Christelle Oyiri: VENOM VOYAGE

Veranstalter: gta Ausstellungen
Datum: Mittwoch, 8. November 2023 bis Freitag, 8. Dezember 2023 , Opening: 7. November, 6pm

At the invitation of Elevation 1049 
Presented at gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich

Christelle Oyiri
gta foyer 

Opening: Tuesday, 7. November, 6pm, foyer gta exhibtions, ETH Zurich campus Hönggerberg

Upcoming: Tuesday, 5.12., 6pm. Talk by Prof. Dr. Samia Henni (Visiting Professor of the Theory of Architecture)

Currently, Henni is working on the book Colonial Toxicity: Rehearsing French Radioactive Architecture and Landscape in the Sahara (Amsterdam: If I Can’t Dance/ Zurich: edition Fink, 2023). During her visiting professorship at the gta Institute, she will work her new research project that explores the spaces and geographies of colonial psychiatry and psychology. She will also teach two seminars: “Desert Modernism(s)” in the Fall 2023 and “Wars, Cities and the Environment” in the Spring 2024.

Tuesday, 7.11., 5.30pm. A conversation on ecotoxicology between Professor Teresa Galí-Izard (Chair of Being Alive, ETH Zürich), Metaxia Markaki (PhD candidate, Chair of Architecture and Territorial Planning, ETH Zürich) and the artist.

SPREADING THE TRAVELING BUG SINCE 1972. A smiling couple laying on the sand: tan lines, breath-taking panoramic views, pristine beaches. A huge striped aluminium UV print of a honeymoon-like picture of a black couple grinning from ear to ear sits in a fluorescent green office space. In VENOM VOYAGE, an immersive installation reminiscent of a travel agency, we are lured by familiar images of adventure, fun, relaxation, only to be confronted with the clash between the reality of toxic, colonized landscapes and our distorted imaginary of them. For her show at gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich, Christelle Oyiri explores themes of colonial alienation and alternative temporalities. A newly produced group of works highlights the discrepancy between the image of Guadeloupe and Martinique as idyllic holiday destinations and the reality the two islands face today – the contamination of their soil and water due to pesticides used in farming, leading to severe health issues, most notably cancer.

The artist approaches the subject through the lens of her own personal involvement: her childhood memories of happy holidays in her native country embroiled with what she faces returning as an adult today. Oyiri’s position is ambivalent; the visual memories of her and her family travelling are also rooted in pride. A testimony of togetherness, trans-classness – of a working-class black family putting all their yearly savings into the prospect of experiencing rest, internal peace and (self-)discovery. These pictures were a source of comfort for her, they were seated outside of the critical lens, until Oyiri learned about the health scandal that had befallen the French West Indian islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Guadeloupe and Martinique were once marketed as ‘paradise’ islands yet are a marginal space in the political organization of France. Their soils are acutely contaminated by a fertilizer called Chlordecone. Banned in the US and in Europe in the 1970s, France, who still has colonial authority over these islands, never banned it here in its overseas territory. It has been estimated that the lifespan of the Chlordecone pollution in the soil in the French West Indies will last for more than six centuries.

TRAVEL NOW, LIVE THE GOOD LIFE. How does one live a good life when we are living it ‘within a world in which the good life is structurally or systematically foreclosed for so many’? asked Judith Butler in 2012. Our society has produced many an ersatz to the ‘good life’, travelling and vacationing being one of them. Beaches, sun and pools are some of its quintessential symbols. The tourist embarks on a flight from the everyday. VENOM VOYAGE operates as an antechamber – the ‘other place’ between you and the promise to ease the pressures of mundane life.

Christelle Oyiri is a Paris-based artist, writer, producer and DJ (under the pseudonym Crystallmess). Oyiri also performs worldwide as a DJ and producer of electronic music. Her work has been exhibited at various institutions in France and abroad, including the Centre Pompidou, Lafayette Anticipations, the House of Art, Auto Italia (London), the Nomadic Division in Los Angeles, the Musée Espace Arlaud (Lausanne), Ars Electronica (Austria) and HeK (Basel). As a child of the Black French working class, Oyiri continually pays tribute to the environment in which she grew up while also grappling with its social, ethnic and gender dynamics. Her own identity is shaped by the social, cultural, political and metaphysical conflicts of colonization and their impact on the embodied experiences of the broader African diaspora. The resulting trauma, as well as the need to alleviate the pain it causes, form the backdrop of her work. Curated with Simon Gérard.

About Elevation 1049: 
Elevation 1049 first launched in 2014 and is named after the geological coordinates of Gstaad (1049). This project, produced by the Luma Foundation, features in situ works created out of the specifics of time and place and is comprised of works by international artists. Most of the pieces are displayed, activated, or performed in outdoor settings in the Saanenland region, in and around Gstaad, with the aim to revive dialogue between the creative community and the region.