LOVE THE ALIEN, LOVE THYSELF

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One of Sandra Mujinga’s Afrofuturist phantasmagorical giants: they haunt viewers,
reminding them that colonial amnesia has not been able to wipe out stories from the past.

 

by Jack Wright
Photos: Rose Maramba

“Loving the Alien” is an exhibition at the Casa Encendida in Madrid you would not miss for the world if you knew what it is all about! Thought-provoking and stirring, it’s about the self and the other, the unfamiliar, the separate (the alien) who, ultimately, makes a 180º turn-around and becomes no other than the self.

The exhibition kicks off with the proposition that the self, which encompasses one’s identity, as opposed to the alien’s, creates boundaries around the body, making it separate from the alien. This separateness could emanate from race, gender, and ecology, and does not only reject that which is alien but is also conducive to hatred of the alien.

Ironically, however, that hatred could backfire and become directed toward one’s self when the self does not conform to the norm. In which case, the self becomes the alien.

Put differently, “Loving the Alien” enjoins us to face “the other” because this could lead to new, hitherto unaccepted, realities.

The four artists featured in the exhibition provide different approaches to “Loving the Alien,” echoing prominent scholar and writer-philosopher Donna J. Haraway whose work challenges binary thinking in society that simplifies complex situations, reducing them to only two opposing and divisive perspectives. Haraway urges us to create new and even strange narratives to facilitate our navigation of today’s moral, psychological and ecological crises.

The said artists are:

ANNE DUK HEE JORDAN   A Korena-German artist, the central themes in Anne Duk Hee Jordan’s work are transience and transformation.   Her video work Unrubig bleiben/Staying with the Trouble (2019) is inspired by Haraway’s book of the same title. Whereas Brakfesten—La Grande Bouffe (2022, in collaboration with Pauline Doutreluingne) is a public sculpture that zooms into a symbiotic ecosystem. Both works are fables of hybridization and symbiosis that want us to reexamine the boundaries that separate humanity from nature.

SANDRA MUJINGA   Born in the Congo, Sandra Mujinga is a Norwegian video and installation artist who addresses  Afrofuturism, posthumanism,and social surveillance. For medium, she is partial to textiles, sculpture and new technology such as holograms.

Her Rewording Remains (2021) and Sentinels of Change (2021), confront the spectator with Afrofuturist phantasmagorical giants who appear before us (they occupy an entire Sala C in the Loving the Alien exhibition) as a reminder that the stories wiped out by colonial amnesia are far from gone.

Mari Katamaya, her body, and her identity

MARI KATAYAMA   She asks: “How much of this is you and how much is not you? Who do I and you belong to, and where are we?”

Katayama is a Japanese multimedia artist known for her sculpture and photography. As an amputee, body image and identity are a powerful focus of her work. In series like Bystander (2016) and Possession (2022), Katayama photographs her body, her prosthetic legs, and mannequins which are her alter-ego, these being what her identity consists of. Moreover, she instrumentalizes her body to reflect society.

Through her art, Katayama dares viewers to question the body and its complex relationship with the surrounding environment and society at large.

OVARTACI (born Louis Marcussen, 1894-1985)   The work of this Danish visual artist abounds with graceful hybrid human-animal creatures, their waists narrow, their limbs elongated, their faces catlike, and equipped with female genitals.

Hybrid human-animal creatures defy the divide between real life and the realm of art.

Dreams of flight are a constant in Ovartaci’s work, suggesting an intense desire to escape from the normalization of body and soul and defiance of the divide between real life and the realm of art.

Ovartaci him-herself, who was committed to the Risskov psychiatric hospital (Denmark) in 1929 because of frayed nerves, and lived and worked there for 56 years, underwent a sex operation in 1957 after which he was granted the female gender. However, in the last years of her life, she self-identified as a man. She traveled metaphorically to infinite, temporal, historical and psychological dimensions.

The title of the Casa Encendida exhibition is borrowed from David Bowie’s song “Love the Alien” which reflects on exclusion, counterculture and liminality (“In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage.” See “Liminality,” Wikipedia.)

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“Loving the Alien”
Up to 28 April 2024, 10:00 AM-9:00 PM, Tuesdays through Sundays
Venue: La Casa Encendida (The Burning House), a socio-cultural center that specializes in avant-garde art exhibitions
Ronda de Valencia, 2
28012 Madrid
Free admission