An Act of Wonder and Gratitude

Curated by Lucia Pietroiusti 

Friday July 28, 2023 at 10 pm 

The cluster of films that constitute this programme includes primarily artists' moving image, yet human and more-than-human collaborators abound. While all the films are very different in tone, pace and provenance, they share reflections on technology, the more-than-human world, and manifestations of the sacred as it appears in ecological and techno-shamanic thought and practice. 

Emilija Skarnulyte's Aphotic Zone brings the artist's slow, methodical eye face to face with the shimmering splendor – and existential dread – of the deep sea, where otherworldly landscapes meet human infrastructure. 

Like many of her works, Tabita Rezaire's Premium Connect is concerned the political and ecological stakes inherent in today's landscapes of advanced technology – suggesting decolonial strategies at the meeting point of organic, technological and spiritual worlds. 

In Kyriaki Goni's The Mountain-Islands Shall Mourn Us Eternally (Data Garden Dolomites), plants address the viewer directly, taking on the role of oracles, sharing their fearsome projections for a warming future. Simultaneously, the plant-oracles imagine a decentralised alliance of techno-shamanic interspecies communities, known as 'data gardens'. 

More intimacy with flowers emerges in ebullient celebration through Laure Prouvost's Into all that is here, a film which foregrounds interspecies attraction and pleasure as a narrative structure to burst forth from warm darkness into lusty release. 

Shamanic practices from the Peruvian Amazon meet feminist techno-visions in Patricia Dominguez's Matrix Vegetal, a video that proposes an unplugging from the technological "digital matrix" in favour of an attunement to the "vegetal matrix", revealing human-plant relationships and quantum entanglements. The film includes an interview to Amador Aniceto, a healer practicing in the Madre de Dios region (Peru). 

The programme's title, An Act of Wonder and Gratitude, is a quote from visionary and tireless activist leader Ailton Krenak, whose voice brings the last film in this programme, Time and Love, to life. Part of a cycle of films, or "arrows" about our relationship to, and responsibility towards, our lively, more-than-human planet, Time and Love concerns itself with the interconnectedness and metabolic processes of Gaia, bringing cosmovisions from the Brazilian Amazon in dialogue with Western physics. 

Selected films (in order of screening) 

Aphotic Zone
Dir. Emilija Škarnulytė
2022 / Lithuania / 16'

Luminous sea jellies beam over choirs of fish as we travel 4 km deep past the Pacific seamounts off Costa Rica to reach the pitch black ‘aphotic’ zone of the sea. At the bottom, an ROV drawn from documentary footage carefully samples deep sea corals with robotic arms until it passes into the digital imaginary of a sharply risen ocean. There, the Duga radar (a Soviet-era missile defense system near Chernobyl) is an undersea ruin far beneath the waves. Both documentary and oneiric, the film moves through a landscape of prehistoric life and advanced technology. It peers back from the future through dark oceans to witness the threats of climate crisis and economic extractivism; the idealistic prospects of science; and the catastrophic consequences of human greed.

Premium Connect
Dir. Tabita Rezaire 
2016 / France / 13:55'

Premium Connect envisions a study of information and communication technologies exploring African divination systems, the fungi underworld, ancestor communication and quantum physics to (re)think our information conduits. Overcoming the organism-spirit-device divide, this work explores spiritual connections as communication networks and the possibilities of decolonial technologies. How can we use biological or metaphysical systems to fuel technological processes of information, control, and governance? Contrary to Eurocentric-biased thinking, our information superhighway might find its roots in African spirituality.

The Mountain Islands Shall Mourn Us Eternally (Data Garden Dolomites)
Dir. Kyriaki Goni
2022 / Greece / 10:42'

The video presents the latest Data Garden community and a plant; a hybrid of Ortiseia leonardii, a conifer fossil 260 million years old, and Saxifraga depressa, a rare white flower that grows only on the summits of the Dolomites between 2000 and 2850 metres. The Dolomites, an ecosystem of high plant biodiversity in the Alps, has been recognized as one of the richest areas of endemism; they are also one of the most intensively exploited regions in the world. Mass tourism infrastructure continues to present a threat to the landscape, resulting in habitat change and pollution. Excessive development, over-exploitation of land and climate warming necessitate the migration of plant species from lower altitudes to the summits, shifting to new territories in pursuit of more suitable and colder microclimates.

Into All That Is Here
Dir. Laure Prouvost
2015 / United Kingdom / 9:42'

Into All That Is Here explores the notion of lust after times of darkness. Within her film, the artist will continue the exploration of themes addressed in Wantee (2013), a story linked to her grandfather. This time, she focuses on digging into the subconscious of this character, deep into his fantasies, as an insect or bird is attracted to the pollen of a flower and, when there by the flower, indulges itself with pleasure. The video depicts a warm and slimy atmosphere and a sensation of relief after a long search of darkness, giving the impression to the visitor that they have just penetrated a slimy, sweaty flower, till the images burn and disappear…

Matrix Vegetal
Dir. Patricia Dominguez 
2022 / Chile / 21:12'

Matrix Vegetal is an enquiry into experimental ethnobotany, South American quantum thinking, dream fiction, and organic connection technologies which aims to expand perceptions of the vegetal and spiritual worlds. To realize this work, the artist apprenticed with Amador Aniceto, a healer and curandero living and practicing in Madre de Dios. Under his guidance, she has activated an intimate process of connecting with the living, multi-species language and knowledge of the vegetal world. There, Patricia aimed to temporarily disengage from the “digital matrix,” activating an alliance with plants and the vegetal matrix instead, through patience and focus on the present moment. In doing so, the artist established a connection with the more-than-human language of the earth, and speculatively accessed a portal to the quantum world, revealing how plants and their multiple spirits operate.⁠

Time and Love
Dir. Selvagem 
2022 / Brazil / 12'

The second law of thermodynamics is the only general law of physics that distinguishes the past from the future. Like an arrow of time, heat passes only from hot to cold bodies, never the other way around. If nothing is provoked externally, a cold body does not become hot. This natural flux of dissipation dances with another: the biological flow of life, which coalesces and envelops Gaia in an ongoing metamorphosis.

About the curator
Lucia Pietroiusti
is Head of Ecologies at Serpentine, London. As a curator, Pietroiusti works at the intersection of art, ecology and systems, often outside of the exhibition space. She was the founder of Serpentine’s General Ecology project (2018-ongoing) and the curator of the Golden-Lion winning opera-performance Sun & Sea by Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte and Lina Lapelyte (2019 Venice Biennale and 2020-25 international tour). Current and recent projects include the research and festival series, The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish (with Filipa Ramos, since 2018); Persones Persons, the 8th Biennale Gherdeïna (May-September 2022, with Filipa Ramos) and Back to Earth (Serpentine, 2020-ongoing). Pietroiusti teaches and lectures in universities internationally, and will lead the Interior Ecologies course within HEAD Geneva’s MA Interior Architecture, in 2023-24. Recent and forthcoming publications include The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish (with Filipa Ramos, forthcoming), More-than-Human (with Andrés Jaque and Marina Otero Verzier, 2020); Microhabitable (with Fernando García-Dory, 2020-22) and PLANTSEX (2019).