MONIRA AL QADIRI
22 APRIL – 2 JULY 2023
Mutant Passages comprises entirely new works conceived for Kunsthaus Bregenz, that follow in-depth research, forms and ideas developed by the artist over the last decade around the subject of oil, culminating in this body of work.In the foyer, large inflatable sculptures greet us, hovering overhead and within the space, coated in iridescent colorful fabrics. The work Benzene Float depicts scientific drawings (technically named “space-filling models” in chemical terminology) of the molecular structure of benzene, propane gas, naphthalene, and other petrochemical substances. The works’ exaggerated forms amplify their presence in modern society, confronting us with their grasp over our lives.On the first floor, several large-scale sculptures rotate quietly, their iridescent colors shimmering and changing with their movement in space. They resemble some kind of bioluminescent marine life, especially with their recast surfaces, or some futuristic alien. But they are in fact industrial objects: drill bits used to find oil. Their dichroic colors allude to the pearling industry of the Persian Gulf, a forgotten history that has all but disappeared after the discovery of oil in the region. Choreography of Alien Technology aims to bridge the relationship between pearls and oil, through their colors and forms, presenting more vividly the historical gap that oil has created. The iridescent nature of the color reimagines itself as the carrier of wealth, traveling between pearls, oil, or even another future being.On the second floor, two reddish mirror-imaged sculptures of gastropod seashells stand side by side, speaking to each other. They both have a hollow cavity in the lower half of their bodies, inviting passers-by to press their ears and heads against them, perhaps expecting to hear the sound of rolling ocean waves. Instead, they encounter an unexpected conversation between two androgynous voices, recalling how they had unintentionally changed genders while lying in the ocean. In Gastromancer, the impact the oil industry has on marine life is on display, and not in ways visibly known to us. The reddish biocide paint tributyltin, known as TBT, protects oil tankers from accruing algae, barnacles and mussels (in a process commonly called “anti-fouling”), but There are those of us, who are chained to oil in a different way: we enable its destructive course across the globe, generating immense amounts of wealth. Ephemeral and fleeting, the sparkling seduction that the promise of un-limited riches emanates is multicolored. It is blinding.The shimmering hues of pinks, greens, silvers, blues and purples: the iridescent sheen of oil tricks the eye, like a shiny pearl, projecting hallucinations of celebrity and power into the mind of its viewer. “You will never be poor again,” it whispers softly. But the trickster genie makes us forget the true price of this prosperity: a mountain of irreversible debt we have accrued to the only planet we will ever know.The dramaturgy of this exhibition follows the varying paths that oil takes, guiding us through the different formations and stories it generates; the ruptures in history and biology it has induced, the machinery and memories associated with it, and the existential questions it forces us to consider.
© All images Monira Al Qadiri, Kunsthaus Bregenz