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03/09/2021 - 04/09/2021

On floating, aquanauts and liquid habitats: pools as aquaria for humans
Two-day public programme curated by Barbara Casavecchia

The Latin root of the word “specimen” is linked to the verb specere: to see. The shape of the water tank recalls that of the cabinet of curiosities: whether they contain animals or plants – objects of observation at any rate – they are offered for viewing through the mediation of glass walls, marking a material manifestation of our separateness from what lies beyond.

Nevertheless, even though Western culture has inherited the Enlightenment notion of seeing as a form of control and scientific study as a form of knowledge, to this day it is estimated that only about 5% of the marine environment is known to us. Everything else remains obscured to vision, a great unknown.

By reflecting on the new issues that any rethinking of our relationship with the marine world might come up against, on 3rd and 4th of September the program curated by writer and curator Barbara Casavecchia explores how an aquarium for humans could become the conceptual interface through which experiencing, floating and communicating potentially foster new forms of knowing, surpassing the logic of language’s colonization in knowledge transmission.

The programme includes Uncommitted Barnacle, a performance by the artist Madison Bycroft, and Inter/species Yoga: A devotional exploration in practice, a performative and collaborative yoga session by curator Daniela Zyman (artistic director of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary / TBA21–Academy), who guides the audience through the embodied experimental method of “identification, that process through which we expand our empathy and the boundaries of who we are become more fluid, because we identify with the experience of someone different, maybe someone of a whole different so-called species.” (Alexis Pauline Gumbs).

The two-days programme closes with a special panel,On floating, with Madyson Bycroft (artist), Ana Pires (astronaut, researcher and specialist diver), Armin Linke (artist) and Daniela Zyman and Barbara Casavecchia (curators) about transdisciplinary embodied practises.

Within the enclosed borders of a pool, humans have to adapt to a different gravity, speed and form of locomotion. This applies to occasional swimmers, as well as to astronauts in training for extravehicular activities in deep space during their dives in Neutral Buyancy Labs (for instance, the largest in Europe is located in Cologne, at the European Astronaut Centre run by ESA) or during the NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) missions, held at the Aquarius Reef Base, operated in the Keys by the Florida International University. The experience of free floating, its physical, mental and psychological implications will mark the starting point for a conversation on human behaviour, forced adaptation, change, fluidity and opacity.


Uncommitted Barnacle,
a performance by the artist Madison Bycroft.

Ioga (workshop/performance)
Inter/species Yoga: A devotional exploration in practice, a performative and collaborative yoga session by curator Daniela Zyman (artistic director of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary / TBA21).

Special panel On floating with Madyson Bycroft (artist), Ana Pires (astronaut, researcher and specialist diver), Armin Linke (artist) and Daniela Zyman and Barbara Casavecchia (curators).

Angela Rui is a curator and researcher based in Milan who works in design theory and criticism. She believes that design is positioned as a critical practice that problematises conventional ways of inhabiting and experiencing the world, and that designers could operate in domains that demand their capacity to translate, raise awareness and visualise challenges and inequalities as well as currently unrecognised collective commons. Among other projects, she co-curated I See That I See What You don’t See, the Dutch Pavilion for Broken Nature – XXII Triennale di Milano (2019), and Faraway So Close, the 25th Design Biennial of Ljubljana (2017). She is the curator of Aquaria – Or the Illusion of a Boxed Sea, now on view at maat. She is currently teaching at the Geo-Design Master Program – Design Academy Eindhoven, and at the NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milano). She holds a PhD in Interior Architecture and Exhibition Design from Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of Architecture.

Barbara Casavecchia is a writer, independent curator, and educator based in Venice and Milan, where she teaches at the Department of Visual Cultures and Curatorial Practices of the Brera art academy since  2011. She currently holds a course in Critical Writing at NABA, Milan. Contributing editor of Frieze magazine, her articles and essays have been published in art-agenda, ArtReview, La Repubblica, Flash Art, Mousse, Nero, South, and Spike, amongst others, as well as in several artist books and catalogues. In 2018, she curated the solo exhibition “Susan Hiller, Social Facts” at OGR, Turin. In 2021–2023, under the working title “Mediterraneans: ‘Thus waves come in pairs' (after Etel Adnan)”, she is leading the curatorial fellowship program The Current III promoted by TBA21–Academy.

Daniela Zyman is a curator, writer, educator, and yogic amateur. She developed the proposal for Inter/species Yoga a few years ago, when invited by the artist group SUPERFLEX to participate in their research expedition in the Pacific. She considers this approach to Yoga as a possibility to redirect the self-centeredness of the Modern practice to forms of planetary stewardship. Fully cognizant that many practitioners are committed to yoga to find some peace and inner quietness in a world of chaos and stress, Daniela worries about the reaffirmation of individualism and self-care and hopes to re-articulate more latent or obscure aspects of the tradition. She is artistic director of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), a private foundation established by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. She joined TBA21 in 2003 and has played an instrumental role in shaping its exhibitions and commissions program. Currently she is curating “Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation” at Ocean Space in Venice and Walid Raad’s “Cotton under my Feet” at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza In Madrid.

Madison Bycroft (they/them) Born in 1987, Kaurna Yarta (Australia), lives and works in Marseille, France. Bycroft is a graduate from the University of South Australia (2013), and the MFA program at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam (2016). Working with video, sculpture and performance, Madison Bycroft’s current interests extend into forms of reading and writing, expression and refusal. The politics of illegibility and legibility are explored through language and material, asking how ‘sense’ is framed by historical contexts, biases, and structures of power. Bycroft's work has recently been exhibited in Biopic (Samstag Museum, Tarntanya / Adelaide, 2021), For Refusal (Transmediale, Berlin, 2021) Making Kin (Kunsthaus Hamburg, 2020), Feedback Loops (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Naarm, Melbourne, 2020) Futur, Ancien, Fugitif (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2019), Future Generation Art Prize (Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev and Venice, 2019), À Cris Ouverts – 6e Biennale de Rennes (Saint-Brieuc, 2018), Desk Set (CAC Brétigny, Paris, 2018).

Nana (Anaïs Pinay) (he / they) is a Franco-Cameroonian artist. As an actor, writer and performer, his work revolves around postcoloniality, intersectionality and questions the links between politics, spirituality and representation.

Leo Landon Barret (she/they) is a French actress and director based in Paris. After ten years of training as a singer at Paris’ Opera child choir, she studied acting at École du Jeu. She takes part in multiple projects as an actor, director, singer, performer or dramaturg.

Ana Pires is a Researcher at INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics and Autonomous. She is involved in several projects related to sustainable sea/marine mining, geotechnologies and georesources. She was also the first Portuguese women to finish with success the Scientist-Astronaut Program, under the framework of Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) supported by NASA. Pires is a Specialist Diver (SSI Certification) and she was also selected to be part of the main crew of the "GEO-Pegasus" team to carry out an analog mission in April-May of 2023 in the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), located in Utah (USA), owned, and operated by the Mars Society. Since 2018 she makes efforts to promote human space flight, astrogeology, technology, robotics, and STEAM outreach activities in Portugal. Currently she is the Co-Chair Knowledge Management of “Space For All Nations|SFAN” project developed under the scope of IIAS and PoSSUM Program.

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