Vibrant Matter is a group exhibition presenting new and existing works by Belfast based artists Jasmin Märker, Jennifer Mehigan, and Jan Uprichard organised in collaboration with Sailortown Regeneration Group and is part of the 2019 NI Science Festival programme.
The video, bio-art, and sculptural installation works in Vibrant Matter propose holistic, alternative and non-human-centric/anthropocentric ways to navigate the ‘worlds’ in and around us. The artists in the exhibition are interested in questioning our exchanges with entities that we consider to be non-human; our relationships with our own and others’ intimate existence; and how non-humans experience cities and urban spaces.
Jan Uprichard’s work It’s A Dog’s Life – installed in the entrance on the church – consists of a video and a conversation. The video was made by attaching a camera to a dog named King as he navigates his way through the Kypseli neighbourhood in Athens, where he lives. The conversation took place between Jan and King’s owner as they accompanied him on his walk and discussed attitudes towards dogs in Greece and in the U.K. It’s A Dog’s Life is part of a larger body of work made by the artist in the Kypseli neighbourhood, where she has also undertaken a sensory exploration that included ‘locals’ (human, animal and botanical) in an attempt to understand and reflect on its characteristics and how humans and non-humans interact with each other to form a unique ecosystem.
By dissecting bodily experiences into sensory components and gestures, Jennifer Mehigan’s installation in the centre of the church plays with notions of self, other, and how subjects and objects are treated as they move in and out of personhood. The work in the exhibition consists of three components: dreamhorse, a digital video file on infinite loop, millennial death lust, a meditative essay, and Fantasy Flesh 2.0, a fragrance/room spray that merges essences of animal, hospital, church, and wilderness. They explore the dynamics of domination and submission – and propose a social life for bodies, images, and objects as they exchange grievances – through personal correspondences merged with political ecologies; Prince lyrics; queerness; contemplations on pet ownership; and fan fiction.
Located on the altar is Jasmin Märker’s bio-sculptural installation, which draws attention to the fact that matter has agency beyond human-defined value systems. The objects that we consider no longer useful or ‘dead’ continue to live and spark interactions with other species after we dispose of them. The installation contains materials that symbolise those also commonly found in landfill sites: the materials that we use to preserve matter (wax) and those that nurture the growth of microbes (agar). These actants make landfill sites volatile, ‘live’ environments that also create new ecosystems and allow other species to thrive. Over the ten days of the exhibition, the work will change through the participatory interactions of organisms already present in the church as they partially consume and occupy the materials, providing both the audience and artist with an observational experiment. UV dust present in the installation will track the movement of non-humans as they interact with the work.
Vibrant Matter is installed in the unique surroundings of St. Joseph’s Church in the heart of Sailortown, a historical neighbourhood in an area of Belfast that is undergoing rapid change and development. The exhibition invites us to reflect on how evolving spaces are perceived and consider the invisible bonds that connect us to the matter around us.
The exhibition takes its title from a book by political theorist Jane Bennett, who considers how we are embedded in a web of mutual affect that doesn’t distinguish between living and nonliving, human and nonhuman. Research undertaken by the artists include workshops with local young people, inviting them to experience Sailortown through the eyes of non-human animals.
Vibrant Matter is made possible thanks to the support of the NI Science Festival, Sailortown Regeneration Group, Clanmil Housing Association and The National Lottery Awards for All Northern Ireland. Vibrant Matter is part of Household’s public programme Flesh and Stone, which is generously supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
View the full NI Science Festival programme here