Cecilia Bengolea

Curated by Chus Martínez

8 June – 16 June, 2019

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One cannot but feel fascinated by words such as “riverbed” and “seabed”—the soft ground where the water flows. Imagine all the stones now on the floor of der TANK in their previous life at the bottom of the Rhine. In fact, there is a whole choreography in the encounter between the water and the rocks. It is not the movement of the water that erodes the rocks, but the smaller pieces of rock, sediment, and silt that constantly dance within it. These tiny bits of broken stones hit the rocks at the bottom of the river, breaking off small pieces, and the river does the rest by carrying them away. The faster the water moves, the more sediment flows over the river rocks, hastening erosion. It is easy to imagine this ballet of particles.

All the stones now forming the floor of the new performance piece by Cecilia Bengolea at der TANK miss the water, although a family of deep-sea creatures is resting on top of them. They are all invertebrate species, the type of organisms that dominate deep areas. Oh, the deep sea is an amazing world! Life in the depths is extremely slow-growing, like the time it took for the great rocks to become small stones. For both these ceramic creatures and these silent stones, time has a dimension that has nothing to do with human life. I assume that this is why Cecilia Bengolea has transformed herself into a hybrid creature capable of dancing with and for these life-forms.

Too often we talk as if climate emergency were a technical problem and could be «solved» through the adoption of certain measures. But in reality, our negative impact on nature is a cultural problem, or rather is due to the lack of a culture that sees this damage as self-inflicted pain, as domestic violence, as a negation of coexistence... This new performance and installation piece by Cecilia Bengolea is entitled Oneness or «Danse au fond de la mer» because it is in dancing and performing a different relationship with elements of nature removed from our daily experience that we are able to understand the effects of human activity, such as pollution, destructive trawl-fishing, deep sea mining, and climate change, as well as the possibility of producing different conditions to positively affect our future in oneness, in togetherness with life in a broad sense.

Oneness also marks a very fruitful four-year collaboration with the French foundation [NA!] Project. Their commitment to supporting art and artists addressing this different approach to our coexistence with nature began during dOCUMENTA (13) but has evolved over the last few years, giving rise to different initiatives such as supporting new commissions at der TANK. Mathilde Rosier, Ingela Ihrmann, Teresa Solar, and now Cecilia Bengolea have benefited from a program that not only helps the Art Institute to support artists, but also to situate these questions and praxis at the core of our curricula. We cannot conceive of nature separately from the social issues we face: gender inequality, poverty, the transformation of labor ... and it is through the emergence of languages that are sensitive to them and capable of creating an artistic experience of them that we can learn to see new possibilities. Possibilities and new future scenarios that are linked with «awareness,» but—first and foremost—with the joy of a world that views its responsibility and future freedom as inextricably linked with the life of each and every one of our planet’s organisms.


Ph. Guadalupe Ruiz

Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
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