Digital Hub delighted to support Tragodía at Temple Bar Gallery
Tai Shani made history this month by winning the Turner Prize 2019 collectively with three other artists as a statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity. Tai Shani’s radical multidisciplinary practice incorporates sculpture, performative installations, moving image, experimental spoken and written narratives, radio broadcasts, and virtual reality. Shani deconstructs social hierarchies by elevating the roles of those who have been oppressed in history, mythology and the artist’s personal experience. Tragodía launches on Thursday, December 19th from 6pm to 8pm.
Tragodía is a mesmerising and affecting virtual reality play, and atmospherically saturated sculptural installation. Though experienced independently, these two parts coalesce into a nebulous transcendent narrative that converses between life and death, the physical and intangible, trauma and reconciliation.
The experimental narrative is fragmentary, enacted by multiple voices and, through the virtual reality experience, the viewer embodies the avatar of the Ghost Child. Their first-hand perspective of the unfolding events and associated memories are spoken internally and the Ghost Child communicates with their loved ones from the cast of the Mother, the Aunt, Grandmother Eve, and Oedipuss the Cat. Descriptions of pierced organs, car doors, metal railings, and engine acceleration, bring forth a scenario in which Ghost Child is being called back to life from the brink of death following a terrible accident. Incantations and spells are performed by the elder characters in order to transmit between layers of reality. By reliving their shared memories of Ghost Child, including burying puppies in the back garden or taking acid in a forest, a feeling of temporary consolation takes over. The narrative continues along a desolate trajectory but is ultimately resolved in a beautiful epiphany of acceptance and love.
The play is set in an infinite celestial expanse, in which the heads of the familial characters orbit as colossal globes above, beside and beneath Ghost Child in intense close-up. Their enormous eyes and mouths are close to engulfing the visual landscape but remain beyond physical reach. The switch of scale when summoned back into the material installation in the gallery recasts the viewer as a looming deity above an expansive sculptural platform. As a topographical representation of a utopian archaeological site, the sculpture potentially exists at any point in the future or ancient past but not connected to a specific place or known civilisation. The pyramids, altars and ley line reliefs rise from the platform’s surface, bringing to mind real-world places of contact between life and death, as well as supernatural and technological forms of communication and discovery. The hand-worked sculptures situated on this platform share this mystical symbolism, with protective amulets laid on the eyes and chest of the ‘mummified’ Grandmother figure, and coiled snakes, cosmic eggs and crystal balls. 3D-printed ‘death masks’ of the play’s characters also echo the will to preserve life after death.
Tai Shani is one of the four awarded artists of the Turner Prize 2019. The artists requested for the prize to be shared as a symbol of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity at this time of global political crisis. Shani’s recent solo and two-person exhibitions and performances include: DC: Semiramis, Turner Contemporary, Margate (2019), The Tetley, Leeds (2018), Nottingham Contemporary (2018), Tramway, Glasgow International (2018); Andromedan Sad Girl (with Florence Peake), CentroCentro, Madrid (2019) and Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2017); Dark Continent: Psy Chic Anem One, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2019) and Athens Biennale (2018); Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); Tate Britain, London (2016); Loughborough University (2016); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2015).
An accompanying text response to Tragodía from Megan Nolan has been commissioned by Tai Shani and Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, which will be available to take from the gallery.
Tragodía credits: Soundtrack: Maxwell Sterling. Voice Actors: Ghost Child: Maya Lubinsky, Grandmother Eve, Mother, Aunt: Eva Eklöf, Oedipuss the Cat: Dasha Loyko. VR Production: partyTime.jpeg (Adam James Sinclair, Mikhail Polshaw). Facial Performances: Lotti V Closs.
Tragodía is a co-production with Jindřich Chalupecký Society, Czech Republic (September 2019) and Grazer Kunstverein, Austria (May 2020).
Read more about the exhibition at https://www.templebargallery.com/exhibitions/tragodia