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LIKE WALKING ON MARS

novembre 13, 2018

Opening 14 November 2018
Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos, Tenerife
The Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Janet Biggs has been travelling for years around the world, riding camels in remote deserts, navigating on ice in the Arctic, exploring the earth’s depths in salt or sulfur mines — harvesting images, impressions and sounds. After the harvest, the artist hides for months in her studio in Brooklyn, works with composers, scientists, dancers, astronomers, then creates and merges sounds and images which witness humanity’s seemingly endless capacity for hope and their desire for new possibilities. As stated by Walter Benjamin, the experience and the ability to transmit it are linked; hence Biggs’ necessity to experiment in order to transmit. This necessity led the artist, for this exceptional exhibition spanning two museums of Tenerife, to personally experience nomadism with the local people of some of the most geopolitically unstable regions of the globe, as well as experiment with scientists as they training in Utah for life on planet Mars, in a future closer than we think.

Like walking on Mars? Walking in time with utopia as companion “walking as a freedom, as a subversive practice, as a visual art practice and as a performance“ (Clare Qualmann). Biggs’ art is walking art and her images are moving images, and whether walking on Mars or walking from Yemen to Europe, it is always walking, dreaming, persevering in hope.

Mercedes Pinto (1883-1976), the great Canary Islands’ poet wrote along similar thoughts: “Your country is the one who gives a hand to whom is walking” (La patria es la que tiende la mano al caminante).

“Salí ayer de mi patria, y ni un temblor estremeció mi párpados.
… Yo considero mi potente esfuerzo
como el del águila caudal, que huyese
de donde el cazador le persiguiera
y va a parar su vuelo, en una roca abrupta en lejanía
que nunca conociera.”

Pinto’s poem and the song of hope sung by the girl at the end of Weighing Life Without a Scale, seem to embrace the possibility for happiness, echo to each other through time and space.

The work in Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre, Weighing Life Without a Scale, confronts two deserts, two populations, two ways of expressing our human desire to go, wherever elsewhere, to find a better world, to survive. The confrontation of the antithetical, miserable for Yemeni refugees, hyper-technological for scientists aiming to colonize Mars, underscores the fact that the desire to go and find another land is intrinsic to humanity: whether escaping an existing location or chasing something, we are looking for the unknown.

So is Janet Biggs, and for the artist, our earth is not enough. The Museo de La Cienca y El Cosmos offers Biggs a unique opportunity to express her fierce desire to go further, to go future, and her conviction that innovation, desire, and curiosity exist no matter what the given resources or support systems. Through the giant telescopes of Tenerife and La Palma, Biggs seems to interrogate and listen to the space – to the Space Between Fragility Curves, a fragility curve being the statistical analysis of a structure’s ability to withstand a seismic shift. Three humankinds intertwine here: Yemeni refugee children from Camp Markazi in Djibouti, possible future colonists to Mars, and a robot who creates music inspired by Biggs’ video images. Can a musical robot have humanity? Does it augment our human-ness, or threaten it? How to withstand these seismic questions? Confronted by those essential issues, the artist navigates between despair – perhaps the only “reasonable” posture – and hope: the only possible position – and action.

Music always holds a poetic, soothing, overwhelming, at times hypnotic role in Janet Biggs’ videos. In Seeing Constellations in the Darkness Between Stars an amputated drummer uses a prosthetic arm to play, while other robots, Mars exploration rovers, move back and forth on barren ground. While at first sight the otherness and solitude of the two compositions seem the major link between them, it soon appears that the very concept of prosthesis – of augmented humanity – works like as an umbilical cord between the two.

Biggs, as a humanist, a feminist, a creator, an explorer of strangeness, takes us by hand and leads us walking through her own brain, her own worlds, and through her works, she makes this world accessible to all viewers – universal.

Barbara Polla


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