Ayesha Tan Jones' solo exhibition is set in the striking offspace location of the deactivated swimming pool of Underground Flower: Belsize Park Gardens, featuring artworks made in various media. The newly produced living sculptures are made of biodegradable materials with mushrooms, moss, and chlorella growing in them. Tracing the growth and decay of the sculptures throughout the duration of the show, the artist questions survival and thriving in the current condition of ecological precarity. The exhibition’s narrative, based on the Chinese creation myth of Pangu, employs tools of speculative fiction and queer optimistic dystopia to envision a regenerative future. The show tackles methods of radical care, participation and interconnectedness, inviting the audience to feed the living sculptures via the accompanying online platform. Ayesha’s new series of artworks expand from their previous operatic performances and the upcoming book, Parasites of Pangu commissioned by Serpentine Gallery.
"The title of the show is “Tectonic Incantations” - it’s an extension of my project “Parasites of Pangu” - an opera that’s set very far in the future, in a climate where there are no humans left. Basically, the earth has destroyed the humans but some of them– the “elite” humans, the 1% - were able to cast themselves off into space in cryogenic sleep, and wait for the earth to realign. The whole storyline has this thread of who deserved to survive, who can pay to survive, and what even is survival.
The name Pangu is the name of a deity or god from a Chinese creation myth called Pangu and the Cosmic Egg. Pangu was non-binary; before the world was created there was no gender, but in every Chinese writing or any historical text you’ll see they’ve used “he”. Pangu essentially held heaven and earth, or yin and yang, apart with their body, and it grew 10 feet every day as they held heaven and earth at bay & then one day it was too much for them and they dissolved. They collapsed, and their body became the earth, and their literal flesh became the soil, their bones became the rocks, their marrow became rare earth minerals, their voice became the thunder, their breath the wind, and the parasites that existed on Pangu’s body became the humans....
The swimming pool is the location for the main sculptures. All of the sculptures represent an element and a deity. One of the sculptures - The Swamp Witch, which will be growing algae - was created fully in response to the site. She’s going to be in the jacuzzi - that’s where she lives, where she’s going to be growing. When you walk in the space you can smell the damp in the air - it was a squat before we moved in, and its very much got that apocalyptic vibe already so its been really nice to work here. I thrive in apocalyptic environments! Then you step outside and it’s a bougie west London street; it’s funny.
With my work I intend to instill a glimmer of optimism. That’s why I used the term “optimistic dystopia” to describe my art. It’s accepting and acknowledging and surrendering to the dystopia; it’s perpetual, and it’s everywhere, and we’re in it, but how do we take the skills that we know and survive it - and thrive, actually - not just survive it but thrive through it."
- excerpted from Ayesha Tan Jones in conversation with Daria Khan
by Ayesha Tan Jones
at Underground Flower: Belsize Park Gardens
Dec - March 2021
Produced by Harlesden High Street with support from Mimosa House
further documentation via @ayeshatanjones | ayeshatanjones.com