A joint project of Kunsthalle Wien and Wiener Festwochen
Artists: Manuel Chavajay • Chto Delat • Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes • Daniela Ortiz • Prabhakar Pachpute • Sophie Utikal
Originally scheduled for the early summer of 2020, And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers?, an exhibition curated by Miguel A. López and produced in collaboration with the Wiener Festwochen, has been postponed until next year.
For now, we invite you to a prologue to the exhibition: a selection of works designed for public settings. Starting June 1, 2020, works by six artists and artist collectives—Manuel Chavajay, Chto Delat, Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes, Daniela Ortiz, Prabhakar Pachpute, and Sophie Utikal—created specifically for this occasion, will be featured on 250 billboards throughout Vienna.
This “Prologue in Public Space” is an attempt to translate some of the exhibition’s voices and topics into a medium that is compatible with the current obstacles and circumstances facing cultural presentations around the world. Miguel A. López invited the artists to produce works that reflect on the current pandemic from the perspective of their own experiences, concerns, geographies, and political communities. Each work responds to and reflects a different outlook on a shared world that is collectively, but unevenly, being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In keeping with the spirit of the original exhibition, the interventions are meant to start a dialogue about self-determination and social and ecological change.
The project is generously supported by EPAMEDIA.
b. San Pedro La Laguna (Guatemala) in 1982, lives and works in San Pedro La Laguna
Maya Tz’utujil artist Manuel Chavajay depicts Tz’ikin, one of the twenty nahuales of the Mesoamerican cosmology, which are animal spirit counterparts of the humans for whom they function as protectors. The character carries a gold ingot, representing how the Traditional Territories of the Maya are seen by the West as a place for the accumulation of capital based on extractive logics, through the exploitation of people and natural resources. The Tz’utujil word “Ru k’ayewaal,” which appears at the bottom of the work, can be translated as “being in trouble because of an imposed, violent situation.”
Manuel Chavajay, Tz'ikin, 2020, photo: Josue Samol, courtesy the artist
collective, founded in Petersburg in 2003
Eine Feder (visualized by Dmitry Vilensky), 2020
The work of the Russian collective Chto Delat draws on the aesthetics of Soviet anti-nuclear war posters from the 1970s, which mixed cutout images to create threatening scenarios of environmental devastation. The question in Chto Delat’s graphic work, “What will happen if one feather falls from its body?,” is a playful revision of the exhibition’s title, inviting us to see the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in terms of the black swan theory—which describes unpredictable and unexpected events that can trigger severe consequences. In the work’s speculative fiction, an interconnected and globalized world is pushed around like a toy by a skinny pig, a breed of guinea pig developed in 1978 by scientists.
Chto Delat, Eine Feder (visualized by Dmitry Vilensky), 2020, courtesy the artists
Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes
What Is Deep Sea Mining?, 2018–20
Inhabitants is an online channel for exploratory videos and documentaries about issues related to environmentalism and the Anthropocene, founded by Portuguese artists Pedro Neves Marques and Mariana Silva in 2005. This graphic work is part of its research into the deep-sea mining industry, which has turned oceans into the latest frontier of corporative mineral extraction. The graphic draws attention to current explorations that are part of development plans for new undersea mines that will cover an area the size of Europe. The destruction of the ocean floor threatens not only marine life and ecosystems but the entire global fight against environmental injustice and the climate emergency.
The research project What Is Deep Sea Mining? was commissioned by TBA21–Academy.
Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes, What is Deep Sea Mining?, 2018–2020, commissioned by TBA21–Academy, courtesy the artists
b. Cusco (Peru) in 1985, lives and works in Barcelona
Papa, with P for Patriarchy, 2020
This work by the anticolonial artist and activist Daniela Ortiz is an ad for a hand-drawn children’s book about a father who is a hero—but a hero of the patriarchy. The image introduces the different characters of a story that explores the legal mechanisms behind racist and patriarchal abuse and violence. Ortiz addresses how psychological oppression and its forms of economic, mental, physical, and emotional confinement, particularly as experienced by single mothers while parenting, is close to the social quarantine being enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is available for free download at kunsthallewien.at/en/papapatriarchy.
Daniela Ortiz, Papa, with P for Patriarchy, 2020, courtesy the artist
b. Sasti (India) in 1986, lives and works in Pune (India)
A plight of hardship, 2020
Prabhakar Pachpute’s drawing depicts a character midstride who is made up of body parts, personal belongings, and cleaning accessories, evoking the iconographic forms of some Indian goddesses of epidemic diseases. Here the artist addresses the flipside of the global slowdown of everyday activities and nationwide lockdowns: lowest-paid essential workers who keep things moving during the pandemic and often lack access to benefits like paid leave and health insurance. The character’s movement also may refer to migrants who have nowhere else to go, or perhaps to the current mass exoduses from densely populated cities to rural areas. Underneath the various layers worn by the walking figure, a violent absence of justice and labor rights is revealed.
Prabhakar Pachpute, A plight of hardship, 2020, photo: Prabhakar Pachpute & Amol K Patil, courtesy the artist
b. Tallahassee (Florida, USA) in 1987, lives and works in Berlin and Vienna
What was, is gone, 2020
Sophie Utikal’s textile piece explores the sensations of belonging and displacement in the encounter with an unknown future. The interruption of everyday life emerges in her work as an atmosphere of constant and conflict-ridden negotiation with passivity. The arrangement of the characters evokes the forced physical distancing and the disruption of the tactile currently being imposed on interpersonal relations, addressing the effects that the pandemic has had on our emotions, feelings, and behaviors.
Sophie Utikal, what was, is gone, 2020, photo: Abiona Esther Ojo, courtesy the artist