TBA21–Academy’s first exhibition, TIDALECTICS, explores a different way of engaging with the oceans and the world we inhabit

TBA21–Academy is the exploratory soul of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna. Conceived by Markus Reymann in 2012 as an itinerant site of cultural production and interdisciplinary research to deepen our understanding of and relationship to the oceans, TBA21–Academy is delighted to announce the opening of its first exhibition, Tidalectics, on Friday, June 2 in Vienna. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the first-ever United Nations’ Ocean Conference, held in New York from June, 5-9.

Curated by Stefanie HesslerTidalectics presents thirteen artists whose distinctive works cast oceanic perspectives on the cultural, political and biological dimensions of the oceans, examining the effects of human-made issues, such as climate change and sea-level rise, while reimagining human and “more-than-human” relationships. The exhibition features nine newly commissioned works, many flowing from the Academy’s expeditions in the Pacific Ocean, alongside exceptional pieces from the TBA21 collection. It will be accompanied by a series of spoken word-performances every Friday on the TBA21–Ephemeropteræ stage in Augarten, co-curated by Boris Ondreička and Daniela Zyman with Stefanie Hessler and Markus Reymann, episodes from a Tidalectics radio series in collaboration with NTS Radio, as well as a comprehensive publication.

TBA21 chairwoman Francesca von Habsburg commented: “I have committed the work of TBA21 to the most pressing topics of today, not only in a descriptive fashion but by taking the language of art to concrete actions and solution finding. It’s a turning point for the foundation as it increasingly looks unashamedly at becoming an agent of change. We need to make peace with the oceans.”

The ocean covers approximately 72 percent of the earth’s surface, provides habitat for 90 percent of all life on the planet, and is responsible for every other breath we take. Yet we know more about our galaxy than this vital life support system: Tidalectics is an oceanic worldview, a different way of engaging with the oceans and the world we inhabit. Unbound by land-based modes of thinking and living, the exhibition is reflective of the rhythmic fluidity of water and the incessant swelling and receding of the tides.
Taking its title from a play on words by the celebrated Barbadian poet-historian Kamau 

Braithwaite, Tidalectics seeks to comprehend our histories as trajectories tossed by waves, from ocean crossings to systems of exchange, myths, and microbial origins. The exhibition will highlight processes of cultural adaptation and material change, presenting a rich framework for understanding the coalescing polarities of contemporaneity and history, science and poetics, routes and roots, and ourselves – mostly land-dwelling humans – with the oceans and their many and diverse inhabitants.

TBA21–Academy director Markus Reymann commented: “This exhibition bears the fruits of an experiment that Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary embarked on in 2011: an explorational voyage that has become TBA21–Academy. This has led us not only to researching the Pacific Ocean at great lengths and engaging with local communities and organizations with our extraordinary participants, but it has also led to a program and commitment that transcends the exhibition space and brings our practice to science, conservation and exploration. This exhibition is the attempt to bring all of these influences together and share this newly gained oceanview and engagement with our TBA21 audience. The opening of Tidalectics coincides with the United Nations’ very first Ocean Conference, during which, on Ocean Day (June 8) TBA21–Academy will present a performance by Laura Anderson Barbata, conceived on an expedition to Papua New Guinea.”


coincides with the start of the sixth Ephemeropteræ season, which features spoken-word performances every Friday in the TBA21–Ephemeropteræ pavilion in the Augarten, designed by David Adjaye. For the opening of TidalecticsManthia DiawaraEm’kal Eyongakpa and Jana Winderen will perform, while a later performance by Joan Jonas on June 23 marks a further highlight of the Ephemeropteræ program. Ephemeropteræ has been curated by Boris Ondreička and Daniela Zyman from 2012 to 2016 and is being conceived in 2017 together with Stefanie Hessler and Markus Reymann.


Searching for a logic coming from the oceans themselves, Eduardo Navarro’s newly commissioned video and sculptural work flows from a series of serendipitous constellations during the TBA21–Academy expedition to the Marquesas Islands, in the South Pacific. Navarro casts a magnified set of coins used in the I Ching – a traditional Chinese divination method – into the waters off the island of Tahuata. Here, where the idea originated, the sea itself becomes the liquid force of divinatory fate.

Alexander Lee, a participant in the same expedition in his native French Polynesia, taps into the imaginary of the desert island. Lee’s video envisions that anybody can become a co-owner of a volcanic hotspot from which the Society Islands have emerged, which, once acquired collectively, will be turned into a marine protected area.

Newell Harry charts creole and pidgin languages, alternative modes of exchange, and notions of value and currency in the Pacific. The exhibition features two of Harry’s works from the TBA21 collection: objects from the Kula Ring, a traditional system of ceremonial gift exchange, and anagrams printed on hereditary Tongan ngatu cloths.

Reminiscent of a boat, Em’kal Eyongakpa’s new commissioned installation destabilizes the floor under visitors’ feet, accompanied by a fishing net filled with personal objects by people whose lives have been affected by ocean crossings and an audio track of poetic tales and rhythmic sounds.
Darren Almond’s video A (2002) from the TBA21 collection presents an Antarctic world of infinite whites devoid of human presence, accompanied by a sound track that alternates between dreamy serenity and blood-thumping menace.

