Imagine a utopian world where gender roles are inconceivable, alien life forms live among us, interplanetary travel is dirt cheap and all the power structures you grew up with are now the type of ancient history people scoff at, wondering, “How on neo-Earth did we ever act like that?” How did that fantasy feel? Who were you in this idealised future? Could you become that person now?
The idea of science fiction as a tool for social progression isn’t a new one. For what did ‘Frankenstein’ do if not criticise the needless discrimination and unbridled hubris of mankind? The art of science fiction has oft been a progressive one, with creators imagining a new reality, often a more egalitarian one, and sharing that vision with the world.
Curated by Helena Aðalsteinsdóttir, Kling & Bang’s new exhibition ‘Yes, a falling tree makes a sound (and it has a lot to say)’ takes this concept into every conceivable lightyear, presenting a series of works inspired by feminist science fiction. Artists showcase reimagined futures, rewrite patriarchal narratives and offer artistic recentralisations of marginalised identities.
Goodbye CEOs, hello aliens
French-Arab artist and poet Tarek Lakhrissi will present his first short sci-fi film, which is entitled ‘Out of the Blue’ at the exhibition. The piece tells the story of an idealised future where aliens have effectively eliminated capitalism.
“The starting point was to imagine a world where queer people of colour were at the centre,” Tarek told the Grapevine—digitally, as is the custom in these times. “From there, I imagined this whole scenario where aliens are kidnapping all the big CEOs in the world. I like thinking about sci-fi as a place for fantasy, but also queer fabulation, radical imagination and humour.”
Tarek’s fascination with fantasy came from horror books and shows when he was a teenager, like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Charmed’ and ‘X-Men’. “I was deeply touched by the connection and disconnection between the real world and futurist and supernatural worlds. What I love about these shows is that a lot of people from my generation have seen them so we share these cultural references,” he continues. He later began to consume authors like Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany and the philosopher José Esteban Munoz, who wrote about queer futurity. These artists’ works were formative for Tarek, sparking his future obsession with language.
“Language is a powerful and political tool,” he explains. “As a French Arab who grew up in a working-class family, I find power and freedom in the articulation of language, feelings, theory and community-building. Creating new narratives is, of course, a political act: I want to be seen, heard and I want to define myself with my own words.”
Welcome the insects!
For Dýrfinna Benita Basalan, the exhibition was also a chance to define herself. But moreover, it was a chance to redefine herself, and she took the opportunity to put her triumphs and traumas into a new light—or a new being.
“I started thinking about the gendering of things, like the spear and penetration, and from there I started to think about insects, which have always been a part of my life in many ways, and particularly spiders,” Dýrfinna says. “The spider has always been this feminine creature. Like when you think about the Black Widow, you think of a female who has sex with a male and then kills it.”
This led Dýrfinna to re-evaluate her own personal relationship with insects, which has, she explains, always walked the line between friends and enemies. “I used to give spiders names and collect them and carry them around. They would be like my friends,” she says, laughing. “But then, I have also been eaten alive from the inside by worms. I had parasites and I was hospitalised.”
To actualise this dichotomy, Dýrfinna’s been welding her own spider web as well as small sculptures and drawings that will, as she emphasises, “infest” the rest of the gallery space.
“Because infestation is a very vague word, it just means everywhere,” she concludes. “Like the patriarchy is an infestation. So for this, I wanted to go by the feelings and relationships I have naturally when I think about these topics. It’s been really intuitive.”
Buy bread, then play porn games
Intuitivity was also the base for Brokat Films’ contribution. The duo behind it—Sasa Lubińska and Joanna Pawłowska—will exhibit a video art piece, an installation and a video game.
In truth, talking to this duo feels like watching a sitcom. They’re so in-tuned with each other, speaking in a circle of constantly shifting references, inside jokes and old memories. It’s often hard to keep up, but they’re so passionate about their work that any listener is in for the ride.
Brokat’s game is a choose-your-own-adventure enterprise. “Joanna did the script. You know those games with the flat characters on a flat background with text?” Sasa asks. “It’s used mostly for romance games.” She laughs. “There was only one game of this genre that I played and it was gay porn.”
Joanna smiles. “I remember from my teenage times playing those games growing up in Poland. And I discovered the world through those games and it was the time in my life when my sexuality started to blossom, so it was very exciting to play them,” Joanna explains. “So this feels like returning to that time. It’s putting characters in these everyday situations—they go to the bakery to buy bread, to a party, from planet to planet and then meet aliens. You know, life as it is.”
This commences a larger discussion of old art they’ve made, which includes fake Facebook accounts, mouldy food, potato sushi buffets and even the Raëlism cult—the aforementioned Brokat wild ride in all its glory.
“Brokat is just expressing ourselves,” Joanna concludes. “So the exhibition clicked very well with what we are doing because Brokat films is, at its core, our own planet, our own space—a safe space—where we can do what and be who we are and enjoy it fully.”
‘Yes, a falling tree makes a sound (and it has a lot to say)’ will be at Kling & Bang from March 27th to May 9th.
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