Jeune d'Anvers, Organismi, GAM Torino, Italy 2016


A performance inspired by Emile Gallé's 'La Main Aux Algues.'

Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev as part of the Organismi exhibition at the GAM, Torino, Italy.

“[Human] nature is internally inconsistent, that our continuities with, and our differences from, the earth’s other animals are mysterious and profound; and in these continuities, and these differences, lie both a sense of strangeness on earth and the possible key to a way of feeling at home here.”

Dorothy Dinnerstein : The Mermaid and the Minotaur

As a departure point, and perhaps also as Gallé’s departure point as he left the world the same year that he completed these hands, we may think of the self descending into the watery unconscious.  In parallel, we are drawn into the abyss of a descending self into water: perhaps the migrants in the Mediterranean, perhaps other people we have known, or loved, or read, or read about.

Real life characters like Virginia Woolf who filled her pockets with pebbles to accelerate her descent into the watery depths, or fictional characters such as Ophelia who fell into the river currents, as a short cut into the Acheron.

A performance is proposed that brings visitors into worlds below the surface of the waters.

Visitors who are in a trance state observe their reflection in a mirror made of water as they listen to a hypnotic narration. They then immerse their hands under water in the shallow water-filled rectangular receptacle and follow suggestions to draw automatically onto a diving slate. Diving slates are used by scuba divers to communicate with written words instead of  spoken words while under water. The automatic drawings serve as a trace of the journey that each participant undertakes.

Schema for the induction may be derived from various sources such as: 

In the tale “Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman”, the protagonist Abdullah the Fisherman gains the ability to breathe underwater and discovers an underwater society that is portrayed as an inverted reflection of society on land. The underwater society follows a form of primitive communism where concepts like money and clothing do not exist.