Conversations on the Politics of Oceans

As a collateral event to Barbora Kleinhamplová’s exhibition SICKNESS REPORT, we would like to invite you to a conversation between independent curator and researcher Heidi Ballet, artist Barbora Kleinhamplová and curator Karina Kottová on cultural histories of navigation, bodies of water and oceans, and how movement, a primary characteristic of water, can become an indicator of the contemporary political crisis both in a real and metaphoric sense.

“Water entangles our bodies in relations of gift, debt, theft, complicity, differentiation, relation,” writes Astrida Neimanis in the introduction to her essay on hydrofeminism that shows how human bodies are connected to other species and even planetary developments through the water they are all composed of. As a result, the more we pollute our environment, the more we pollute ourselves. There is no inside and outside, aboard and offshore, us and them, since in the end, we all inherently share the microplastic in the water and the drowning bodies of the refugees that reach no shore. The very same waters circulate in our systems, and so we share the responsibility for what they contain. This responsibility is in stark contrast with the apolitical character of the oceans, a territory where the traces of capitalism are easily hidden: the heat from the atmosphere, tax-free transactions, submarine cables, and piles of garbage. But the oceanic territory can no longer be thought of as external to the “ship of the privileged” that Kleinhamplová portrays in the present exhibition. It is becoming the very political sphere that this ship is navigating on, the pestering uncomfortable truth, the largest mirror to the vessel we sail on.

This event is part of  SICKNESS REPORT, an exhibition by Barbora Kleinhamplová curated by Karina Kottová.

HEIDI BALLET is a Belgian independent curator based in Berlin with a background in East Asia Studies and a research interest in oceanic histories. In 2018 she curated the Beaufort Sculpture Triennial along the Belgian coast and in 2017 she co-curated the Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF) in Northern Norway with Milena Hoegsberg. In 2016 Ballet curated an exhibition series at the Jeu de Paume Paris and CAPC Bordeaux titled Our Ocean Your Horizon. The same year she curated The Morality Reflex at CAC Vilnius. Between 2012 and 2015 she worked as a research curator for the essay exhibition After Year Zero presented at Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin (2013) and the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art (2015). Previously, she was assistant curator of the Taipei Biennale in 2012. Her writing has appeared in Art Papers, Mousse, Art Review Asia and Randian.

BARBORA KLEINHAMPLOVÁ is an artist living and working in Prague. Barbora’s work is rooted in the relationship of human existence and the contemporary political and economic institutions. She comments on different layers of society, posing questions such as what is society, how it works, what are its constitutive elements, its illnesses, its emotions, its future. Recently she employed a strategy we might call a constructed or staged situation. The script of her works is often derived from an existing format of group interaction (therapy, coaching session etc.). The performative dimension of her projects accents the symbolic role of body politics in current systems of power. Her work has been exhibited widely in the Czech Republic as well as internationally – including the Jakarta Biennale (2017), 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016), The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York (2016), New Museum, New York (2014), and Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2014). She received a scholarship within the framework of the residency program of MMCA, Seoul, South Korea in 2015, Gasworks, London in 2016 and Residency Unlimited in 2017. In 2015 she received the Jindřich Chalupecký Award.

KARINA KOTTOVÁ is a curator and theoretician of contemporary art based in Prague, Czech Republic. Currently she is a director of the Jindřich Chalupecký Society. Her previous affiliations include MeetFactory international center for contemporary art (2012–15), DOX Centre for Contemporary Art (2009–12) and Museum Kampa (2007–2009). Among projects she established and co-established are INI Project, an independent process-oriented project space, the Věra Jirousová Award for art critics, and UMA Audioguide. She is interested in the psychological and emotional impact of current socio-political challenges as well as in feminist theory and the subversive potential of the so-called “feminine” qualities, such as empathy, irrationality and intuition. Kottová earned a BA in Humanities from the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic and an MA in Art and Heritage: Policy, Management and Education from Universiteit Maastricht, the Netherlands. In 2015 she defended her PhD thesis on “The Institution and the Viewer” at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. In 2012 she was a Fulbright-Masaryk scholar affiliated with the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York.