If I cannot bend, I will move
In a state of perpetual fragmentation, never bounded nor complete, we hold on to our senses. Bringing together the works of Elísabet Birta Sveinsdóttir and Jae Youl Jeoung developed over their two-month residency in Athens, this exhibition unfolds as an overwrapping story for the ever-changing ways we traverse the Athenian landscape, through our minds and our senses. The aesthetics of the city with its symbols, primordial images and patterned thoughts serve as a backdrop for a dig into a series of inborn tendencies. The title of the show references Virgil’s seminal line “Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo” (“If I cannot bend the Higher Powers, I will move the Infernal Regions.”, Aeneid,
VII, 312) that Freud also chose as the epigraph for his treatise on The Interpretation of Dreams, in a way picturing our ongoing effort to move while unearthing and confronting our repressed instinctual impulses.
Interested in the relationship between subject and object, Jae Youl Jeoung’s artistic practice is comprised of sculptural elements that altogether evoke an imperceptible yet affective experience accessed through the interrelations amongst earthy objects and small-scale paintings. Disparate elements that give the form to a single poem. At times grounded and on others seemingly floating within the space they inhabit Jeoung’s works are an exploration into the different positions of the vertical and the horizontal exerted by the gravitational force that makes things keep standing. In his new work “Flesh and Stone” solid yet fragile forms, susceptible to natural phenomena and subjected to their encounter with the human body, are scattered in small assemblages that are seemingly rooted and yet still rise one by one, somehow dividing the space into territories without boundaries. Walking around something we can never get to the center of, like scavengers of discarded odds, we look for the clues of our material memories constantly zooming in and out of our temporal and spatial self. Ideas of visibility and invisibility, the stillness of time, the notion of the empty space and its reflective potential, emerge to remind us how to look more carefully in the spaces that lie in-between. The story unfolds with the falling seed that piles up and gradually disappears amongst the ruins of the inner and outer spaces from which our personal and collective consciousness is constantly casted.
The objectification of the human body, the new hybrid state of being, the gaze of the other, as well as the notion of feminine archetypes are recurrent themes that appear in Elísabet Birta Sveinsdóttir’s performances and video installations. Through the use of mediation devices and technical framing that become the material structure and an integral element of her multi-media installations Sveinsdóttir creates a simulating experience where reality disintegrates. In her new work “Χύμα; total performance lubricants” comprised of three different parts, Sveinsdóttir attempts to synthesize the aesthetics of the city with its internal and external tensions. The lightbox, a replica of the Bel Ray oil company sign found in the streets of Kypseli, becomes a displaced signifier of bodily and mechanical fluids and the unspoken promise for the fabrication of a total self. Within a post-apocalyptic setting where space, image and sound are integrated, Sveinsdóttir invites the viewer to take a stance and explore the potential of performance in the absence of the live action. In her video installation that features the fighting game Tekken embedded in the projection of a sample video, that combines visual material from the city and Instagram stories, we find ourselves in doubt, balancing between the idea of resistance with Athens as a backdrop and the idea of performing ourselves and our personal stories within this scripted environment. The neon sign reading the Greek word “Χύμα”, that signifies a condition that lacks any kind of order, paradoxically serves as the unifying element, that reminds us how there is no original unity or an ultimate self. We are all entangled in the images. Space extends in every direction and it is our ability to adapt our positions and adopt shapeless non-fixed forms that will bring us closer to a renewed attentiveness with which to fill in the empty spaces of our intangible existence. In the end, we are all chasing after our own chimeras.
Elísabet Birta Sveinsdóttir (b. 1991, Iceland) is a performer and visual artist from Reykjavík. She holds a BA in Contemporary Dance (2013) and a BA in Fine Art (2017) from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik. Her work has been exhibited internationally including S.M.A.K (Ghent), Sequences Art Festival (Reykjavík), the Reykjavík Performance Festival and Reykjavík Dance Festival, the Latvian Academy of Culture (Riga), the International Video Dance Festival of Burgundy, In de Ruimte (Ghent), and Mengi (Reykjavík), among others.
Jae Youl Jeoung (b. 1992, South Korea) holds a BA Fine Art from Chelsea College of Arts, London (2018). His work has been exhibited in group shows in London including the OLYMPUS UAL Photography Award at the Art Bermondsey Project Space in 2017. In 2017 he initiated ‘Jam Project’ a collective project and a publication that deals with photography and video. In 2018, he was an artist-in-residence at the PINEA-LINEA DE COSTA AIR program in Cadiz.
Myrto Katsimicha (b. 1991, Greece) is a curator based in Athens. She holds a BA in Media, Communication and Culture from Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens (2012) and a MA in Curating the Contemporary from London Metropolitan University and the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2014). In 2017-18, she was the 12-month intern in the Adult & Academic Programs, Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Within the framework of her internship she organized and moderated the public program “From Mexico City to New York: A conversation with Tamara Ibarra and Rachel Valinsky” that focused on collaborative practices and the links between independent art practices and contemporary art institutions (MoMA, September 5, 2018). Past curated projects: Going Where We Come From, a performative walk by artist Maëlle Gross in the neighbourhood of Kypseli, Athens (2017); Things are left to become concrete, Snehta