Atopia, a word mainly used in medicine and philosophy, literally means placelessness. Works from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection
It is, in its traditional use, at the same time, a category of otherness.
The word can therefore address the ways in which artists have dealt with ideas of place, geography and migration, and the crossing of national, social and cultural borders.
A new exhibition at focuses on the practices and representations of the ways in which artists have accessed and negotiated concepts of “place” or “place of origin,” – their past, heritage, and cultural ambiguities.
Geography and place-bound symbolisms incorporates a (very rigid) signifying system through which individuals and collectives register and express their identities. As “writing about the earth,” the science of geography has traditionally bridged human and physical science to map out places of presence and embodiment.
“Gradually the geographic denotation of space has shifted in favor of a more fluid and multi-layered meaning, invested with personal and intimate affects and complicated by subjectivities and their interaction,”
Place-specific and locational narratives have thus become important figures of the artistic expressions of the past decade, but also projective sites of stereotyping and (post-colonial or ethnicizing) simplifications.
Artistic exploration of geographies through mappings, landscapes, descriptions of sites, places, collection of cultural objects, historical inscriptions and personal research, as well as the shifting political implications in language, writing and formal representation are at the nexus of the current exploration.
The exhibition looks at the countersides of the processes of aggregation and homogenization and addresses the ways in which a collection of 21st century art is constructed around the various experiences of difference, in which individuals and collectives participate in different cultural processes and realities. It therefore pivots around the specific systems and methods of exchange, translation, and its embedded critiques.
A wide ranging production of visual and spatial works catalyze the reexamination of the agency of the artist in the production of such locational inquiries. It also implies strategies for re-claiming certain histories and place-specificities by way of reasserting territorial representations.
The way “localism” is understood in this particular context is not as a reaffirmation of common simplifications but is instead based on productive inquiries and internalization of paradoxes and transitions, which evade categorizations or nostalgic impulses. It also shows how shifting political and economic realities have created new tales of places, and how their histories have sparked the impulse to document the rapid processes of transformation set into motion by new “continental shifts”.
Centro Cultural Metropolitano, Quito, Ecuador
Opening 10 August – 2 October, 2016