Exhibition 'Arabidopsis Thaliana' by Ilona Jurkonytė and Santiago Reyes Villaveces at MAMBO, Bogota

March 23, 2021
Author Echo Gone Wrong

Bogotá, 2021. Arabidopsis Thaliana is an exhibition that intertwines variety of narrative registers: science-fiction and rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, experiential and speculative, to question the limits and the excesses of the visions of the scientific world, which can be premonitory of cosmic or ecological catastrophes.

This exhibition is one of the two winning proposals of Side Effects a call launched in 2020- that invited artists or audiovisual producers of mid-long artistic trajectory to inquire about the environmental and sustainability effects of our present connected to the uncertain scenario in which we are living. This through an inedit art project that addresses the relationship between nature, landscape, and territory.

Starting from archival research, Arabidopsis Thaliana is an audiovisual installation that offers a reinterpretation of that specific moment in planetary history when the ecosystem had the possibility of expanding beyond the Earth. The work draws inspiration from a Colombian radio program, imagined in 1982, that flirts with the colonial and space exploration tropes while hinting at geopolitical implications. It also speculates on the side effects of the overspill of terrestrial life in outer space.

  • Santiago Reyes Villaveces and Ilona Jurkonytė inquire into the potential of the expansion of the ideas about environment and landscape. Through the audiovisual installation the artists reinterpret a specific moment of planetary history: the germination of a specimen of Arabidopsis thaliana and the production of seeds in outer space.
  • As part of the exhibition, an Arabidopsis thaliana will be growing beside MAMBO’s entrance on the Carrera Sexta, and its growth cycle is streamed in the exhibition space and in digital channels.
  • The exhibition opening will be on Thursday the 25th of March at 5 p.m. in the Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá-MAMBO. Press appointments with the artist and the Curator of the exhibition, Eugenio Viola, MAMBO’s Chief Curator will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The journalists and media should arrange an appointment[1].

In the late 1970s, a group of Lithuanian scientists—at that time under Soviet rule—started experimenting with plants and their ability to grow in microgravity conditions. Their work culminated in 1982 when a specimen plant of the ‘Arabidopsis thaliana’ was grown in outer space.

With this event, humans were witnesses and authors -for the first time- of the biological cycle of life outside the gravitational earth’s field aboard the Soviet space station Saliut 7.  This unprecedented news was a turning point for thinking about the possibilities of life beyond Earth and inaugurated a new area in scientific exploration, currently referred to as astrobotany.

Thirty eight years after, in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic virus has catalyzed a moment in which science questions the sustainability of the terrestrial ecosystem. Scientists explore, with further conviction, the construction of hyper controlled atmospheres outside Earth. In a race for life, investigation centers, worked in the development of vaccines against the pandemic and Russia registered the first one: Sputnik V.

The Arabidopsis thaliana is a model specimen in botany whose genome is currently fully referenced. It can grow in sidewalk cracks as a self-pollinated weed and can quickly adapt to changing environments.

By revisiting a specific moment in history and connecting it to the present, Arabidopsis Thaliana unfolds multiple narratives while warning how science-fiction can seem more real than reality.

Artists’ biographies:

Santiago Reyes Villaveces is a Colombian artist who works in Bogota and Ambalema. In 2015, he won the Abraaj Royal College of Art Innovation Scholarship 2015–2017. Santiago holds an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art in London and a degree in Visual Arts and History and Theory of Art from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. His practice revolves around mineral histories.

Ilona Jurkonytė is a Lithuania born film and moving image curator, researcher, and educator currently based in Montreal, Canada. 2015-2019 she was Vanier Scholar at Concordia University, where she is pursuing a PhD degree in the Film and Moving Image Program. Besides her curation and academic engagements, Ilona collaborates on single and multiple screen audiovisual works. When not looking at screens, Ilona is dedicated to researching plants and fermenting ancient Baltic rye bread.

Exhibition Arabidopsis Thaliana
Ilona Jurkonytė /  Santiago Reyes Villaveces
Exhibition cycle MAMBO 2021-1 /Landscape, Nature and Territory
The resilient quality of life under extreme circumstances
25th of March 2021 – 1st. of August 2021

[1] Appointments with Paola Guzmán Romero. paola.guzman@mambogota.com Cel: 312 5484 177