Julius von Bismarck
Die Mimik der Tethys

Nov 3rd, 2023 – Oct 31st, 2024
La Pista 500, Pinacoteca Agnelli, Turin

Copyright Pinacoteca Agnelli; Warwick Collection; alexander levy, Berlin; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf; Photo Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

Die Mimik der Tethys (2019-2021) is a series of massive high-sea buoys, that are suspended by cables and silently float in space in mimicry of the varying rhythms of the ocean swell.

In perpetual motion, sometimes calm, at other times sudden and fierce, Die Mimik der Tethys reproduces the movements of a buoy that von Bismarck anchored in the Atlantic Ocean off the French coast. The buoy at sea continuously transmits movement data via satellite, setting in motion the eight electric motors and cable winches connected to its suspended double. Alluding to the Greek sea goddess Tethys, the heavyweight pendulum functions as a barometer of nature’s moods as expressed by the ever-changing surface of the ocean, producing a hypnotic effect that immerses the viewer in an imagined underwater world.

Interested in the perception and representation of nature, Julius von Bismarck reminds us of buoys’ function as civilisation’s outposts at sea, questioning the object’s ordinary context, its raison d’être at sea, and the temporal and spatial references connected to it. Either used for navigation, meteorological, or scientific data transmission, buoys send out a set of digital signals that cannot be perceived by human senses. As a metaphor for the streams of data in which both ocean and civilisation are immersed today, von Bismarck challenges the romantic epresentation of nature as a place untouched by humans, which is prominent throughout Western art history, replacing it with a new aesthetic and empirical framework.

As he puts it: “Our idea of what we see as nature is a human construct and culturally conditioned and, therefore, subject to historical fluctuations. The ocean used to be the wild, the indomitable. I play with the traditional images of nature from the Romantic era—the rusty buoy that dances lonely on the sea is definitely romantic, but this picture no longer works with our current understanding of nature and the crises of the sea.”

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