The exhibition The Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography shows a dialogue between artists, designers, and anonymous authors of the digital universe. The exhibition space itself, is a navigatable setting inspired by retro-futurist geometries and the informal spaces of glocalized culture, with themes ranging from alternate histories to imagined futures. The various themes of real, imaginary and emerging worlds unfold as visitors move through histories, geographies and networks. The exhibition’s style is designed to refract and magnify the concerns of its featured artists as shown in their video and installation works.
On the title:
The Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography refers to one of the world’s most extraordinary maps, drawn by the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci for the Chinese emperor in 1602. The map places China at the center of the world and is the first-ever Chinese map to recognize and include the Americas.
It is a reminder that the theme “No More Westerns” has deep historical roots, and is ultimately a re-discovery of a previous norm as opposed to a new invention; which today is brought to the fore by the emerging BRICs and digital innovations that make binaries like East and West seem out-dated.
The title’s double meaning is critical – the implication that the act of mapping is itself an impossible pursuit, and that any attempt to map the world and its future will always be incomplete and biased. Better, perhaps, to chart the limits of knowledge through the fictions it refracts, the distant yet intimate future, the contours of mythology, and the substance of style.
AES+F – ‘Allegoria Sacra’
AES+F is a group of four Russian artists: Tatiana Arzamasova (1955), Lev Evzovich (1958), Evgeny Svyatsky (1957), and Vladimir Fridkes (1956) who live and work in Moscow. The video for “Allegoria Sacra” (Sacred Allegory) is based upon the medieval Giovanni Bellini painting of the same name, and re-interprets an Italian artist’s mystical scene of purgatory as a futuristic international airport terminal, replete with zoomorphic dragon airplanes, blurred cultures and dreamlike logic.
SOPHIA AL-MARIA – ‘Sci-Fi Wahabi’
Sophia Al-Maria is interested in that which is coming. Her work as a writer, filmmaker and artist focuses on Gulf Futurism and the inkling that the state of the contemporary Arabian Gulf is a premonition of our global future. She is based in Doha, Qatar. Her project “Sci-Fi Wahabi,” as illustrated by videos and essays, is an epic deep-dive into a displaced futurism that can only be glimpsed through the contemporary-surrealism of the Gulf States.
CHTO DELAT? – The Russian Woods
Chto Delat? are a group of Russian artists, philosophers, and writers who fuse art, political theory and activism.
The theatrical performance and associated designs of “The Russian Woods” (first was largely provoked by political developments in Russia this past winter, and the number of mythical images and mythological rhetoric used both by the authorities and the protesters. Chto Delat? seeks to analyze the events in the form of a fairytale story that would “not only reflect the totality of our country’s sociopolitical structure, but also help us and our audience think about ways of overcoming and transforming it.”
DOUBLE FLY ART CENTER – ‘Who cares about the future?’
Double Fly Art Center was established in 2008 as a collective of 9 recent graduates from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, and have subsequently become the holy fools the Chinese art scene so desperately needed. Their music videos such as “Who Cares About the Future?” and “Contemporary Business” are masterpieces of low-brow prank meets high-concept critique. Executed with the crappiest of low-budget Youku (Chinese Youtube) aesthetics, the videos draw on the dynamic visual culture of contemporary Chinese reality (both on and offline) while mocking the systems of the art-world and adulthood itself.
FOUNDLAND – ‘Journey to Ard al Amal’
Foundland is a young art, design and research practice based in Amsterdam. Foundland investigates the re-appropriation of Internet imagery borrowed from a Western context and transformed as propaganda and protest imagery for the Syrian Revolution. For Impakt Festival 2012, they will focus on the use of children’s animated videos as appropriated by the Syrian opposition for the purpose of protest propaganda.
PAULO NAZARETH – ‘For Sale’
Paulo Nazareth who works from Belo Horizonte, Brazil is an artist often described as a shaman – he employs photography, sculpture, performance and language in his ritualistic artworks. The photographic series ‘For Sale’ which is featured in the exhibition, deals with transformation, ideological change and development in South America and comments directly on the south-south geopolitical axis – that is, Brazil’s spiritual and trade relations with the Middle East and China.
