Daniela Zyman: Das Lachen der Quallen
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, 2024

Photo: Fernando Sendra

In Das Lachen der Quallen (The Laughter of the Jellyfish), TBA21’s artistic director Daniela Zyman outlines a prefigurative and antagonistic practice of artistic research, proposing an emergent genealogy of counter-research. In a close reading of TBA21’s long-standing commissioning program dedicated to artistic inquiry, she traces the epistemic history of the practice of research—what is being researched and how, under whose authority and regimes of knowledge, and for whose benefit—and examines it through the lens of recent artistic and theoretical interventions. Working with and learning from the prefix “counter,” as in counter-knowledge, counter-history, or counter-humanity, serves as an experiment with and through a concept, where concept and experiment unfold concurrently. This method aims to repurpose, displace, and intensify the terms and ambitions of the research process, adding direction, depth, and ethical commitment. 
The Laughter of the Jellyfish interrogates research's adherence to a specific order of rationality rooted in the epistemological locus of the West and its institutions. Given this order’s origins in racist, sexist, and colonialist epistemologies, the publication problematizes the extent to which the intellectual enterprise of research and the politics it produced have captured the discursive regime of the modern era on four central themes: the planet, the human, mythos, and polis. In response to the planetary state of emergency and the omnicidal politics sanctioning the eradication of all forms of life deemed expendable, the artists discussed in the publication—Nabil Ahmed/INTERPRT, Madison Bycroft with Léo Landon Barret and Aez Pinay, Faivovich & Goldberg, Amar Kanwar, Armin Linke, Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin, Allan Sekula, Jana Winderen, and Susanne M. Winterling—insist on shifting the gaze to openly turn against ‘the imperial and colonial liberal monohumanist premises of existence.“ Not just exposing the machinery at work, but magnetizing a “counter-sorcery,” in the form of imaginaries and technics aimed against white neoliberal necromancy itself. These artists uncover breaks and ruptures, foreground absences, while simultaneously proposing new definitions and interactions, transforming the space of critique and contestation into a reservoir of untested ideas for reassembly, reinvention, and repair. Engaging traditional and non-European sciences, they scrutinize the agency of natural entities and experiment with speculative relational worldviews that include all those with whom we share our damaged planet. 
The publication ultimately weaves together a narrative argument for the practice of researching otherwise, thinking other worlds through other intelligences and with other companions, and towards “a poetics and technics for the reorganization of knowledge” in the prefiguration of possible futures. Throughout the discussion, Zyman raises the question of how artists anticipate, sense, and give shape to visions of the future based on the principles of conviviality and the flourishing—not just survival—of all life on earth. She advocates for forms of epistemic disobedience, which, in turn, facilitate the acquisition and practice of fugitive literacies and differential consciousness, driven by the ecological imperative and the profound socio-political changes it brings about.
Book orders
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König
Daniela Zyman: Das Lachen der Quallen
German, 16,3 x 22,5 cm
Softcover, 336 pages
ISBN 978-3-7533-0268-3
€ 25
Kristin Metho