In April 2014, during the Stockholm Art Week, the group exhibition Biotop was on show at the old Biological Museum at Djurgården in Stockholm. The exhibition was curated by Alida Ivanov.
Once in philosophy class I zoned out. A discussion was roaring around me, but it became a backdrop for my thoughts instead. All of a sudden a question popped into my head and simultaneously out of my mouth: “What is life?”
Traumatically, for me, everyone laughed at the randomness of my outburst. But that question returns to me now while sitting here trying to define “life” and “a place of life”. These questions led to a frantic Googling of “vivaria” and “biotopes”, which can be seen as attempts to confine life into restricted areas for observation. In other words, they’re attempts to define life.
“BIOTOP”, a group exhibition at Biologiska museet in Stockholm, tries to capture our relationship to, and views on, life and how we confine it in order to explain it.
The museum’s dioramas, with their taxidermic animals and plastic flora, try to create “natural” settings where one can see nature instead of, lets say, going outside into a real forest and experiencing it IRL. Subsequently, the combination of this idea and being inspired by my philosophy class, I went on roaming the Internet for the concept of “mimesis”. Yes, you heard me.
Directly translated from Greek, the term means “imitation”. But according to Plato and Aristotle, mimesis is rather used as a representation of nature. As a creation of god, nature is merely a reproduced idea. All artistic production created by man is then an imitation of nature, which ultimately is also an imitation. Okay, here my mind exploded because this stream of consciousness could go on forever. Following this argument that everything, including nature is an imitation would mean that life is also an imitation. I often feel this to be true because personally, my “life” has gradually developed into a “virtual life”, and the urgency of the question at hand “What is life?” has become even more urgent. It has evolved into “What is real life?”, as in the concept of IRL.
In the end, the realization that all of the real-life-lives that we live are confined and restricted areas for observation, just as traditional “vivaria” and “biotopes”.
Text: Alida Ivanov
Participating artists: Alexander Gutke, Allen Grubesic, Bigert & Bergström, Bruno Liljefors, Hilde Retzlaff, Ilja Karilampi, Johan Strandahl, Johanna Gustafsson Fürst, Karl Norin, Luca Frei, Maria Hedlund, Nadine Byrne, Simon Denny, Simon Mullan, Sophie Tottie, Willem Andersson.
WITH BIGERT & BERGSTRÖM WORKS Photos: Studio Bigert & Bergström