious element is comprehended differently: be it in tradition or mythology, trade or conflict, environmentalism or extractivism. This project will take place in three cities (Belgrade, Berlin and Teheran) connecting not only East to West and crossing the waters but also drawing a connection between the artists’ unique backgrounds.
The works of the artists can be divided into three thematic categories: geo/politics, story/telling, and environment/s, each forming a separate chapter. All of the contributions to the exhibition open up an examination of narratives around real and imagined bodies of water; narratives shaped by ideological structures and collective everyday practices alike. Approaching the curatorial process as a performance in and of itself, the exhibition will be curated taking into consideration Heraclitus’ idea that “one cannot step into the same river twice”. Within the duration of each exhibition the setup and/or the exhibited artists will be changed, keeping the exhibition fluid. The performative quality of the curatorial approach also allows each work to develop new layers of meaning through its relationship with its ever-changing surrounding. Adapting, clashing or complementing the artworks around it, each piece also becomes a metaphor for an individual in an ever shifting landscape.
︎︎︎ Chapter One: Laments of Time
Following the opening days (14th-17th April) of the exhibition, the first Chapter, “The Other Side of Water: Laments of Time,” takes over the Podroom Gallery from 18th to 27th April.
Like water that relentlessly fills up the cup, conquering its shape in its entirety, artists in this cohort trace the boundaries of its geopolitical exploitation, in a procession followed by the constant sense of anxiety so innate in the third world.
Works of Lucas Odahara focus on poetics of water both in its individual and societal identification. His drawing series Nightwater presents objects that become connecting elements between night and day. His other work, O Sapato do Mastre, Masthaharage Sapattu (the Master’s Shoes), that was made in collaboration with Indrakanthi Perera, is a video departing from a poem playing with Portuguese and Sinhala words. Mate Ugrin captures the last launch of the ship at the “Third of May” Shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia in his work Porinuće (To Launch a Ship). Juniper Foam and Roshanak Amini’s Wherever I Am the Sky is Mine / Staring at the Sun looks into the fluctuation between an “illegal settlement” Karail and the rest of Dhaka (Bangladesh) and the force of organic social movements that, like water, find their way through imposed physical and social boundaries. In his work The Free World (Part I), Uroš Pajović explores geopolitical constructs of the King Fahd Causeway between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and its local and international role.
As we pause in front of these artworks we realize that we have suddenly become part of that world, estranged and imprisoned. This new reality with its expressive sensibility leaves us in turmoil. The urge to act remains with us. The change is imminent, or so it seems.
︎︎︎ Chapter Two: Forces of Habit
The middle part of the exhibition delves into the ways in which water has—in different cultures, religions, and communities—deeply shaped and conditioned everyday rituals and ceremonies and carried people and their stories across space and time. It entails two solos iterations, where the works of Stephanie Imbeau and Marko Stojanović take over the entire space of the Podroom gallery on 28th-30th April and 9th-11th May, respectively, while its central part, “The Other Side of Water: Forces of Habit,” takes place 4th-7th May and, alongside Imbeau and Stojanović, also gathers the works of Mariam Kalandarishvili, Maryam Katan, and Roshanak Amini.
In Shifts (Procession), Imbeau’s sculptures and performance series pay homage to and represent how water acts as a shepherd to those who wander from one shore to the next, or visibly shape and alter the landscape, both slowly over time, and abruptly. Stojanović’s photographic series 19th of January, shot over the course of three years, proposes a queering understanding of an Orthodox tradition which takes place on the Epiphany holiday. The series takes a broad look at the events, organized by different entities from church, state, and the royal family, in which men race swimming to a wooden cross, and priests bless the waters in which the competition takes place. While Kalandarishvili’s installation Tertiary Effects recontextualizes the weaponization of water, particularly in the context of public displays of dissent, Katan’s video installation Tactics of Desire unravels the layers of the touristic gaze and examines the exploitative relationship between human and nature. Finally, Amini’s audio-video installation Threshold brings together stories of resistance, analyzing the notions of hope attached to the manifold meanings of the phrase “the other side of water.”
︎︎︎ Chapter Three: Remnants of Hope
Anticipating the final days of the Belgrade iteration of The Other Side of Water (16th-19th May), the last Chapter, “The Other Side of Water: Remnants of Hope”, overflows Podroom from 12th to 14th of May with work which looks into the impact of the current climate crisis on the world’s seas and rivers and the role of water resources in shaping the near future.
Diana Barquero Pérez’s If You Think You Can Grasp Me, Think Again, will look at the transformations of the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland, a protected wetland in the southern area of Costa Rica currently manipulated through a purely extractive lens without considering the ensuing complexity of the social and environmental consequences. Ivan Marković’s video series portrays the absurdities in the way humans have used, destroyed and attempted to recreate nature in their pursuit for comfort and pleasure. Marijana Radović’s Gentle Cleanser focuses on the Mediterranean Sea, where millions of small replicas of jewels and silks are shipped every second from East to West in large containers leaving behind a toxic trail. Her sculptures are made from those plastic replicas, purchased in small shops around the Mediterranean basin. In Water Remembers, Škart Group’s banner-like chants use wordplay and visual language to celebrate water as both a means and a subject of contention and struggle.
These residues of human interaction with its environment which have tainted and forever changed the world’s waters is what consumes the gallery space during these three days.