The video Iroojrilik (2016) by Julian Charrière charts meetings of the “natural” and the human-made during nuclear tests on the Bikini Atoll in an atemporal loop of life, death, and rebirth.
Atif Akin’s publication project emerges from a TBA21–Academy expedition led by Ute Meta Bauer to the Tuamotus in French Polynesia and considers the creation of new mythologies equivalent to radioactive deformations of code and matter resulting from the 193 nuclear tests that took place in this archipelago.
Ariel Guzik’s The Nereida Capsule (2015), from the TBA21 collection, is an instrument materializing an intention of encounter between humans and cetaceans free from dominion and devoid of utilitarian or scientific research interests.

Susanne M. Winterling’s installation Glistening Troubles (2016), resulting from her residency at the TBA21 Alligator Head Foundation in Jamaica, investigates dinoflagellate algae and their bioluminescence as indicators of the health of coastal waters with toxic potential.

In an installation centered on poisonous jellyfish, Tue Greenfort explores complex ecosystems and the consciousness of these aquatic organisms.

Janaína Tschäpe’s leporellos are filled with fantastical drawings that oscillate between fact and fiction, springing from marine biologist David Gruber’s accounts of deep sea creatures and extremophiles.
Smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas collects and synthesizes smells of Costa Rican oceanscapes currently undergoing ecological change. Her olfactory portraits evoke familiar and new motifs that may soon disappear but can be tracked with the help of the collected data. 
At a different moment each day, in sync with the tidal calendar, Jana Winderen’s hydrophone recordings from various expeditions of the TBA21–Academy transcend the exhibition in an interconnecting movement reminiscent of ebb and flow.

Founded in 2002 by Francesca von Habsburg in Vienna, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) represents the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts. After more than 15 years of collecting, commissioning projects, and engaged exhibition practice, TBA21 has established a highly respected collection of more than 700 contemporary artworks in the field of new media, including film, video, light, sound and mixed-media installations, sculpture, painting, photography, and performance. TBA21’s unique collection is the result of its ongoing commitment to commissioning and disseminating numerous art projects, such as multimedia installations, sound compositions, endurance performances, and contemporary architecture. This has earned it a pioneering reputation in the art world. The foundation sustains a far-reaching regional and international orientation through collaborations with other cultural partners around the world and explores modes of presentation intended to broaden the way viewers perceive and experience art. In 2015 Francesca von Habsburg decided to dedicate the foundation’s ongoing program to becoming an agent of change by focusing on the complexities and urgencies of the age of the Anthropocene, as well as today’s pressing challenges caused by climate change, with a special focus on marine ecosystems.


TBA21–Academy is the exploratory soul of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and an itinerant site of cultural production and transdisciplinary research. Conceived as a moving platform on the oceans, it brings together artists, researchers, and thinkers from various fields concerned with today’s most urgent ecological, social, and economic issues. Through its expeditions on sea and land, the Academy seeks to reinvent the culture of exploration in the 21st century, while inciting knowledge creation, new modes of collaboration, and the coproduction of solutions for the pressing environmental challenges of today.

In 2016, the Academy repeatedly demonstrated its strengthened stance on the international global climate change stage and saw further engagement through its work at the intersection of contemporary arts, science, conservation, and policy, not least by being granted official observer status at the UN International Seabed Authority (ISA) in July 2016. The Academy has commissioned numerous art projects, performances, symposia, and public convenings around the world, from Kochi, India, to Kingston, Jamaica. Future activities of the Academy in 2017 include events at the Ocean Conference, New York, in June; at the Nationalgalerie – Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, in October; during the COP23, Bonn, in November; and at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, in January 2018. The Academy’s program conveys to a wide and diverse audience the complexities of the ocean’s ecosystems through poetic and inspiring narratives that defy the doom-and-gloom scenarios of mainstream media


Stefanie Hessler is the curator of TBA21–Academy. Recent projects for TBA21–Academy include The Current Convening #2, co-curated with Ute Meta Bauer and Cesar Garcia in Kochi, India, and the conference Design of the Seabed, co-curated with TBA21–Academy director Markus Reymann at the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey (both 2016). Hessler is the co-founder of the art space Andquestionmark in Stockholm (with Carsten Höller). Recent curated projects include Sugar and Speed at the Museum of Modern Art in Recife, Brazil (2017); the 8th Momentum Biennial in Moss, Norway (2015); and Outside at Index with a film program at Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2014). Hessler regularly writes for art publications, such as ArtReview and Mousse Magazine, and coedits books, such Life Itself for the Moderna Museet

June 2–November 19, 2017
Press ConferenceFriday, June 2, 2017, 10.30 am
OpeningFriday, June 2, 2017, 6.45 pm onwards
Ephemeropteræ—Performance SeriesOpening Performance
Manthia Diawara, Em’kal Eyongakpa, Jana WinderenFriday, June 2, 2017, 7.15–9.30 pm

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