Curatorial Statement

2019 Projects & Talks
Curatorial Statement by Nato Thompson, Artistic Director
Here explodes the Wunderkammer
A room of research, the early Wunderkammers, or cabinets of curiosities, or Kunstkammers, or even wonder rooms of the 16th and 17th centuries, presented an architectural prodigious display of artifacts garnered and pilfered from across the seven seas. Wrapped up in natural history, a high dose of colonialism, aesthetics, alchemy, a pinch of theology and its important counterpart, intimate curiosity, these crafted display rooms often consisted of sea side shells, preserved desiccated fish, an occasional unicorn horn, salmon-tinted coral, stolen indigenous artifacts, glimmering rubies and sapphires, still life paintings of ripe fruit, miniature paintings, brilliant exotic bird feathers, sharpened weapons from the far east, celestial gold encrusted globes, herbariums, and diminutive drawers of sparkling minerals. These encyclopedic collections moved rapidly between art, science, curious collectibles, and even the occult without a blink. Their impressive alacrity to twist associatively between subjects in time and space ran perpendicular to the era that followed, where phylum, genres, disciplines, and adherence to methodology sealed subjects into a solitary category.
Fast forward to this intersectional 21st century where the mutability and interwoven qualities of all forms of life and non-life are distinctively embedded in literary, political, artistic, and scientific discussion. The Philip K. Dick-inspired rise of artificial intelligence aggravates the understanding of what constitutes intelligence, or even human for that matter. Climate change, no longer a distant phenomenon, has erupted into a global paradigm and catastrophe - connecting coral reefs to exhaust pipes to skyscraper-size ice chunks melting away, absorbed in the massive mouth of the sea. Synthetic biologists tinker and construct Jurassic Park-like future-pasts to bring back certain forms of life as well as to produce new forms of hybrid species. And as the world disappears into our phones, we find smiling sensuous people in there, happy to place their gentle faces in baked goods or whisper us quiet lullabies.
A poetic relationship to fact, fiction, science, theology, biology, herbology, cosmology, and even cosmetology is the bread and butter of artists. Their sometimes whimsical and at other times, deeply rigorous relationship to a collapsing of fields provides a hypnotic lens to view the horizon of our knowledge. In this crystal ball, we glimpse mutants, performative happenings, experiments with vision, still lives floating to the heavens, earthquakes shaking our repast, and artificial intelligence crafted from voices kept out of the historical record. This year’s collection of projects and talks hopes to mirror these tendencies with a frenetic enthusiasm to the shifting needs of the existence around us: singing, prancing, painting, smooshing, studying, blending, mutating, and ultimately, feeling the flesh of this baked world on our faces.

The full list of Projects & Talks coming to Seattle Art Fair in 2019 can be found here.