March 12 - April 8, 2021
Carolina Benitez, Sarah Davidson, Ryan Grover, HaeAhn Kwon, Colin Miner, Emmanuel Osahor, Dana Slijboom, Alex Tedlie-Stursberg, Soft Turns, SUM, Susannah van der Zaag, Laurence Veri, and Allanah Vokes
Curated by Daniel Griffin Hunt & Emma Welch
BLOOMDOOMROOM is an exhibition about flowering, fruiting, ecological fall-out, late stage environmental capitalism and art at the end of days.
Text by Daniel Griffin Hunt
“...we have actually proven that it is possible, in a few weeks, to put an economic system on hold everywhere in the world and at the same time, a system that we were told it was impossible to slow down or redirect. To every ecologist’s argument about changing our ways of life, there was always the opposing argument about the irreversible force of the ‘train of progress’ that nothing could derail ‘because of globalisation’, they would say. And yet it is precisely its globalised character that makes this infamous development so fragile, so likely to do the opposite and come to a screeching halt.” - Bruno Latour 1
When we first conceived of this show, it was the summer of 2020. Lots was happening. The World Health Organization had declared the COVID-19 Virus outbreak a pandemic in March 2020. We were in peak lockdown and it seemed as if the fate of the world was up for debate. Uncertainty swirled around us like a heavy, dense fog. The tr*mp administration was a twitter-charged, fear-fuelled engine of hate and destruction, with the fear of a second term looming in the wings. The administration was devastating North America. Clean Power was being rolled back. The United States had withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement. We witnessed the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of a white supremacist militarized police force. There were ongoing wildfires on the west coast.
Skyrocketing unemployment rates. Evictions. The accumulation of historic levels of capital by chuckleheads like jeff bezos. We could go on and on about this, but the picture remains pretty clear and irrefutably grim; the world, which many thought couldn’t become more perverse or twisted, was, in fact, becoming ever more fucked.
O/ of days
We decided that the tactic of activism was best left to those who were activists, we – the artists, curators, writers and community builders – held another role, a role not dissimilar to activism, but distinct nonetheless. We were not looking for artworks that highlight an environmental crisis as much as artworks that – to us – were products of the complete digestion and psychological absorption of environmental facts, and their subsequent percolation up through the subconscious into the creation of artworks. These works elicit ideas of doom, despair, ecology and hope. They bring forth concepts of inefficacy, capitalism, cycles of growth and recovery – the squeezing together of beauty and terror. They are very real forms of growth and decay. This is where we started: a mashup of ecological fallout, capitalism and art at the end of days.
O/ “oom oom oom “
Linguistically, and obviously, bloom, doom and room are related as rhyming words. The three words together are euphonious. They establish a humorous three-word story that can be read as an infinite loop, one that is soaked in, and constantly being dunked into, a state of dismal despair.
BLOOMDOOMROOM brings to mind hydroponic grow houses, ouroboroses, life/death cycles of plants, flowering – fruiting – consumption. Animals and humans (as if we can label ourselves a separate category!) are doomed to bloom and bloomed to doom in an interchangeable, ouroborical linguistic and logical sense. I didn't ask to be born, but here I am.
Some of the work in BLOOMDOOMROOM embodies the affect of the pathetic gesture, while others stand out on a grandiose scale. Other works are for prolonged looking – a couple minutes, or intermittently over a couple weeks. Some artworks look at you as you look at them – they maintain a stoic, almost tectonic sense of time – while others grow, flower and wilt before our eyes.
In formulating this show, we have been thinking about the acts, implications and outputs of art during times of crisis. What does the facilitation of art spaces – places simultaneously of entertainment, conversation and criticality – look like in times of dread? BLOOMDOOMROOM is work you make when you observe your planet at the brink of its demise, and you feel like you have to do something about it, but you don't know what that thing is. Or, even if you did know what that thing is, how you would go about doing it.
So we make artwork, blindly thrashing around, hoping that our flailing will eventually make a splash in the right pond.
BLOOMDOOMROOM, as a curatorial concept, is an aesthetic structure which requires a disturbance in the ecological world that only an artist operating as an instigator can unveil. Some works approach ecology in a very visible way, highlighting the green, while others circumnavigate these processes of disturbance to unveil an ethos symptomatic of a lived experience of ecological disturbance.
Art at the end of days – the endless cycle of seeding, sprouting, growing, reproducing, pollinating has a pretty sisyphean feel to it – especially when we formulate it as this unstoppable, unforgiving tautological cycle.
When it comes to ecology – and the curatorial approach that spawned this project – feelings and emotions exist squarely outside of the realm of moral reasoning statements like ‘good’ and 'bad’. In her book The Mushroom at the End of the World, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing states that she looks for “disturbance-based ecologies in which many species sometimes live together without either harmony or conquest.” 2 Ecology operates almost like a polyrhythm; it’s a contaminated collaboration. Things grow, things die, things exist outside of judgement, although they can be gauged for their perceived value at any given time. Things both attract and repel, simultaneously. And that's okay, there's hope in that.
We are thinking through ecology and planetary time, through human time. Are these artworks here records of our past? Mementos for future selves to look at? Objects and items to cherish and revel in their glory? My guess is that the artworks here in this show – and all the other artworks we make in our lifetimes – will be somewhat bleak representations of a tense present. More than likely, the artworks here in this show will disintegrate, deteriorate, be scrapped, metamorphosed into something else at some other point. Technically speaking, the artworks in this show are mementos of the past – but only the most recent past, as in the moment just before last – the comma before the pause before the last sentence on the page.
A colleague recently referred a word to me that stuck in my memory as a word to describe the passage of artworks through time, of humans and memory through time: Diapause, that is, a period of suspended development in an insect, other invertebrate, or mammal embryo, especially during unfavorable environmental conditions.
That feels much like what this show is: a sususpenion of time, a supplement of energy and repose, a way to collect our thoughts and move, inevitably to the next moment. An artwork doesn't present a complete picture of anything, it is a gesture fraught with futility, empowered by disturbance. That is not to say this incompleteness makes art-making itself futile. Placed in dialogue with a larger practice, a body of work, a specific historic (read: present) moment, uncontrollable and unfavourable conditions allow us to see and understand a sliver of the network (in both a neurological and community sense) that holds it all together. This is how
we have been envisioning BLOOMDOOMROOM aesthetics: they are the aesthetics of transformation through the act of doing, well, really not much. They are planted, they are nourished, they grow, bloom and die. It’s perpetual and self-perpetuating doom. But we keep doing it.
As art-makers, we are all complicit in an ecosystem of makers, curators, advisors, gallerists, collectors, manufacturers, donors, shareholders, audiences. Often, we are more than one thing at the same time, operating in a cascading array of functions within our ecosystem. The prompt for this exhibition was ecology, the end of capitalism and ecological fallout. Sure, we can think through the end of capitalism, the end of the world as we know it. But we are interested in asking what happens when we don’t think THROUGH them, but rather above them and below them, like a plant ecology. How can we resist human-led ecological fallout, violence and greed, doom and despair when everything dies, rots and settles?
2 TSING, ANNA LOWENHAUPT. MUSHROOM AT THE END OF THE WORLD: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2021.