Polina Kanis ~ Rouzbeh Akhbari ~ Felix Kalmenson


13th May 2022 ~ 18th June 2022

The exhibition explores two utopian botanical projects both initiated in 1934

The work of artistic duo Pejvak is telling the story of an expedition to Japanese-occupied Manchuria led by artist, scientist and mystic Nikolay Roerich and commissioned by the US Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace. Roerich and Wallace had a double agenda. Wallace regarded Roerich as his spiritual leader and secretly supported the painter’s mission to establish a pan-Buddhist society based on high spirituality and cooperative labor, known as the Sacred Union of the East. Roerich in turn was supposed to collect drought-resistant plants that would be able to stabilise and restore American soil.

The work of Polina Kanis explores an ideological project accidentally started by Soviet scientist Fyodor Zorin in the botanical garden of Sochi. He planted a wild lemon tree and then grafted other citrus fruits onto its crown. A tradition grew: throughout decades prominent international figures added grafts of different citrus varieties to the tree. Today there are more than 630 of these additional shoots, representing 167 different countries and a utopian vision of political and ecological symbiosis.

So, a recently developed branch of science — breeding — became extremely important for the rise of the agricultural sectors of the world economy, and two so called ‘camps’ —USA and USSR in particular. That is not a coincidence as ideas about new forms of life often appear on the ruins of societies collapsed after a recent crises, when they are about to resurrect, and the new world is to be built. But what new world were supposed to be built? What was given a start at the same time in 1934 in the world politically and socially? And what those visionary projects, explored in the exhibition, mean to us today? Can we consider them utopias today, knowing that they were echoing imperialist logic? And lastly, how shall we reconsider the concept of utopia within decolonial thinking?

The exhibition was first opened on May 13 within Amsterdam Art Week, and supposed to function until June 19, but due to unpredictable organisational issues with the space it had to be closed the day after. Soon after these events, P/////AKT team has kindly offered to reopen the show in P/////AKTPOOL.

Curator: Masha Domracheva
Production and technical support: Matteo Casarin, Brian McKenna, Alex Fischer

Opening Saturday 25 June, 20.00 – 00.00 hrs
26 June – 31 July
Thu – Sun, 14 -18 hrs

Polina Kanis (1985, Leningrad) is an artist, based in Amsterdam. Her works interrogate the suspended moment and expose the dialectical relationship between action and non-action, dissolving the boundary between human and non-human. The artist aims to create shifts in accepted temporalities to decentralize the ‘normal’ human temporal perspective. She considers re-describing and re-sensing our surroundings as crucial for developing an alternative outlook on the planetary.

Her work has been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions, film festivals and film screenings, including a solo exhibition at the Haus der Kunst Munich (2017), the VISIO program at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2019), the parallel program of the Manifesta 10 (2015), at the Ural Industrial Biennial, Garage Museum (2014, 2018), the VI Moscow International Biennale of Young Art (2015), the Hamburg Short Film Festival (2019), The Contemporary Art Festival Survival Kit, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga (2020), Artist’s Film International Program (2021-2022) and many others. Kanis was an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten programs in Amsterdam (2017-2018) and ISCP New York (2020).
Pejvak is the long-term collaboration between Felix Kalmenson and Rouzbeh Akhbari. Through their multivalent, intuitive approach to research and living they find themselves in a convergence and entanglement with likeminded collaborators, histories and various geographies.

The most recent Pejvak solo exhibitions were held at Z33 Museum, Hasselt (2021), State Silk Museum, Tbilisi (2019) and Hay Art Cultural Center, Yerevan (2018). Pejvak films were presented at Sao Paulo Internationl Film Festival, Kyiv International Film Festival, Istanbul International Experimental Film Festival and Sharjah Art Foundation. Recent residencies of the duo include M HKA / Van Abbemuseum Research Fellowship, part of L’Internationale, Antwerp/Eindhoven (2021-22), Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht (2020-21), ACSL, Yerevan/Meghri and Si Shang Art Museum (2017).

Rouzbeh Akhbari (1992, Tehran) is an artist working in video installation and film. His practice is research-driven and usually exists at the intersections of political economy, critical architecture and planning. Through a delicate examination of the violences and intimacies that occur at the boundaries of lived experience and constructed histories, Akhbari uncovers the minutiae of power that organizes and regiments the world around us.

His work has been presented at numerous exhibition and film festivals including Fundacao Amelia de Melo, Lisbon, Blackwood Gallery, Missisauga (2021), IDFA, Shefield Docfest (2020), University of Toronto Art Museum, Toronto (2018), Paadmaan-Platrom 3 project, Sao-Paulo, Art Science Museum, Singapore (2019), OCAD University, Toronto (2016, 2017), Y+ Contemporary, Scarborough and Art Mur, Montreal (2016) among others.

Felix Kalmenson (1987, Leningrad) is an artist whose practice navigates installation, video and performance. Kalmenson’s work variably narrates the liminal space of a researcher’s and artist’s encounter with landscape and archive. By bearing witness to everyday life, and hardening the more fragile vestiges of private and collective histories through their work, Kalmenson gives themselves away to the cadence of a poem, always in flux.

Kalmenson has exhibited internationally including at Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah (2021), Maclaren Art Centre, Barrie (2020), Kim? Contemporary Art Center, Riga (2018), Blaffer Art Museum, Houston (2018), Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto (2015, 2017), The Sculpture Center, Cleveland, Success, Perth, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2016) and The New Gallery, Calgary (2014) among others.

Magersfonteinstraat 12, 1092XW Amsterdam