The word ‘metamorphosis’ is derived from the Greek meta (change), morphē (shape or form) and –ōsis (indication of process), today defined as a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one. Its definition immediately brings to mind the almost surreal biological transformation of a cocoon to a butterfly, but also the array of shapeshifting figures surprisingly ubiquitous in popular culture and literature as metaphorical devices. The idea of metamorphosis has retained its power to shock and entertain across languages and cultures. From mythic-historical legends of the Greek world and Chinese folklore steeped in moral lessons to absurdist, bizaare renditions in modernist literature, shapeshifting characters are abound.
Part I of Metamorphosis focuses on transformations in identity, whether self-prescribed or imposed by circumstance, to the extent we are either isolated from our past selves, or wedged up so close to another persona that the transformation indeed feels like a metamorphosis. The works urge us not to view metamorphoses as merely metaphors that warrant looking ‘beyond’ to find the true change of state, but to accept physical shapeshifting as inessential to psychological and collective transformations. Zooming in and out on the sources, effects, and experience of transformation, the exhibition walks us through the thread that weaves through the experiences of our past and the present – time.
The rhythm of time with which we go through experiences render us occasionally without indication of its beginning or end, unfurling the possibility that at times the effect of a metamorphosis lies in the process itself undergoing change rather than the outcome of a transformation. As the exhibition takes shape in its second staging in Part II, showcasing works that experiment with mediums and motifs, we are urged to be conscious of transformation itself, in its process and stages, and to be wary of indulging in the tendency to approach phenomena as discrete and complete.
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