Countercurrents is a group exhibition by MA Photogrpahy & Society students from KABK in collaboration with Creative Court, The Hague. In February this year, twelve artists from seven countries were prompted by the existing issue of underwater munition burial sites in the North Sea. The collective created work reflecting on the topic through photography, video, archival material and sculptures. Enlisting themes of the current reality, collective and individual memories, fictional narrative and metaphor.
The countercurrents never cease. In their unseen movement, they tug at the body of water, constantly shaping the new present and leaving us clues about the future. The forward and backward movement of the currents also turns up the silent sediment of the sea floor, and old stories and histories that have been concealed reappear and merge into them, starting another cycle.
“Mariupol, Mariupol”, Alexey Yurenev brings viewers face to face with the brutal stories that befall ordinary people in the struggle for control between states in the maelstrom of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The photo series by Arianna Cavalensi investigates a lesser-known area of dispute: Maraude Camp, Dunkirk in France. Many of the refugees in this place of limbo face violence from both the local authority and ultimately the sea. For Lea Novi, scientific research cannot provide a clear conclusion about the future scenario. She hints at this uncertainty in her multimedia project, representing the damaged and unstable state of both the research and the corroded underwater environment.
Two Dutch citizens of immigrant descent take us back in time to the still fresh smoke of the colonial wars of the past. When will we decolonize our waters? With this question, Charmaine de Heij explores the colonial relationship between the Netherlands, the sea and Suriname. Jonathan Tang researches how the Japanese army dehumanized their test subjects by means of reproducing the historical experiments on logs of wood, as the prisoners of Unit 731 were called, in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Daniel Chatard dwells on the analogy of the subaquatic and the subconscious, connected by his grandfather’s personal account of the wartime with the collective memories embodied through memorial sites and traces of the war. By questioning the hidden relationships between the individual and society, Pascal Giese peels back the layers of the norms and demands through multimedia performance.
How can we imagine or understand how the trauma of war continues to affect our future? There might be two scenarios. Sumi Anjuman constructs a fiction that threads her photographs with the historical relics of evidence from the Second World War. Ben Yau investigates the possibility of life underwater as a result of the rising of sea levels. The visual research looks towards deep-sea hydrothermal vent bacteria for inspiration in adaptation to the extreme environments of the progressively toxic seas.
How can we reinvent ourselves as — or go back to be — bodies of water, interconnected with each other and others? How can we not, if we want to survive? These questions raise in Beatrice Cera’s trajectory. Why do we often bury our violent acts against other beings and everything connected to them? Diego Reindel postulates that we don’t want to feel the pain. But isn’t this pain an index for a connection? Can we find a way to be attentive to this connection as an act of change? His images explore the dialectic of the separation and fascination for other lives on this planet. He Bo correlates war, weapons control and masculinity in his video installation inspired by the anti-war novel Gravity’s Rainbow. These “controls” of the past and present are reincarnated from generation to generation. Wars will not stop, nor will the mutual attrition among civilizations and human beings.
We are trying to touch the past and the future. We are trying to reflect the/a countercurrent current.
Assisted by Thana Faroq
MA Photography & Society — KABK