The art exhibition “Through the Fluid Mosaic” was created with the support of the digital platform Art Curator Grid; https://www.artcuratorgrid.com/online-exhibition/passing-through-the-fluid-mosaic. Here eight artists from different disciplines, diverse geographical regions of the world create intersections and crossings based on their interpretations of the biological theme of the Fluid Mosaic.
In biology, the ‘fluid mosaic’ is a model that explains the paradoxical nature of the living cell’s membrane that acts as a porous and malleable barrier. The membrane represents a liminal border that is liquid, permeable, chaotic and unshaped, where mosaics form, deform and un-form. The mosaic is the assortment of functional ‘bridges’ embedded into this barrier that connect the exterior and interior parts of the cell. However, those bridges are neither fixed nor perpetual, they keep flowing inside the liquid border and eventually move outside of it. The bridges are not just crossed but they themselves traverse the membrane as well. While doing so, they create a disturbance, a crisscrossing changing phenomena in the membrane from which the mosaic and the cell are transformed. This act of passing is excessive and ephemeral. It implies an ever-changing state of the boundary of the cell that, in turn, mutates its identity.
This project is a continuation of academic pluri-disciplinary research on the same topic launched in 2019 at the Virtual Museum of Allegra Lab research platform. For the section I worked on in that project, I collaborated with biologist Jorge Enrique Ramirez who offered his reflections on different interpretations of the biological theme among social scientists and artists https://allegralaboratory.net/on-the-fluid-mosaic/
Figure 1. Through a Fluid Mosaic, 2020 Exhibition plan
For this presentation, I will introduce just a few of the artists and the researchers included in the exhibitions; I suggest that you take a look at the entire exhibition in order to discover the work of the other participants as well. The path of the exhibition “Through the Fluid Mosaic” takes the shape of a simple knot, where the viewers can digitally take multiple directions within it,feeling free to start and to end on any colored point that corresponds to each artist.
Video made by Maica Gugolati visually introducing the exhibit’s artists and the different parts of the world in which they are based.
With this online art exhibition, viewers cross the world’s geographical barriers replicating in their journey the functioning of a cell membrane, explained by the Fluid Mosaic in biology. As elements of the cell, the artists pass in and out of multiple meanings related to borders, metaphorically conceived as cultural, environmental, historical, performative and imaginary barriers. In this exhibition, the artists enter in communication with each other through the visitors’ journey, carrying their own plural differences. The goal is to experience the meanings of the permeability of barriers that are porous; the exhibition calls on the audience to pause and to find out more about each cultural issue the artists propose. As in the Fluid Mosaic where the elements of the cell can move through a membrane that simultaneously divides and enables the communication of entities situated at their antipodes, the viewer is asked to think and feel the antipodes the artist presents and to experience their liminalities. In conclusion, this interdisciplinary project invites the viewers to cross borders, to sense their crossing points and to move them.
Figure 2. Kwang Lin Wong, In Transit 2019.
In the Art Curator Grid knot you can bounce like one of the bodies shown in Kwang Lin Wong’s video-choreography. Clicking the orange dot, Kwang Lin affords us the opportunity to be moved emotionally and relationally while transiting inside the public transportation system of Singapore. Through her performance she shows to us the possibility to create a relational space in a translatorial one. Thanks to the bodily sharing of affections, dreaming realities and physical moves, the artist and researcher demonstrates to the viewers that there are different ways of setting up relations that are created despite the ephemeral experience of the transition itself. Following Kwang Lin work, we, the viewers, are moved internally and externally while voluntarily displacing; you can read more about this concept on Allegra Lab.
Figure 3. Leticia Barreto and Joaquim Marques, Lignas do Destino, 2020
Clicking the light blue dots, we find the visual artists Leticia Barreto and Joaquim Marques who offer a conceptual journey behind their photography. Leticia in Allegra Lab shared her thinking on the project for the Fluid Mosaic and for the Art Curator Grid platform she and her partner and colleague Joaquim perform their chosen theme with their bodies. They propose a series of multilayered crisscrossing lines traced in their palmistry. Their own individual lines as human-beings and as migrants, crisscrossed one another at the moment they met creating a waved relation of Fate lines where their migratory lines started to move in the same direction. For the Fluid Mosaic, these “lines” foster complexity: What happens when the lines traced and embodied in the palms of a human being cross the lines of other people while they hold hands for a dance in a refugee camp? Or when they help each-other while crossing borders illegally? These crossing lines might tell us stories of rescue, of relationship, of mutual help. All these lines might meet again, might get lost in the dust of the migratory movements, or they might stay close together forever as was the case for these two artists.
Figure 4. Rabbya Naseer, a frame of Take me For a Walk, 2018.
