Artist: Isabelle Andriessen
Exhibition title: BUNK
Venue: CAN Centre d’Art Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Date: October 10 – November 28, 2021
Photography: Aurélien Mole / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and CAN Centre d’Art Neuchâtel
BUNK is a choreographed installation envisioning a landscape governed by queer materials and contagious entities claiming agency. The exhibition is a hypothesis displaying synthetic ‘species’ which shed new light on the hidden and unprecedented agendas of materials. The performative sculptures derive their behavior from a speculative narrative, in which different timelines situate themselves between fact and fiction. The installation is an excavation site and birth place at the same time; a meeting point to these different hypothetical entities, that all belong to another location, another timeline – with their own behavior.
Isabelle Andriessen is interested in a world governed by ‘activist’ materials (mainly dead, but some semi-dead) that appear to be passive and inanimate, yet their output reveals a much darker perspective. Her work addresses these agencies at stake in the present, but also speculate on how these could increase in the (near) future. At the same time her work stretches the complications of art conservation within the art institute at large – by creating a threshold between sculpture and performance. Her sculptures seem to be entities from another world where the laws of nature have taken another path and are different from our earthly laws. They settle along the walls, spread on the ground, bringing their own ecosystem and leaving liquid pools around them.
This new production is addressing the living systems and intra-active networks that reside in the interface between the human and the non-human. Within the installation is the notion of sculpture as ‘host’ or actor is even more pronounced than in previous works. The materials will multiply and spread in unpredictable ways; they expand yet refuse to stay. The CAN is split in two organised zones changing and performing over the time of the exhibition and beyond. Within these given spaces several sculptural series are spread. All together the installation reveals a sticky speculative landscape from which life as we know it has vanished – making way for new uncanny semi-living objects and algorithms. They feed off of each other as well as their surrounding atmosphere and architecture. Over time the choreography is revealing the multiple personalities at stake from these materials claiming their agency as they become more self-organising; growing more and more out of control. Some materials will disperse, ooze and leak, others will creep and crawl up, sweat, quiver or become airborne.
Elements of extraterrestrial vessels or entities from the depths, their life span is unknown but their development, although almost imperceptible, is nevertheless real: secretion of chemical substances, oxidation, crystallization and condensation. The different mediums (such as aluminium, ceramics, epoxy, stainless steel) will penetrate each other, percolate, perforate, cling on and connect to each other. Their structure reminds us of some alien engineering or mechanism. The different sculptural components provide nourishment to one another, manipulating each other’s process and pushing for unpredictable changes.
BUNK prologue is an audio work by artist and writer Becket Flannery commissioned by Isabelle Andriessen to accompany her exhibition. Becket’s writing responds to the artistic practice of others, and inhabits the “paratextual” spaces of an exhibition. In BUNK prologue, three voices inhabit a four-channel audio work, including one artificial Text-to-Speech voice developed by Amazon. Starting from the forms of infrastructure and non-human agency in Andriessen’s installation, the voices describe moments of ecological, urban, chemical, technological and linguistic circulation. From the stuffy air inside a dormitory, to a traffic jam in the middle of a storm, examples of blockages and flows dramatize the complex systems that act around and through our bodies.