Thus waves come in pairs:
Simone Fattal and Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano
April 22 – November 5, 2023
Ocean Space, Venice

Graphic identity: bruno

TBA21–Academy presents Thus waves come in pairs, an exhibition comprising two new commissions launched at Ocean Space in Venice for the 2023 exhibition program, curated by Barbara Casavecchia. The exhibition features American-Lebanese, Paris-based artist Simone Fattal and Berlin-based artist duo Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano. The new  installation by Halilaj & Urbano is co-commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Audemars Piguet Contemporary.  

The title of the exhibition, Thus waves come in pairs, is a line from the poem Sea and Fog by Etel Adnan. It refers to the necessity of thinking of, and thinking with plurality and exchanges, which informed the third edition of the three-year long curatorial fellowship program The Current, led by Barbara Casavecchia and focused on the Mediterraneans, which this exhibition and its public program concludes. In September 2021, The Current III surfaced in Venice, at Ocean Space, as a transdisciplinary exercise in sensing by supporting situated projects, collective pedagogies and voices along the Mediterranean basin across art, culture, science, conservation, and activism. It evolved in the generative format of walks, performances, podcasts, conversations, and field trips, and built platforms for collaborative thinking. 

Focused on to the rapidly changing climate around the Mediterranean basin, occurring at a pace 20-percent faster than anywhere else on the planet — with the expansion of drought areas, the disruption of the water cycles and proliferation of heat waves — The Current III calls for reorienting, and registering “the limits of our own apparatuses of knowledge”, as Iain Chambers and Marta Cariello write in their essay “The Mediterranean Question: Thinking with the Diver”.

In 2021, Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal recorded for The Current III an intimate conversation at their Parisian home (featured in the publication, Thus Waves Come in Pairs. Thinking with the Mediterraneans by TBA21–Academy and Sternberg Press): “There are many Mediterraneans: the geographical, the historical, the philosophical... the personal, the one we swim, and we have swum in. It’s an experience to swim, it is something you can’t explain to somebody who never swam. This feeling of being held up by this water.”  This too needs to be constantly unlearned and relearned: how to hold up each other.

Thus waves come in pairs is an evolution of Barbara Casavecchia’s conception of this site-specific project, deepening the program’s engagement with artistic practices and local ecological knowledges. The exhibition and its public program bring to Venice the many streams of The Current III, unfolding from an ecology of collaborations, companionships, kinships, and sisterhoods; from multiple commonalities and forms of togetherness as counter narratives to aridity and scarcity.

Simone Fattal’s installation Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai! (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessy!, after the poem L’homme et la mer by Charles Baudelaire) inhabits the East Wing of the Church of San Lorenzo, including two empty niches of its Baroque altar, with a group of monumental ceramic and glass sculptures created for the occasion. Among them, the figures of Máyya and her lover Ghaylán — a couple celebrated in classic Arab poetry, as well as in folktales and legends, differing from country to country. In the Persian Gulf, their story is that of two owners of a flotilla of vessels engaged in the pearl trade. Mayya’s fleet was more efficient, as her boats were quicker. Ghaylan pondered upon this; one day, after looking closely at a firefly, he had its wings imitated, so that his boats could be moved by the fast speed of winds. He had invented the sails. Will humans still be able to find solutions in the future by learning from nature? Fattal’s installation also includes a series of glass spheres, manufactured in Venice, inscribed with fragments of the vanished “lingua franca”, a mixed language borrowing terms from Italian, Arabic, French, and Spanish once spoken by merchants, pirates, and slaves across all Mediterranean shores.

Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano were invited as a duo to develop a site-specific work premiering at Ocean Space, Venice. The installation, Lunar Ensemble for Uprising Seas, echoes the Spanish children’s song 'Ay mi pescadito', where young fish go to school at the bottom of the sea in order to study forms of resistance to humans. The artists created an ecosystem that comprises a series of large-scale sculptures of hybrid aquatic and terrestrial creatures, which speaks to creating cohesion as well as exploring harmony (or the lack thereof) between different species, or between living organisms and objects. A cast of musicians and performers activate the installation, at varying duration and intervals, throughout the exhibition period. The installation occupies half of the historic San Lorenzo Church, reflecting on the unique architecture of the deconsecrated church as well as the city of Venice. 

