«… Mais le monde est une mangrovité » […But the world is a mangrovity] is a collective exhibition that opened on January 10 at Galerie Jeune Création and Galerie Vincent Sator (in Romainville, Paris, France); it will be on view until to February 26, 2021. Created by by Chris Cyrille, who defines himself as an exhibition storyteller, the exhibition brings together artists Minia Biabiany, Julia Gault, Ferdinand Kokou Makouvia, Ludovic Nino, and Kelly Sinnapah Mary.
Here is my translation of a review by Maica Gugolati, « Mais le monde est une mangrovité » : une approche pluri- centrée » [« Mais le monde est une mangrovité »: a multi-centered approach].
The collective exhibition “… Mais le monde est une mangrovité” narrated by Chris Cyrille, with the collaboration of Sarah Matia Pasqualetti, immerses us in a process of co-creation between the artists and the curators who shape the exhibition. With a decentered and pluri-centered approach specific to decolonial theories and practices, the exhibition begins with the end of a tale whose author may remain unknown. This destabilization of authority, in the very rhetoric of the exhibition title, allows relational and pluralistic creations that update a mangrography [une mangrographie] of theoretical, practical and mobile spaces through the gradual encounter with the exhibition. The concept of Mangro-graphy [Mangro-graphie] calls for an active process of writing (“-graphie”) to trace new horizons of meaning, drawing inspiration from the world of the mangrove.
« … Mais le monde est une mangrovité »
The title of the exhibition invites the public to break free from the classic linear and chronological progression that is the standard in storytelling. Starting the visit with the end of the story, and in the absence of directional signs and expo-graphic texts in the exhibition hall, visitors are free to decide on the direction of their visit. Thus, these two directions of movement—backwards in the narrative and forwards during the exhibition stroll—give the impression of moving inside a circle of ouroboros [translator’s note: the ouroboros is the ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.]
Through this multidirectional journey, the tales are interpreted by the artists in a variety of forms: they are physically found in two physical locations, between the Galerie Jeune Création and the Galerie Vincent Sator (which will host the exhibition for a week), and under sound form online on Sound Cloud and at Radio 22. The orality of tales takes on a performed form with choreographer and performer Wanjiru Kamuyu and author Olivier Marbœuf; plastic and visual with the artists present in the gallery. The red threads, which function like the aerial roots of mangroves in Kokou Ferdinand Makouvia’s work “Red Threads,” cross the gallery’s exhibition space, interacting with the other works of art. A mangrography is still expressed in the possibility of creating and inventing a space of childhood and refuge with artist Kelly Sinnapah Mary and her work “Book 10, the childhood of Sanbras.” The transformative dynamic also extends to the concept of natural time, which defies the presumption of artificial time, showing breakwaters subjected to the effect of corrosion, and from which flows, like a form of incontinence, a net of sand that symbolizes the active resistance of nature to the invasion of passive artificial material, causing its disintegration. This work by Julia Gault, “La rumeur,” captures the stability and immutability of concrete, which is replacing mangroves in the tropics, in a process of transformation and movement. With “Un instant chimérique,” artist Ludovic Nino offers us a composite space where several plant forces clash; where the cursed fig tree, a ficus “colonizes” the habitat of endemic species by establishing itself in the living space of “the other.” This natural space takes the floor with the video installation “Pawòl sé van” by Minia Biabiany, where tales are revealed through the sounds of nature; in the gusts of wind and the traces of sea salt present in the gallery.
This exhibition questions social ecology through the phenomenon of the catastrophe that brings together environmental oppression and the imposition of a monological cultural and identity assimilation, in this case specific to the colonial past and the departmental present of Caribbean lands. The exhibition offers us plural, constantly evolving, and multi-localized ways of being in the world.
The mangrovity in this exhibition has deliberately chosen to focus on the mangrove propagule, rather than on the multiple system of its rooting. In doing so, the critical process is through horizontal progression, through floating propagules, rather than vertical development of the different types of mangrove roots. Propagules are in fact potential mangroves. Two of the conditions specific to the propagule were used as the matrix of the exhibition: floating, which allows for the possibility of the dynamic creation of a future mangrove, and displacement, by which the propagules dispersed in the flow join various destinations, depending on the currents and tides.
In this mangrovity, the spaces are relational. When you enter the exhibition space, as the curator says: “I am in Romainville and at the same time, I am no longer there” (Chris Cyrille 2021). Poetically, the exhibition takes place in several places simultaneously. It extends from the forests of Romainville, in Île-de-France, thanks to contacts with the Friends of the Forest of the Corniche association [l’association des Amis de la Forêt de la Corniche], which fights against the deforestation of Romainville and the process of gentrification of the district that hosts the gallery, to the Caribbean archipelago and the environmental dangers to which it has been subjected since plantation economy.
The propagular mode of this mangrography also represents the accounts of fragmented, mobile, plural, and multi-sited identities of diasporic identities specific to the Caribbean. We feel an affirmation of “pluriversal” socio-ecological identities, in communication with the theoretical universe of Stuart Hall and Walter Mignolo, all in a dimension of eco-feminist and relational “care” à la Glissant.
The use of the neologisms that form this exhibition escapes the literal meaning of words by focusing on that of the poetics of transformation, of discourse, and of reality. Like the propagules, which are intuitive and meaningful entities, these neologisms draw attention to their plural way of narrating the world, and emphasize the need to create new meanings in the face of an imposition of fixed meanings. This exhibition therefore rebels against the desire to label plural identities in a single manifestation of assimilation and integration, which bears the traces of a cultural disaster specific to the slave trade and forced labor in the Caribbean. These disasters also evoke ecological, historical and spiritual cataclysms. The exhibition aims both 1) to break away from the Eurocentric label representing the Caribbean from a neocolonial benefactor and salvation point of view as marginal places, associated above all with natural and historical disasters, such as hurricanes, climate change, and slave trade; and 2) to offer proof of the transformative and constructive creativity at work stemming from those same catastrophes. As it one of the tales recounts, thanks to art, these “disasters” [désastres] become “stars” [des-astres] that point out new paths to be taken and to be traced. The exhibition aims to show the possibility of creating desirable spaces from a toxic context. As Chris Cyrille concludes, “It is from disaster that we have (be)come” (2021). [« C’est à partir du désastre que nous sommes devenus » (Cyrille 2021).]
[Image above: Detail from exhibition poster, based on Kelly Sinnapah Mary’s illustration « La fugue » [The Escape], 2020.]
Translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (and photo gallery) in French, see https://aica-sc.net/2021/02/20/mais-le-monde-est-une-mangrovite-une-approche-pluri-centree/