Giovanni Chiamenti at Spazio Volta / Bergamo

Interspecies Kin / Giovanni Chiamenti

June 11 – August 31, 2022

Spazio Volta
Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe
24129 Bergamo (IT)

We are ubiquitously surrounded by plastic, in a relationship of paradoxical antagonism.
The situation is such that the term plastisphere has been coined to indicate the pervasive dispersion of artificial plastic on the planet. But the ecosystem into which Giovanni Chiamenti drags us, that within his exhibition Interspecies Kin, is already changing to adapt to this invasive presence.

Entering the former 14th-century fountain that now houses Spazio Volta gives the impression of descending into the ocean depths. We dive down to a seabed of black sand, where we glimpse singular creatures spreading out at our feet, climbing the walls and hanging from the ceiling vault. A few of the features are recognizable, however we are quickly betrayed by an unknown detail that contradicts our knowledge of animal and plant species: it is unclear whether these presences are still alive or are decaying remains. The feeling is that of being transported on an archaeological site of a not-so-distant future.
The weight of human waste causes these creatures, over the years, to sink and deposit on the seabed, at depths almost unreachable to us. Some aquatic species are, however, able to absorb microplastics and expel them in new forms. In Interspecies Kin, Chiamenti imagines that these waste products can become a source of nutrients for new bacteria, hoping for an interspecies kinship1: biological and familial, bizarre and unexpected, a basis for multi-species solidarity. Such creatures are able to disintegrate microplastics until they absorb them into their own tissues, in a cyclical relationship between organic and inorganic, natural and artificial. At the centre of this small ecosystem is suspended SO 13°53’56 “N 153°41’29 “W, an algae-like multi-cellular organism, probably a new, still unclassified species, which similar to a plastiglomerate2 restores the absorbed synthetic element in the form of bioplastic. Its imposing bulk must be due to its greater capacity to absorb plastics.
Giovanni Chiamenti’s artistic research starts with elements from reality which flow into the imaginative. These latest works are in fact inspired by a particular hybrid, the Elysia 
Chlorotica, a marine gastropod capable of performing chlorophyll photosynthesis by incorporating parts of the chloroplasts contained in the algae it feeds on. Based on research in the scientific field, it is the first animal-vegetal hybrid, a very rare and concrete example of the archive of species and new forms imagined by the artist. Imagining a future close to us, Chiamenti works on the creation of a pseudoscientific nomenclature to name these new species, composed of pairs of letters and numerical values, the geographical coordinates of their supposed location in terrestrial waters.
These images are the result of comparative scientific research, but are also generators of a sensual and sensitive aesthetic consciousness, as defined by Baumgarten. Chiamenti gives us images that we do not yet have, but which silently outline a common destiny, filled with a sense of curious wonder and terror at the same time.
The exercise of speculative storytelling, the basis of this series of new works, leads back to the definition of prophet given by Federico Campagna in his book, Prophetic Culture. In the
text, the figure of the prophet is associated with that of the stutterer, as he/she never really belongs to his world and is never fully contemporary with his/her historical time. Who then is the prophet? Can he/she be the artist? “The role of the prophet does not require an original production: it is a point of view towards the avalanche of perceptions that invades us, and it is a way of intoning one’s own way of seeing and feeling.” Chiamenti projects us into a not-so-far-fetched future, in which Zoe, the generating force of non-human life, unfolding along transpecies and transgenetic interconnections, will have succeeded in integrating our civilisation’s discards with its own evolutionary process.
And what about us?
We have to think about our actions for a world that can no longer be like the one before and that will have to be reimagined, commencing from those concepts that the current capitalist ideology has buried and crushed: limits, vulnerability, interdependence3. Braidotti’s concept of interdependence, rooted in Haraway’s theories and Deleuze’s rhizomes, explains how necessary it is to break out of the humanist worldview in order to invent new conceptual schemes for our existence on this planet. On this seabed of black sand inhabited by mutated, contaminated, co-evolved organisms, Giovanni Chiamenti suggests that our present is already the future.

critic text by Federica Torgano