Bodies of Water is the first exhibition in Intra-actions series — set up to challenge the idea of art/research practice as an interaction of pre-established bodies, and instead address these relations as constantly exchanging and diffracting, adjusting each other, and working inseparably. A thought experiment, the exhibition departs from the work of posthumanist feminist thinker Astrida Neimanis, of which it takes the name and critical perspective. It features the works of geographer Sofia Gavrilova and artists Giovanni Vetere, and Maaike Anne Stevens — curated by Sasha Burkhanova-Khabadze
In the “modem West” there is a tendency to reduce water to either a commodity or an abstraction — dismissing its actuality. But how can we reimagine water — and consequently, ourselves? The exhibition presents three artistic perspectives on human bodies as comprised, transformed and dissolved by different concepts water — speculating on the political and ethical consequences for each scenario.
According to the dominant Western humanist notion of embodiment, bodies are understood as consistent, fundamentally autonomous distinct subjects. The current social, political, economic and legal regimes of the West are dependent on this paradigm: in order to make sense and function, our concepts of citizenship, property and human rights require the stable sovereign bodies — as a standard and a goal. In this respect, becoming the bodies of water would come as a hope for different regimes, different relations, and an expanded notion of a human self. “As the bodies of water we leak and seethe, our borders always vulnerable to rupture and renegotiations”, Neimanis writes; “for us humans, the flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves” (Neimanis, 2017:4).
In this sense, the thought experiment in Bodies of water is set up not only to undo the idea that bodies have to be human; rather, it is to help our imagination to grasp that the human is always inevitably more-than-human — as our essential wateriness proves both materially and conceptually. It enables us to reimagine ourselves as milieus for other bodies — and get a step closer to understanding the complex relations of debt, gift and theft, of mutual empowering and decomposing, that we enter with all other watery living beings. In this regard, the three art projects, coincided in the exhibition, enable alternative ways of thinking about the “waterly ethics”, mutual responsibility, and developed practices of care — specific to the human-water relationships, explored by each artist.