Ophelia in Exile

A multi-media art installation by artist Tereza Stehlikova, exploring the importance of all our senses in giving meaning to our human experience. Its concept is inspired by the current pandemic and its impact on how we engage with others. The exhibition is one of the manifestations of an ongoing collaborative dialogue initiated by the Tangible Territory journal, conceived by artist Tereza Stehlíková and sustained with involvement of her multi-disciplinary team of TT collaborators from the world of arts, philosophy and science.

Exhibition dates: 8 October 2021 – 15 January 2022
Vitrínka Gallery, Czech Centre London
30 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QY

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm

“We are not creatures that see, hear, touch, smell and taste as separate and isolated sensations. Our sensory systems integrate experiences of our existential encounter with the world. The human reality is not visual or auditive, it is essentially multi-sensory, and this sensory integration provides the veracity of the real, the truth and the magic of the world.” Professor Juhani Pallasmaa, architect (from an upcoming TT journal publication).

The exhibition by Czech artist Tereza Stehlíková explores the fictional character of Ophelia, who has been quarantined in her home for an indefinite period of time. Ophelia has been exiled from the outside world: from contact with people, from nature, from a full human experience. Instead, she encounters the world through windows of monitors, engaged in Zoom calls or simply browsing Instagram, searching for images of the natural world which she longs to touch, smell. After many months of her strange sterile existence Ophelia is starting to feel two dimensional, like the version of herself inside a computer monitor.

Ophelia is a kind of avatar who stands in for each of us, as we appear on the other side of the screen, when we communicate on video calls, or us isolated in our homes, perhaps deprived of smell by the virus. The Covid pandemic has accelerated the existing move towards a virtualisation of our experience and over prioritisation of the audio-visual senses. The computer/phone screen has become a modern-day shrine, our most favoured window, a portal into other realities, representation of the world that is out of reach, as well as a mirror reflecting to us our own image. In this new world, we are all little bit like Ophelia, deprived of touch, disconnected, only virtually present. How can this strange state of being be explored creatively? Questioned philosophically? Examined scientifically?

The exhibition invites visitors to enter Ophelia’s living room, to witness some of her everyday reality through all their senses, including touch and smell. What you will find is a strange hybrid space, where domestic environment, technology and nature intertwine or even compete for attention. You will catch glimpses of Ophelia on monitors, as she moves through strange interiors, trying to feel and make sense. You will find traces of her presence in the objects she left behind: empty cups, a mirror, a necklace, a letter from a distant friend, her own unique perfume…You may also overhear fragments of Zoom conversations, voices of scientists and philosophers speculating on how and why Ophelia might be feeling what she does.

I’d also like to invite you to send Ophelia a message of support, which can take many forms: a simple email, a voice message, a handwritten letter, a book, a stone, a driftwood, whatever you’d like to share with her and for whatever reason. You can attach a note of explanation and your name or leave the object speak for itself.

If you are in London between 8th October 2021 – 15th January 2022, you can even come in person to visit Ophelia. Her temporary address is Vitrinka Gallery, 30 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QY, UK and she is opening her doors to visitors from tonight, 6pm.

Her email is opheliainexile@gmail.com

All the contributions will become part of the exhibition. More about this in the latest issue of Tangible Territory journal.

More information here:

https://london.czechcentres.cz/en/blog/2021/09/new-multi-media-art-installation-reflects-on-self-isolation-and-its-consequences-on-our-experience

CREDITS AND THANKS

Performance: Tereza Kamenická

Music: Yumi Mashiki

Design & technical support: Michael Speechley

Plants: Nathalie Puget

Interviews:
Dr Anna Ciaunica – Philosopher/Cognitive scientist (Portugal/France/UK)
Anne-Heloise Dautel – architect at Bompas & Parr (France/UK)
Professor Ophelia Deroy – philosopher of mind and cognitive neuroscience (Germany)
Rosalyn Driscoll – artist (US)
Dr Carsten Friberg – philosopher (Denmark)
Sarah McCartney – perfumer (UK)
Professor Barry Smith – philosopher with focus on smell and taste (UK)
Professor Roberto Trotta, Cosmologist (Italy)
Katja Vaghi – dancer, choreographer and researcher (Germany/Switzerland)

Thank you to Premysl Pela and the whole Czech Centre London team for enabling this.

Also to Jack Alexandroff and Mona Camille for helping out with the set.

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