Celestial Gestures

Akinnola Lawanson and Jelena Visković


May 20th – June 10th


Celestial Gestures, begins with a common topic of dialogue between the two authors – The Non-Aligned Movement, intends to further examine and elaborate on the integral elements of the project. The set of recognized structuralproblems is, to a greater extent, treated within the individual works. Consequently, the following topics that emergeare the issues of utopia, global systems and regimes, mechanisms of management, the potential of worldbuilding andthe role played by the three prominent bodies – the bodies of leaders, communities and individuals.

Abovementioned power regimes are visualised in two ways; In one of them, as an abstract scheme conceived as acircuit, flow, a linear structure of interconnected points that renders the seemingly impossible and dysfunctionalprocess of the flow of matter through natural and technological elements. The work Fluid Memories, Stuck in a Loopby Akinsola Lawanson aims to disrupt the fixed binary foundations of dominant systems that govern the flow of values, information, power and capital. It emphasises that such systems can only be challenged through collective, jointedaction, based on thinking outside of the imposed categories. Another type of representation of these systems is theplanetary model, the globe, given in the work Ties of Allegiance by Jelena Visković, which draws attention to the roleand structure of the concept of exchange through the metaphor of diplomatic ceremonial giving.

The next question, arising from the consideration of the Non-Aligned project, is concerned with self-organisingcounter-action, aiming to oppose the imposed power systems. It is represented in the concept of worldbuilding – anidea, present in both theoretical considerations and artistic practices, that focuses on imagining and (re)projecting theworld based on kinship*, that is, changed interpersonal and interspecies relationships between humans, naturalsubjects and artificial entities. New Babylon by Jelena Visković is a generated environment, founded on thinking aboutthe archetype of utopia, and at the same time, understanding the previous, historical projects of worldmaking. Thisartwork is primarily focused on the research of methodologies, principles and infrastructures of creating a utopia.

The common thread that ties all exhibited artwork together is the notion of the body. According to the impliedhierarchy, the principal body is that of the leader, thematised in the work Ties of Allegiance, whose corporeal rhetoricused in performing the gestures of gift-giving assumes universal, political significance, becoming synonymous withglobal diplomatic shifts. In other words, this mechanical action is converted (translated) from the domain ofinterpersonal to the realm of interstate. Next is the communal body, which unanimously participates in the constructionof New Babylon, and is referred to in the work Fluid Memories, Stuck in a Loop, in the context of imagining the unitary, subversive efforts. In the end, there is the body of the individual, depicted in the work Trip2TheMoon by AkinsolaLawanson, passing through identity displacements and creating connections with distant memories and experiencesof various actors in the collective state-forming body.

Finally, all the works shown in the exhibition are characterised by prominent referentiality. They point to certaintopographies, as seen in the work Trip2TheMoon, where a disorienting shift of both real and virtual locations isachieved. Likewise, they reference a particular time, establishing a dialogue between the past and the potential futureworlds envisioned in New Babylon. All of the works allude to specific political concepts, actors and regimes. Throughthe use of intermedial self-referentiality, they establish a mutual connection that allows us to imagine the work Ties ofAllegiance as an extension of the reality of New Babylon, while the last scene of Trip2TheMoon depicts the maincharacter placed inside the Fluid Memories, Stuck in a Loop installation. In addition to this referentiality, without theuse of direct citation, one of the important applied practices is humour, a strategy by which an individualin Trip2TheMoon parodies his own position and experience. In the case of Ties of Allegiance, humour appears as aresult of the use of artificial intelligence, which, overcoming the obstacle of unavailability of archival material, generates inaccurate photographic documents of events based on a rhetoric, insofar known and established, thathistorical accuracy and truth become arbitrary categories as long as they convey the same message.

The exhibition Celestial Gestures offers a closer and detailed elaboration of particular, extracted aspects andelements that appear through the exploration of integral concepts and ideas which stood for the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement. The starting topics are further developed, as the artworks aim to suggest alternative perspectiveson selected problems, while using humour as a strategy in order to subvert stereotypical and literal interpretations. Thereby, the presented works, shaped through the dialogue with historical situations and dealing with the resultingquestions, indicate various directions, positions and relationships of contemporary art practices towards problematiccolonial and imperial views, narratives and iconography. 


Text: Maja Petrović

Photos: N. Ivanović

*This definition and formulation is mainly used and proposed by Donna Haraway in: Haraway, D. J. (2016).Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press


The additional program of the exhibition will include a film program in collaboration with Sima Kokotović and MilošZec, as well as a reading event by the Old Mountain Assembly group.


Film program at Zvezda cinema:

May 22, 9 pm: “The Time of the Leopards”

May 23, 9 pm: “Leyla and the Wolves”,

May 26,7 pm: “Sambizanga”, followed by a discussion


Reading evening of the Old Mountain Assembly group at U10 Art Space:

June 9, 6 pm