Vivian Vivas: may I die before I'm gone

10 Jul 2024 – 22 Aug 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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Vivian Vivas's film may I die before I'm gone is a meditation on our collective unconscious and communal grieving for Nature.


Vivian Vivas: may I die before I'm gone

July 10-August 22, 2024


Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Vivian Vivas: may I die before I'm gone. The gallery’s first solo show with the artist, this exhibition will open Wednesday, July 10, 2024 with a 5-7 pm reception at the gallery (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY). 

Vivian Vivas's film may I die before I'm gone is a meditation on our collective unconscious and communal grieving for Nature. Her exploration of the psychological landscape of the afterlife (a continuous cycle of death and rebirth) manifests in symbolic language that reveals the soul’s struggle between pain and pleasure, survival and celebration. On the edge of the Patagonian wilderness, she blurs the border between individual mourning and our awareness of the threat, at our own hands, of extinction. The work subtly delves into non-human perspectives to frame ecological questions. Are we wild or domesticated; is this distinction arbitrary, or connected to subjective expressions of alienation and freedom? Presented in the gallery on a wall built of LED screens, Vivas’s video includes select scenes that act as what she calls “emotional doors” to deep feelings that enable a change in perspective.

As the film runs on a loop with no beginning or end, a viewer encounters the video much like they encounter another living being. The artist offers fragmented glimpses into a cycle of quiet grief, highlighting the poetic beauty that can emerge from suffering. Here, pleasure and raw indulgence are counterparts to pain. Conjuring drama with fantastical interpretations of death, not unlike Thai artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, Vivas captures the collision of our contemporary moment with centuries-old rituals, dystopian futures, and imagined afterlives. At this intersection is a biological drive for ecstasy. Through Vivas's visceral visual language, luscious red cherries become as graphic as a lamb carcass. The moving images, all in slow motion, ignite tactile sensations as she presents swaying grass, rushing water, and tender caresses between performers.

To make may I die before I’m gone, Vivas traveled to San Martin de los Andes, a Patagonian town surrounded by volcanic lakes that birthed some of the continent’s first life. Even today, the rich iron soil lifts into the air, a mix of nostalgia and mysticism, with each footstep. While a viewer is left to observe the physical and metaphorical burden of the characters, they are also encouraged to reflect on that which they are personally carrying. Through feeling and intuition, Vivas translates the personal to the universal. To empathize with Nature, she invites a viewer to consider nonhuman viewpoints of the flora and fauna. Her work prods at the uncanny competing embodiments of the wild in the environment and in humans. Wild environments offer thriving spaces for plants to grow freely and animals to lead unobstructed lives, but with technological developments, humankind can go too far by exploiting Nature’s resources beyond necessity. Vivas’s video portrays humans at our emotion-driven core grappling with contradictory forces. She does so with an exploration of connection and separation: between the performers, between the performers and their psyche, between the performers and other animals, and between the performers and the earth. In the vein of Collective Rewilding, may I die before I’m gone suggests transcendence through finding community with all biotic forces and the kind of love that gives space for Nature to restore to its self-sustaining ecology (1).

Vivas proposes a post human-centric system of care emerging from the transformative power of crisis. may I die before I’m gone reflects the vulnerability and fragility of life, holding a dying man and ecology in her arms in the hopes of rebirth. Speaking about her exploration of grief, she stated: “And yet there is beauty found in everything, an aesthetic even to that which causes pain, and it is precisely that beauty that holds a person captive, unable to look away, and provides a path, as experience, for the artist, and hopefully, the audience, to move forward.” Ascribing one’s sense of identity not to their name and origin, but rather to their desires and shifting senses of purpose in life, she claims the transformative experiences of pain can lead one to be rebirthed into a new person—what Jungian psychology refers to as psychic death. In may I die before I’m gone, Vivas provides the architecture to open portals to the psyche, afterlife, spiritual realms, Nature’s life force, and revival.

(1) Sara Garzón, “Cur(at)ing for a Broken World: The Case for Collective Rewilding,” Protocinema, Istabul, New York, Bankok, 6-9, 2021.


Press release by Kirsten Cave.


Vivian Vivas received an MFA in Visual Arts with a concentration in Moving Image from Columbia University and a BFA in Film and Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). She previously studied Photography at the Andy Goldstein School of Creative Photography in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Notably, Vivas was a finalist for the 2022 Frankenthaler Climate Award and received the 2018 Kodak Award from SFAI. The artist held a recent solo show at Dilalica Gallery in Barcelona (part of the Loop Festival video art circuit) and was included in group shows at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami, FL, and at Root Division, San Francisco, CA. Recent performances include ARTefACTe 2023 in Barcelona and the John Giorno Octopus Series at Performance Space in New York. Her work was showcased in: In Response: Jonas Mekas at the Jewish Museum in New York, Summer Salon at Half Gallery in New York, Between the Self and its True Home at the UCLA New Wight International Biennial in Los Angeles, and High Beams No.6 Convoy at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver. Vivas is a Latin American artist who lives and works in New York, NY.

Vivian Vivas: may I die before I'm gone will run at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from July 10-August 22, 2024. Viewer discretion is advised. The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery at info@alexanderberggruen.com.

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