Form and Being Collude in 'Transactions with Eternity'
Arranged across Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler's two-room gallery in Berlin, Transactions With Eternity (9 July–20 August 2022) takes its title from Rosmarie Waldrop's 2009 poem 'All Electrons Are (Not) Alike'.
Left to right: Jes Fan, Rack II (2022); Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, 'BEHIND THE SCENES (OFFICE VIDEOS SERIES 1)' (2022); Yong Xiang Li, a break (by the bamboo wave) (2022). Exhibition view: Transactions With Eternity, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin (9 July–20 August 2022). Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.
Waldrop's poem accentuates the 'power' of naming during the colonial conquest of the Americas, which had been prioritised over 'transactions with eternity'. Retelling the narrative of conquest, the poem calls into question the starting point of the United States' national identity.
Co-curators Sebastjan Brank and Catherine Wang have interpreted Waldrop's poem with 14 works by six international artists—among them, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Yong Xiang Li, and Diane Severin Nguyen—that challenge conventional understandings of being through the language of form.
Installed on the left side of the first gallery space is The light fixture in my bedroom + zine (2022), a reading corner by Dominican non-disciplinary and non-binary artist and poet, manuel arturo abreu, consisting of four blue chairs arranged in a circle that doubles as a space of contemplation.
A light fixture is placed in the centre of the chairs on the ground, surrounded by a scattering of cascarilla—a ritual powder made from crushed eggshells used primarily for protection and banishing. Over the chairs, a pair of criss-crossing hanging coconut ropes hold copies of a zine titled cosmic play where dead souls must play the roles of figments in the living's thoughts (2022).
The zine begins with the Berlin Ethnological Museum's rejection email to the gallery, which had attempted to loan artefacts for the show belonging to the Taíno, a now-extinct Indigenous people of the Caribbean. What follows are analytical essays, poems, and drawings by the artist that address 'cracks in modern (art) history' through 'the space beyond the artwork'.
Waldrop's poem accentuates the 'power' of naming during the colonial conquest of the Americas, which had been prioritised over 'transactions with eternity'.
The essay 'Language Game # 1', for example, written in 2021 for the Center For Art Research at the University of Oregon, responds to the question 'What is power?' by discussing Jamaican novelist Sylvia Wynter's notions of auto-institutionality and Abrahamic literalism.
On the other side of the gallery space is a sturdy pale-greenish frame; an interlocking resin-coated metal skeleton with three bloated glass pieces attached, given near-erotic shapes.
Standing at almost 1.43 metres tall, Rack II (2022) is the latest work by multidisciplinary artist Jes Fan, whose similar juxtapositions of soft, fluid forms with rigid structures, are also on view in the Venice Biennale's central exhibition, The Milk of Dreams (23 April–27 November 2022).
Holding a BFA in Glass from the Rhode Island School of Design, Fan is known for sculptures that explore the social constructs of gender, race, and identity, and the hierarchies associated with these designations—otherness, kinship, queerness, and diasporic politics. To this end, Fan's sculptures often utilise biological substances such as testosterone, estrogen, and melanin.
By injecting decaying biological matter into smooth, bulbous forms, the artist seeks to question and examine assumptions surrounding cultural values and what these values reject. For their sculptures at the Venice Biennale, for example, Fan was meant to use an incense containing prolactin—a protein enabling mammals to produce milk. However, they had to replace it with silicone due to the damp atmosphere of the Arsenale.
Traditional Chinese papercuts by self-taught artist Xiyadie echo Fan's practice of challenging binary assumptions. Created between 1991 and 2018 with water-based dye and Chinese pigments on xuan paper (traditional rice paper), Xiyadie's cut-out surfaces depict provocative scenes of queer eroticism, producing an unbound space of personal and collective fantasies.
By representing scenes of queer eroticism using this folk artform, Xiyadie both honours and subverts the space of tradition by alluding to the possibility of harmony between different ways of being.
Intricate scenes filled with imagery carry symbolic elements. 'I use traditional motifs as my punctuation, to represent and express my desire and what's in my heart,' explains Xiyadie. Gate 门 (1999), for example, depicts a traditional red door, here, pink, with the face of a tiger on it. Known as a symbol of strength and power, the tiger is used on doors to scare away spirits.
The artist's pseudonym, Xiyadie, refers to the Siberian butterfly; he adopted it after moving to Beijing as a migrant worker in the early 2000s, where he joined the local L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Accordingly, the artist's work extends the embrace of transformation that runs through this exhibition, where artistic practices open up modes of being through forms that challenge tendencies to contain and constrain ways of being. —[O]