On the purple dot you find the performance of artist Rabbya Naseer, kindly inviting us to push the barriers of what is conceived as immovable. She shows us the process of construction of a “performative wall” that challenges the notion of space, protection, isolation and scrutiny; this wall questions the relational spaces in contemporary Lahore, Pakistan. It is because of its mobility that the wall becomes an object of spectacle and spatial provocation: behind this wall, do I feel protected, exposed, isolated, or all of the above simultaneously? How can I obtain a fixed sense of property when the wall that should encircle it, is mobile? There are different forces displayed here: gender disparity along the road and in the professional environment, the spiritual world, where God is always giving a chance of existence while at the same time providing a sense of scrutiny. The wall hides the traffic but does not stop it; it becomes a source of questioning the meaning of utility and performative action of an “un”-successful barrier. Rabbya proposes a wall that creates paradoxes for the viewers, dragging them into a sense of logic dizziness. This sense of madness is mentioned in the video even by the workers involved in the construction of the wall, who despite deeming the artist and the project mad, still want to build it, and to “walk” with it. If the artist is “mad” and they builders are “mad” while walking this wall, am I, the viewer, mad now as I visit this project? This wall, offers the gift of dismantling intimate and social barriers constructions.
Figure 5. Shaka Fumu and the Robots series
Under the red dots features performer, visual artist and musician Shaka Fumu. He offers viewers a different perspective of border crossing through his personal experience. He creates performative, full costumes masks, as well as portable facial ones, worn while walking to denounce the problems of the country and inspire the children in the streets to be aware of the past in order to build a better, sustainable future. Shaka’s performances have the democratic and popular power of being effectively explanatory without words. With him, the restless spirits of the wars “walk” on the streets of Kinshasa, providing a transformative power to the future generations through the collective action of recycling. The Corona Virus Robot made during the lockdown in 2020 for example, moves through the community sharing awareness on the issue and offering examples of care. In the video you see children mimicking the Robots; while both attracted and scared by them, they project on them the role of protectors of life.
I proceed now to introduce three researchers who contributed in Allegra Lab Virtual Museum.
Figure 6. Jose Reyes, Porous borders, 2019.
José Reyes, is a Colombian sociologist who offers an auto-ethnographic journey along his performative experience that queers the identitarian borders of LGBTQI+ communities and migrants in France. Through his personal experience, he tells the readers of the possibility of living on the borders between gender and the sense of citizenship. He proposes to the viewers a performance where a postcolonial embodiment of both cosmopolitanism and citizenship comes into being while crossing borders of sexual identity. José provides an intimate storytelling of how barriers are porous in their essence.
Figure 7. Ariane Benoit, frame of L’étranger, 2019
Ariane Benoit, is an anthropologist and a performer who created a singing performance where she invites viewers to meet the stranger that is within each of our bodies. She interprets her body as the biological cell membrane where different elements can exist thanks to a constant passage in and out of her sense of otherness provided by the permeability of the cell membrane model. Here Ariane tells us that there is no separate Other who is different from Yourself, but You and the Other are one.
Figure 8. Giulia Cavallo, Mutiple Beings 2019
In conclusion, I introduce the anthropologist Giulia Cavallo who interprets the passages of antipodal realities between the spiritual world and the terrestrial one through her drawing practice. In an auto-ethnographic text, she shows and describes the symbolic healing process that allows a healthy communication between the two realities studying the Zion churches in Maputo, Mozambique. She shows us that there is always a manifestation of fluid continuity between living entities and death, and the importance of considering both of them holistically.
Below I briefly introduce the other four artists who, for a question of space, could not be fully presented in the article. Di-Andre Caprice Davis is an artist whose works and discussion connect puzzles and mosaics in nature in order to communicate with younger generations in Jamaica (you can find out more at Allegra Lab and by clicking on the yellow dot in Art Curator Grid); Katie Numi Usher invites us to break stereotypical borders announcing the thematic of Black hairs from her situated experience in Central America, Belize; Holly Bass blurs temporal boundaries while embodying the resilience of the Detroit River and its history of enslavement connected to the Underground Railroad in the USA; and finally Rodell Warner, who wants us to get lost in border areas made of pointillism and an extended sense of the limitless; you can find out more about his works in Allegra Lab and in Art Curator grid (green dots).
Maica Gugolati is a researcher at Institute of African Worlds, School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (Ehess), Paris, France and an Independent Curator. She is specialized in anthropology of performance, festivals and art, and focuses her projects in collaboration with the “Majority World” artistic and cultural production and its diaspora. She manages decolonial and postcolonial thinking, queer studies’, and dis-able studies’ tools. She is as well a photographer and artist-researcher, the co-editor of Decolonial Dialogues research blog (UK) and the co-founder of Fragile Matters Collective, visual and performance art and film documentary with social research.