The Long Term You Cannot Afford. On The Distribution of The Toxic

19 Oct 2019 – 1 Dec 2019

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14:00 – 19:00
14:00 – 19:00
14:00 – 19:00
14:00 – 19:00

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SAVVY Contemporary

Berlin, Germany

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"None of these things is happening here. They are happening far away, elsewhere."
"But they may as well be," Iris says. "What does here mean anyway, I'd like to know. Everywhere's a here, isn't it?

Ali Smith. 2017. Winter


None of us, not a single plant, critter, or human alike, remain untouched by the toxic. Knowingly or obliviously, through direct encounter or through a diluted intake downstream, its pervasiveness is so ubiquitous that to live with toxicity is a condition of life. [1] 

The toxic trade-off inherent in exploitative and abusive processes of extraction, production, and disposal lie at the heart of the changing nature of the ecosystems to which we now belong – with millions of metric tons of synthetic materials, pesticides, heavy metals, and chemicals released and circulated every year. Structural inequalities on a global scale permit for some lives to remain relatively untouched by toxic proliferation through systems of “externalisation” [2] whilst many reside in high concentrations and lethal exposure on a daily basis out of mere necessity of survival. The new age of toxicity is “a condition that is shared, but unevenly so, and which divides us as much as it binds us.” [3]

The exhibition unpacks the kaleidoscopic meanings of the toxic, both as matter and as metaphor: In his paintings, Boris Anje captures the essence of the excessive and toxic consumerism of a small minority of the world’s population, while Nada Tshibuabua creates sculptures made of the remnants of that economy and colonial project. Through sound, Anja Kanngieser transmits the lived experience of toxic harm, while Julieta Aranda and Candice Lin capture the fears, ambiguities, and threats that breed in its shadows. Anu Ramdas and Christian Danielewitz fix imperceptible and harmful radiation as imprints and distortions onto photographic film, and He Xiangyu gives material form to the feeling of drinking a ubiquitous consumer product. Anne Duk Hee Jordan and Pauline Doutreluingne illustrate the various correlations, impacts, and effects of how chemical substances influence non-human and human agents, while Nona Inescu creates an assemblage with concretions resembling organs, a digestion of matter in time, all of them exposing how life is fundamentally co-constituted by its immediate environment. Jonas Staal and Stephan Thierbach grapple with what it means to care for toxic heritage, not only for humans, but for our more-than-human companions and for the soil that supports us. Jessika Khazrik addresses the global waste economy particularly through the relation between Italy and Lebanon, while Assaf Gruber focuses on the toxicity embedded in the colonial project and in related acts of eternal museological preservation. With a filmic eye that references systems of surveillance related to both petroleum interests and invisible spiritual forces, Zina Saro-Wiwa transposes dancers’ performances over remnants of oil infrastructures in Ogoniland. Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Ashkan Sepahvand complicate the present and future relations between humans and their economic history, non-humans, and the environment, while finally Neda Saeedi encapsulates utopian and dystopian futures into crystal balls.

The concentration of our effort is neither to pick apart and sort into commonsensible categories, nor is it to demonize, point fingers, or catalyze an indigestible sense of paralyzing guilt about the state of the world. Rather, our aim is to open up a space for an artistic and critical registry that encourages us to pause and sense the toxic presences and textures otherwise, to acknowledge and mourn its ongoing victims, and to listen to the movement of its shadows. In so doing, we hope to shift sensibilities away from one of paranoid containment and fear, to an outlook fueled by reflexivity and nuance, and to nurture the act of noticing how actions on the most intimate scale are closely tied to the global – as everywhere is ultimately a here.

To truly consider the global distribution of the toxic – the direction of its movement, the immeasurable violence left in its wake, and the struggle to hold down accountability for its relentless force of destruction – means to push the recognition of how much of the world exceeds the Western capitalist conception of it. In a time particularly plagued by simplifications and a desire for purity, it is vital to exhort to fight against the vicious machinations that have led to this current state of affairs and to do all that is possible to escape the deplorable conditions they keep producing: from small everyday actions to spectacular mobilizations, from swift responses to strategic and sustained engagement. At the heart of every move lies the impetus to foster new political subjects, that keep on growing, however painful, deep from the past and into the future.


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