RADIUS
CCA Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology

09 July – 11 September 2022

Vibeke Mascini

THE WORLD IS A VERB

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In the solo exhibition THE WORLD IS A VERB, artist Vibeke Mascini presents new work that delves deeper into the subject of energy. The exhibition focuses in particular on the tension and deep connection between human agency and the physical and energetic implications on more-than-human bodies and landscapes. Central to this development is the ongoing striving towards innovative, technological solutions to maintain and continue to satisfy the same human habits around production and consumption. Through her work, Mascini makes suggestions for changing these very habits, by proposing a sometimes haunting intimacy and by reliving language and entangled relations around questions of ethics and value between people and what we have come to call natural resources.

In THE WORLD IS A VERB, the bandwidth of this human-centered systems thinking around energy is stretched and new protagonists—usually as the effect of climate change or environmental pollution caused by human actions—appear on the scene. From electricity obtained from melting glacier water and heavy metals recovered from the body of a beached whale, Mascini’s presentation offers new perspectives on energetic processes in a world subject to constant metamorphosis: the world is a verb!

Image of location where the Swiss electricity company Kraftwerke Zervreila generates electricity from melting glacier water.

We live in a time of high tension. Time and again, the world becomes the playing field of social and political conflicts between people. A political conflict “elsewhere” on Earth, such as currently in the Ukraine, has a direct influence on what is happening “here” in Delft. The degrees and intensity with which such a conflict manifests itself translates disproportionately. “Elsewhere” there is devastation, victims and entire communities are displaced by the misdeeds of Putin and the Russian regime, resulting in mass migration of refugees. This situation is felt more indirectly “here”, reflected by inflation and sanctions through the tightened political and economic relations between European countries and Russia. The first is reflected in the cost of our living, with sharp price increases for energy, labor costs and transport. From bread to fuel, from living to working, the Dutch dependence on gas from Russia affects our lives and livelihoods. Against our better judgement, should we fall back on energy production in Groningen? Is there actually a substantial alternative, also for the long term?

By presenting a series of new artworks, Mascini shows that “here” and “elsewhere” cannot be seen in isolation, partly due to the profound impact of climate change. That energy exchange takes place in a global chain, within which energetic processes are interconnected and often enough transcend national borders. She shows that the world of people is increasingly coincident with processes on Earth. With the knowledge that energy supplies from fossil fuels—including coal, gas, and oil—are finite, so too does the tone of the discussion shift from purely social and political in nature, to undeniably geographical and geopolitical. In the meantime, governments and municipalities are considering their “energy transition”, in order to make the extraction and consumption of energy more sustainable and future-proof. With hydrogen, heat pumps and floating fields of solar panels in the North Sea, human technological innovation and resilience offer a potential response to the scarcity and finiteness of certain energy sources.

In THE WORLD IS A VERB, Mascini shares her longstanding interest in the fiction surrounding the concept of ‘neutral energy’. What the earlier examples in this text and the works in the exhibition show is that despite the high level of abstraction, there is no such thing as neutral energy. That electricity and the electricity grid may create the false impression that there are no material implications associated with generating, transporting and storing electricity, but that such (infra)structures and processes promote socio-political interests that have far-reaching consequences beyond human life on earth.

Curated by Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, assisted by Sergi Pera Rusca.

THE WORLD IS A VERB is made possible with support from Stichting Stokroos, Outset Netherlands and the Mondriaan Fund.

About the practice of Vibeke Mascini:
Pre-modern notions considered electricity as a sacred phenomenon that houses a sort of spirit, which animates matter. For the past few years Mascini's artistic research evolved around historic and futuristic concepts of electricity as a speculative agent of life. Combining natural and industrial processes, through the binding force of their energy, her work addresses a fundamental dynamic underlying materials and organisms. Through sculptures, installations, video and text Mascini seeks to channel a close understanding of electricity by drawing a direct relation to its source. In long-term collaboration with scientists, engineers, government employees and musicians she proposes a conscious understanding of electric energy as a statement of interconnectedness and entanglement—between species, media and nature, matter and energy. Navigating through this era of environmental fragility, her statement lies in a deep notion of intimacy. Witnessing the profound energetic relation between our environment and ourselves we cannot help but experience profound empathy and concern.