artists & participants
press release only in german
May 27–September 18, 2022
La Casa Encendida presents the exhibition Vulnerable Critters, curated by Andrea Bagnato and Ivan L. Munuera, which gathers architectural and artistic explorations of infection, illness, and health to frame the recent pandemic within a broader spatial and temporal context.
Vulnerable Critters is the outcome of long-term research by the curators that looks critically at modernity’s obsession with preventing contamination.
We all live in a state of vulnerability—even though some of us are much more vulnerable than others. Philosopher Judith Butler has proposed that reclaiming such condition of shared vulnerability can be a route toward forms of living together that are grounded in common experience and solidarity.
The modern paradigm of infection relies on the metaphor of a healthy body (the individual as much as the political body) under attack by an external agent. Yet, continual contact, friction and interpenetration are essential elements of any biological and social interaction. Linguist Mary Louise Pratt coined the term “contact zone” to counter ideas of the community as a homogeneous entity, and think instead of social relations in terms of clashes and asymmetries of power.
The artistic practices that make up Vulnerable Critters predate the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, they problematize the recent events in light of other experiences that have been sidelined in the public debate. Understanding epidemics in context, rather than as “black swan” events, is all the more urgent as outbreaks are predicted to become more and more frequent. In spite of the gloom of such a prospect, the works on display are cunning, compassionate and entertaining—reaffirming the power of art to speak about the most difficult aspects of existence and, perhaps, to help toward collective healing.
In the exhibition, an extensive display of drawings and sculptures by the late Pepe Espaliú conjures forgotten histories of collective suffering. Pratchaya Phinthong and Işıl Eğrikavuk question the ways that epidemics and public health are narrated with respect to geographies of the "South."
Meanwhile, Himali Singh Soin and P. Staff suggest that contamination can be a counter-hegemonic act, while Monica Bonvicini challenges the architecture of gender with boldness and fragility. Three new commissions by visual artist Michael Wang and architects all(zone) and C+arquitectas (Nerea Calvillo with Manuel Alba Montes) re-enact the experience of contagion within flowering plants, domestic space, and the air itself.
During the summer, a series of film screenings, performances, and dialogues will be part of La Terraza Magnetica to expand on the topics of the exhibition.
The exhibition is the second stage of the Vulnerable Beings project. In October and November 2021, a two-part public assembly at MAAT, Lisbon, brought together artists, academics, scientists, and activists to reflect collectively on vulnerability and cohabitation. Artists: all(zone), Monica Bonvicini, C+arquitectas (Nerea Calvillo con Manuel Alba Montes), Işıl Eğrikavuk, Pepe Espaliú, Pratchaya Phinthong, Himali Singh Soin, P. Staff, and Michael Wang.