The collectives gathered in A Flower and a Thousand Paths explore the possibilities of becoming that emerge from spaces of convergence. The works of Mutante, House of Tupamaras, and Elsgüer Studio—in view last October at Céline Bureau (Montreal) as a result of its 2022 curatorial residency program—blossom in the ambivalence between individual and collective being, between what is and what could be. Their explorations in new media, video, and performance evidence how the junctions and intersections that can happen among a thousand paths give way to diversity and change. These points of encounter and interference prove to be a fertile ground in which to articulate stories surrounding queer futures, exchange and cooperation as forms of resistance, and intergenerational trauma and resilience.
Curated by Santiago Tavera, the exhibition addresses the implications of collaboration for the development of identities and art practices. Mutante is a Bogotá-based art laboratory co-led by Natalia Rivera that brings together interdisciplinary researchers engaging with digital technologies. Their contributions to this exhibition mimic the webbing of the internet and bacterial cooperation to expose alternative circuits of connection. Queer Forms of Life: Internet for Bacteria—Phage (2022), a series of blueprints sketching a speculative device for bacterial communication, recognizes the potential of human and non-human technologies and offers avenues for inter-species mutual aid. Bi0film.net (2021), a collaboration between Rivera and Jung Hsu, adapts a yellow umbrella—emblematic of the recent Hong Kong protests—to serve as a nomadic WiFi antenna. We can see this artefact at work in a video, connecting protesters while allowing them to avoid identification and to spread freely and safely within collectivity.
The works of Elsgüer Studio, a collective led by the Montreal-based Colombian-Canadian artists Santiago Tavera and Laura Acosta, reflect the intricate tension between the one and the multiple hinted at in the exhibition’s title. They open portals between the public and the private self, spaces of transit that blur the borders between the symbolic and the physical worlds. The video installation 3Lix (2022) embodies the complexities of togetherness in a game of mirrors that incorporates textile work, choreography, and wind sensor data. Approaching this piece, we see our reflection playing a role in its unique unfoldings, interacting with environmental conditions that are always present yet constantly changing. We participate in a process in which transformation and replication emerge indiscriminately from the coexistence of similarity and difference. Patterns of Plasticity (2022) takes us inside a parallel path of redefinition in which learning, loss, and the possibility of being seen anew confront each other. It reconstructs the journey of neurological recovery of Tavera’s aunt through a mixed-media composition of videos, brain scans, audio recordings, family voices, and superimposed 3D animations.
A Flower and a Thousand Paths teaches us that the intersections where liminal identities develop freely are paved with layers of memories, fantasies, and delusions. The artwork Failure is my Style (2022) by House of Tupamaras, a Colombian interdisciplinary collective inspired by voguing and ballroom culture, examines ideas around queer desire and futures in a world of contradiction and uncertainty. A voice-over navigating desolate urban spaces that slowly give room to queer bodies partying and posing in Bogotá in the year 2122 questions the impossible imperatives guiding contemporary life. The voice embraces failure instead, without denying that failing entails an ongoing negotiation with anxieties and illusions such as the promise of love. Ascending the gallery’s spiral staircase, we experience fragmenting and repeating images extending in several directions through video, sound, mirrors, and text. A document on dissident performativities, the piece reclaims and activates a disobedient ambiguity that is justified in the phrase “order discards, chaos encompasses.”
Engaging us in critical research on the patterns that shape our experience, this exhibition brings us closer to embracing multilayered identities, giving us tools to understand the interdependence of sameness and difference. We are witnesses to the potential of the encounter with the “other” within and around us that takes place willingly and despite us. By giving form and language to ambivalence, these works rewrite and reorganize networks such as family and work structures, gender norms, neuronal connections, and channels of expression. They detonate processes of unlearning, evading, and failing needed to give way to change and newness and open new paths toward healing and vindication. Their disposition for alterity is a challenge full of hope in other possible worlds.
A Flower and a Thousand Paths
Artists: House of Tupamaras, Mutante, and Elsgüer Studio
Curator: Santiago Tavera
Céline Bureau, Montreal
October 13 to October 27, 2022