Welcoming the stranger (within)
I’m writing this review sitting at my mom’s desk, somewhere deep down in the countryside of Lower Saxony, Germany. I’m here for the first time since that bat formed an alliance with an armadillo and thereby made the world stop turning for a few months. Yesterday, while pitting cherries in the kitchen, my mom, a biologist, found a worm in one of them and announced: »The worm in the cherry is in fact nothing but the cherry«. I nodded; nothing made more sense.
A few weeks ago, in June, I’m arriving late at the opening of Ivan and Yein’s exhibition »Crosspollination« at Loggia. I withstand my flight animal instinct that gets triggered by the overwhelming presence of hungry art people and manage to make my way through the herd. Squinting my eyes, a little in order to protect them from the blinding lights that radiate from the low pedestals, I am greeted by a group of seemingly extraterrestrial, post-apocalyptical creatures. They hover in space as if they were waiting for us, the terrestrial visitors. Coming from their conspiratorial, clandestine and troubled underground, they appear to be only passing through our visible world, briefly making leaps and taking detours, before they descend again. Not yet sure about their mission, I try to keep a curious but safe distance. I am the stranger in this room, I think, but I realize that strangeness is not an othering here: In »Crosspollination«, I rather connect to the infinity of others – other beings, other spaces, other times. Not (yet) directly touching, the works’ proximity to each other, the tension they create, lingers in the room like the trembling electromagnetic radiation from the LEDs. They don’t grow exponentially, but they disrupt linearity, expand in all directions. Combining seemingly organic ((fake) flowers, lashes), inorganic, animate and so-called inanimate features, the works convince the beholder of their intelligence and thus the fact that thinking is neither a disembodied nor uniquely human activity. Their bodies and minds are made of the same matter.
Touching is a matter of response
In an important sense, breathtakingly intimate sense, touching, sensing is what matter does, or rather, what matter is: matter is the condensation of response-ability.
All material entities are entangled relations of becoming. From the beginning, infinitely entwined, threaded through endless configurings of other beings and other times. Yein and Ivan’s hybrid, foreign, but still approachable critters are demonstrating to us the permeability of our bodily boundaries, the continuous involvement with myriad bodily sensitivities other than our own. Their bodily structures are laid bare, they don’t need defined boundaries separating a so-called inside and outside; they are fragile but resilient. The already existing symbiotic configurations between different kinds of beings constitute a responsibility for the other, a connectedness that is based on immense care and compassion.
What manages to live in the ruins we have left behind?
Ivan and Yein’s characters are troubled, but instead of being tempted to stop something unsettling from happening, they teach us how to stay with the trouble, how to leave behind a relationship to times called the future, and instead learn how to be truly present. Yein’s skeletal shapes stick their teeth out but won’t bite, since they are jawless. Their floral proliferations are only reminiscent of a sweet scent streaming through our nostrils. Thus, they make a piece of the outside world perceptible in its most ephemeral sense. Soft and spiky at once, they are in conflict about allowing intimate relationships with others, while also craving affection. Revealing to us the falseness and impossibility of the late-capitalist tale of individuation and autonomy, Ivan, Yein and their symbiotic allies are speculating on an ethics committed to the rupture of indifference by staying in the uncomfortable in-between, asking us to join them in their »resistance-in-place«, and thus taking a shape that cannot be that easily appropriated by an individualistic, capitalist value system.
We are the worm while also being the cherry. The conditions of our being resemble an ongoing touch, a relation of inhabiting, co-habiting as well as being inhabited. Irreversibly entangled and constantly in motion. Through »Crosspollination«, we are being asked to join the caring act of enduring the trouble, the indeterminate whirr, the leaps and detours.
Fred Moten, Stefano Harney
Donna J. Haraway