MICHEAL MACGARRY – ‘Chocolate City’ and African futures
Michael MacGarry is a visual artist and film-maker based in Cape Town, South Africa. His project “Chocolate City” is self-described as “a sort of Luddite film” focused on the once-large African Diasporic / Merchant population living in Guangzhou, China coupled with 4 short stories disconnected from the images: one set on the Afro-Sino Space Station in 2043, another witnessing the birth of the 8 billionth human in 2024, in Gondar, Ethiopia.
MEHREEN MURTAZA – ‘The Dubious Birth of Geography’
Mehreen Murtaza is an artist based in Lahore, Pakistan, whose work focuses upon subjects as conspiracy theories, religious cult, and supernatural speculations. Her series “The Dubious Birth of Geography” draws attention to the way personal histories reverberate with overdetermined historical narratives. Murtaza believes narrative can ultimately critique cross-cultural representation and geopolitics through the retelling of the mundane as it intersects with the imaginary.
THE PROPELLER GROUP – ‘The History of the Future’
The Propeller Group is an art collective composed of Phunam, Matt Lucero, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Los Angeles.
Impakt will showcase the European premiere of “The History of the Future,” a 3-part project which consists of a unique science-fiction phaser rifle intricately carved in a tradition that dates back to the 16th century in Southeast Asia. It is then hidden from human civilization somewhere in the world only to be revealed 100 years later.
APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL – ‘Primitive’
Apichatpong Weerasethakul is known for his cross-media films and art-works that draw heavily on the traditions and extra-temporal modernity of Thailand.
“Primitive” is a multi-platform project that arose from his research for the feature film “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” in the rural region of Nabua near the Laotian border, and was inspired deeply by local mythology. The two-channel video installation presented by Impakt is a luminous slice of village life as an unlikely site of post-futurist development: the technology of dreaming itself.
LENG WEN – ‘Desktop’
Leng Wen was born in 1990 in Qingdao, China, and graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Art in 2012. She lives and works in Beijing.
Her “Desktop” series presents portraits of Chinese youth as seen by the omniscient gaze of their computer screens – a “screenshot” of the layered digital identity of a complex new generation.
LU YANG – ‘Wrathful King Kong Core’
Shanghainese artist Lu Yang (b. 1984) explores the borders of bio- and new media-art, often stirring controversy in the process. Mixing ancient Buddhist cosmology with Western science, “Wrathful King Kong Core” interrogate the nature of human emotion – she describes it as “a foolhardy attempt to superimpose religious concepts of wrathful deities onto scientific theories of the brain’s anger response mechanisms.” Featuring a soundtrack by renowned Chinese noise musician Yao Dajuin.
GAME: Virtual Jihadi, Wafaa Bilal (Iraq/New York)
Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal is known internationally for his on-line performative and interactive works provoking dialogue about international politics and internal dynamics. The piece “Virtual Jihadi” was inspired by mass-marketed videogames that adapted the “first-person shooter” format to contemporary terrorist themes – here hacking into an Al-Qaeda version of the game to put his own nuanced spin on the conflict.
GAME: Tofu Go, Francis Lam (HK/China)
Francis Lam (a.k.a dbdbking) is a new media artist and technologist based in Shanghai. Recently, he’s been keen on making iPhone apps that make people smile under the moniker “db-db-db”.
“Tofu Go” is a deceptively simple game that combines Chinese food culture with retro pixelated graphics – can you save the adorable tofu from the evil chopsticks?
GAME: Nekh : نخ, Egypt, Ahmed El Shaer (Egypt)
Ahmed El Shaer is a multi-disciplinary artist (installation, photography, sound, video) based in Cairo, Egypt.
The word “Nekh” is a term that camel drivers use to command their animals to sit down, and here is the title of a retro-styled PC computer game that allows players to re-enact the “Battle of the Camel” from the Egyptian revolution of 2011.
GAME: Adventures of Nyangi, Wesley Kirinya (Kenya) *
“The Adventures of Nyangi” has been called “the first African 3-D videogame” and was created by Wesley Kirinya, a young Kenyan computer programmer based in Nairobi.
Drawing on traditional mythology, the game casts the player in the role of Nyangi, a hero who must seek out African artifacts to discover their secrets and advance through 10 levels of striking rural landscapes.
Photo: Double Fly Art Center