This work is co-commissioned with Audemars Piguet Contemporary, which saw their curatorial team and Casavecchia working closely together with Halijaj and Urbano to develop and support the creation of the installation, placed in conversation with Simone Fattal’s work. 

Thus waves come in pairs
Curated by Barbara Casavecchia. Commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy.

The work by Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano is co-commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Audemars Piguet Contemporary; developed by the artists working closely together with the curatorial team at Audemars Piguet Contemporary and curator Barbara Casavecchia.
Barbara Casavecchia is a writer, independent curator, and educator based in Milan, where she teaches at the Department of Visual Cultures and Curatorial Practices of the Brera Academy since 2011. She currently holds a course in Critical Writing at NABA, Milan. Contributing editor of Frieze magazine, her articles and essays have been published in art-agenda, ArtReview, D/La Repubblica, Flash Art, Mousse, Nero, South, and Spike, amongst others, as well as in artist books and catalogues. In 2018, she curated the solo exhibition “Susan Hiller, Social Facts” at OGR, Turin. In 2020, she acted as Mentor of the Ocean Fellowship Program offered by TBA21–Academy at Ocean Space in Venice. In 2021–2023, Barbara is leading The Current III
Simone Fattal was born in Damascus, Syria, and raised in Lebanon, where she studied philosophy at the Ecole des Lettres in Beirut. She then moved to Paris, where she continued her philosophical pursuits at the Sorbonne. In 1969 she returned to Beirut and began working as a visual artist, exhibiting her paintings until the start of the Lebanese Civil War. She left Lebanon in 1980 and settled in California, where she founded the Post-Apollo Press, a publishing house dedicated to innovative and experimental literary work. In 1988 she enrolled at the Art Institute of San Francisco, which prompted a return to her artistic practice and a newfound dedication to sculpture and ceramics. Fattal currently lives in Paris. Among her major solo exhibitions: MoMA PS1, New York; Bergen Kunsthall (2019); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2021); ICA, Milan (2021). In 2022, she participated in the 59th Venice Biennale. In 2023 she will exhibit also at Portikus, Frankfurt (24.06.–24.09.2023). Her work is included in several public collections, such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, Marrakech; the Sursock Museum, Beirut; the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah and the National Museum of Qatar, Doha. It is also found in collections, such as Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris; Metropolitan Art Society, Beirut; Musée d’art contemporain de la Haute-Vienne, Rochechouart; LaM, Lille Métropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut de Villeneuve d'Ascq. Fattal is currently represented by Kaufmann Repetto (Milan and New York), Tanit (Beirut), Balice Hertling (Paris), Karma International (Zurich).

Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986, Kosterrc-Skenderaj, Kosovo) and  Álvaro Urbano (b. 1983, Madrid, Spain) are two visual artists based in Berlin. Mostly working individually, their common practice combines specific aspects of each artist’s interests and complements each other’s research. Their joint production reflects on the dichotomy between built environments and nature, and on the possibilities of negotiation between these two realities: in that regard, the inhabitants that occupy these liminal spaces suscitate a particular interest for the two artists. Halilaj and Urbano jointly attended the artist residencies at MAK Residency, Los Angeles (2016-2017) and at Villa Romana, Florence (2014). Their collaborations have been exhibited in venues such as: Palacio de Cristal, Madrid; Pristina’s National Library, Autostrada Biennale; Brücke-Museum, Berlin; MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Mackey Apartments, Los Angeles; PAC-Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Milan; S.A.T.L.S., Basel; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn; Villa Romana, Florence. They are both professors at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris, France. Their work is included in the Colección Jumex, Mexico City and they are jointly represented by ChertLüdde, in Berlin. 
Organized as a three-year-long curatorial fellowship program, The Current is a pioneering initiative that cultivates transdisciplinary practices and the exchange of ideas around bodies of water and their understanding. 

With the working title “Mediterraneans: ‘Thus waves come in pairs’ (after Etel Adnan),” the first stream of The Current III cycle is led by Barbara Casavecchia as a transdisciplinary and transregional exercise in sensing and learning with by supporting situated projects, collective pedagogies, and voices along the Mediterranean shores across art, culture, science, conservation, and activism.
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