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Multi-discipline Visual Arts

Interfacing New Heavens: Art and Cosmic Ecologies


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About the artists

George Mahashe

Vanessa Lorenzo

Interfacing New Heavens: Art and Cosmic Ecologies is a collaborative project with the artists-in-labs programme with George Mahashe (South Africa) and Vanessa Lorenzo (Swiss) that began in 2018.

The artists-in-labs programme has, since 2003, been facilitating  research residencies for artists in scientific laboratories and research institutes. The a-i-l is part of Department of Cultural Analysis at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and promotes sustainable collaboration between artists and scientists of all disciplines in Switzerland and around the world. These long-term interdisciplinary and cross-border collaborations provide artists with an opportunity to critically engage with the sciences and their experimental and aesthetic dimensions. This includes explorations of the site of the laboratory, as well as a range of scientific topics, methods and technologies. The programme focuses on the interaction and expansion of types of contemporary knowledge and artistic production, and the creative potential resulting from exploring the parallels and differences of scientific and artistic practices.

In 2018, both artists participated in 3-month residencies, Vanessa at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town/Sutherland and George at the Astronomy Department at the University of Geneva. Both artists were engaged in an immersive exchange with astronomers and had access to their research infrastructures, databases and methodologies. From this initial transdisciplinary exchange a continuous, long-term process between the project partners has emerged.

With Interfacing New Heavens: Art and Cosmic Ecologies the next step of sharing and interacting with the public has been initiated and will be starting in the digital space. Hosted by the Javett UP website, the public will be invited to engage with the artists’ research and works. Eventually, the online project will translate into a physical exhibition in the Javett UP space.

In Interfacing New Heavens: Art and Cosmic Ecologies, the artists explore the interaction of ritual technologies in South Africa and their cultural connections to natural phenomena on earth and within astronomical spheres. The works reflect the aesthetic and philosophical dimensions of the artists’ immersive engagement with “outer spaces“ and the interactions between modern scientific versus ancestral modes of understanding technology and ecology. Included are fundamental questions entangled around the relationships between humans, their understanding of natural environments and “extra-terrestrial“ space.

The exhibition will tackle the relationship between rituals in science, the human quest of yesterday and today and between instruments for artistic “reverie” and scientific explorations. Lastly, it aims to introduce new conceptions of ancient technologies that were used to understand natural phenomena. Today this (forgotten) or ignored knowledge is shifting back into focus. By linking the past and present, the artists are speculating about possible futures.