“We forget we are mostly water, till the rain falls and every atom in our body starts to go home.”
– Albert Huffstickler
Yesterday I revived an amazing photograph from you of some shark eggs suspended in seawater. This image was very strange yet at the same time also familiar, and it started many thought processes for me. I first saw the shark eggs resembling suspended souls in a limbo of prenatal vulnerability. Hence, I tried to recall various myths about where souls came from. I think according to Jewish mythology they grow on the tree of life/tree of souls: its blossoms will be the new souls. Then Gabriel takes them out in his hands from the treasury where they fall, from which point the angel of conception takes care and watches over the embryos until they are born. Thomas Aquinas was maybe the first who attributed soul (anima) to all organisms, a radical position at the time; however, he still argued that only human souls are immortal.
You had this beautiful poetic idea in one of your messages that eggs contain pneuma or eos - both words for spirit or breath – because eggs are floating filled with air. I also imagine that inside each egg, there is the rising sun, Eos, the soul of the rosy-fingered dawn… The other day you drew me this sketch explaining about the fascinating tiny pores they have for oxygen. Human embryos also have a curious air supply – we used to be able to breathe through liquids, but we have forgotten about our origins. I wonder, how do eggs breath underwater though?
When we were talking about writing a press release for your upcoming solo exhibition at VILTIN Gallery, it sounded like water could be quite important to mention as a poetic, boundless and omnipresent substance. I often refer to Astrida Neimanis’ essay on Hydrofeminism as she points out that we are all bodies of water. As water flows through us, it connects us via a global circulatory system to other beings and places. Or as you would put it, we all end up either in the sea or as a sea…
But to come back to the sharks, apparently, it should be pretty possible to find their egg cases in the long beaches of the UK. You also said you have come across some in Italy, or Croatia recently. Probably the most common are ray cases, also called mermaid purses, with their four long corners, but I especially like the screw-shaped ones of the horn shark, they almost look like squids with their spiral symmetry.
I wanted to tell you about Vilém Flusser, although I am sure you already know his writings. In his book on the vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis) he talks about human culture and biology from the perspective of this deep sea creature. This monster’s biology is extremely alien to us. I might be mixing various pieces of knowledge, but I remember things like that when in contact with oxygen, its blood appears to be blue, and it has four segments to its brain while parts of it are arguably also in its tentacles. The male has three penises. It can change the color and pattern of its skin in different situations, although in all likelihood it is actually colorblind... The vampire squid also generates its light, which creates an even more enhanced sense of individual viewpoint. Also, it lives its life upside down in the deep sea, which I guess helped Flusser make a point about perspective and to hold a mirror to humanity. The book is based on facts as a starting point, but as there is little precise data collected about the species, the gaps are filled out with the philosopher’s speculations.
Have you heard about the octopus city Octlantis? This place was discovered only a couple of years ago just off the coast of Australia, where octopi have lived and accumulated a very large number of objects over generations. While this sounds fascinating from a human perspective, in fact, one of the most interesting things for me is that while cephalopods are highly intelligent and capable of manipulating objects, ultimately they do not place the measure of their success on building monuments, but rather on the breeding of the next generation. They achieve immortality in this way. Typically, squids live quite a short life. Even the giant ones have maximum only five years or so, which is rare for animals with such large brains relative to their body size. Hence, they only have little time to accumulate individual knowledge or make a mark on the world. They trust DNA the most, as biology is more permanent than objects, a fact that is difficult for humans to accept. In Flusser’s words: “…biological is more permanent than the superbiological, and this truth is difficult for humans to accept. It is difficult because it is not as animals, but as superanimals, that humans want to achieve immortality.” It would be good to continue our conversations about breeding at some point, and how DNA, energy and many other materials flow through our bodies in numerous generations…
“Hydras are immortal. But if they reproduce they die.” – I often think of these two sentences from your recent slideshow piece titled ‘Becoming Animal,’ among other things describing a deep-sea creature who bears the name of the famous many-headed serpent from Greek mythology. What a heavy thought this is, an almost unimaginable act of love and self-sacrifice.
Talk soon more, and in the meantime, I’m sending you all the good vibes from rainy London.
In her practice, Petra FERIANCOVÁ uses mediums including photography, sculpture, installation, and writing, while she also creates books regularly. Often, her practice involves working with archives of people closest to her, and other images, texts, and objects. She interprets these collections by re-organizing them in a non-linear manner in the pursuit of finding alternative structures for understanding how matter and meaning are constructed and perceived. She juxtaposes affective story fragments against matter in the universe, through talking about personal vulnerabilities and fleeting moments in human experiences.
For her solo exhibition, Klaviatura, at VILTIN Gallery Budapest, Petra FERIANCOVÁ produced a new body of work, building on her interest in the origin of life, the evolution of species as well as breeding animals. In the past, she has done extensive work on birds especially, also working with the archives of her ornithologist aunt, Zora Feriancová-Masárová, zoologist and pigeon breeder grandfather Oskár Ferianc and occasionally in collaboration with artist Peter Bartoš.
In the current exhibition, she presents a collection of various images and printed fabrics of eggs and sea creatures, alongside those of gods. Together they tangle into complex stories of origins, such as a family drama, perhaps also seen as patriarchy and matriarchy wrestling each other for dominance in Greek mythology. The Erinyes or Furies are goddesses of vengeance who sprung from the blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Kronos. Uranus manifests in the exhibition in a shape of a small planet or egg, like a malevolent and largely absent father in the distance. The Furies most notably punish crimes against the family, and especially patricide or matricide. They wear snakes around their waists and have many faces that change from black to red to white, much like the synesthete medusae or octopi. They tirelessly torment their victims, and unless they fall asleep – as seen in the show – there is no escaping them. However, as typical of Greek mythology, the Furies are also full of contradictions: as deities of the underworld, they are sometimes also identified with fertility spirits of the earth.
Both texts written by Borbála Soós on the occasion of Petra Feriancová’s solo exhibition titled Klaviatura, at VILTIN Gallery, opening 08 September 2018.
Petra FERIANCOVÁ (b 1977 Bratislava, Slovakia) lives and works in Bratislava (SK) and Milan (IT). She attended the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava between 1996 and 1998. She studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Roma from 1998, obtaining her MA in 2002. She holds a Ph.D. since 2016 from the Department of Intermedia and Multimedia at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava.
In 2013, she represented Slovakia and the Czech Republic at the 55th Biennial of Venice with the project titled Still the same place (with Zbynek Baladrán). In 2011 she was a resident at ISCP, New York (US), and in 2010, she was awarded the Oskar Cepan Prize for young visual artists organized by the FCS Foundation for a Civil Society.