Surface Gallery, Nottingham, 2016
Installation, overall view
Photography credits Gavin Conwill Photography
Deep Sea was the culmination of a three-week residency, which was awarded to Céline Siani Djiakoua as the Surface Gallery prize for the Nottingham Castle Open 2015. It was a show concerned with the migrant crisis, imperialism and patriarchal oppression. Using large scale drawings and ink paintings, tinted fabric and a sound installation playing unsettling noises of sea creatures, the exhibition evoked the struggles of opposing feminine and masculine forces at work within the world. The overwhelming presence of the colour blue reminded of the deep seas and the fluid and sensual qualities of water. It was a show to be experienced both sensually and intellectually.
The exhibition made references to a text from the feminist French philosopher and psychoanalyst Luce Irigaray "Speaking of immemorial waters" , in which the feminine genre is represented in terms of the metaphor of the sea and is in dialogue with Nietzche, who embodies certain negative aspects of the masculine. Her writing is part of the 'ecriture feminine' - a form of literature which seeks to recover the repressed feminine, the unacknowledged body, and to give them a place within language.
The figure of the mermaid, a large scale drawing on the wall, played as a personification of the sea as described as in Irigaray's Marine Lover - the sea represents the feminine as oppressed by patriarchy - the over-exploited earth and oppressed peoples. A series of large scale ink drawings were hanging from the ceiling, over which an accumulation of tracing paper cut outs of silhouettes was added, the whole installation giving the viewer a sense of looking above from within the water and seeing drowning figures. Small graffiti drawings on the wall were giving a more intimate, diary-like view of the battle, abuse and exploitation of the women's body.
Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea's illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville and Édouard Riou were also used to reinforce the multiple themes. The images were rearranged to tell a story of colonisation and domination of the "savages", which could be seen as a parallel with the exploration of, the unknown bottom of the sea and the fear of and fight against the sea creatures.
Finally, two tracing paper pieces, placed apart from each other, displayed circular cut outs of a couple embracing and a view of the Pangaea, offering the idea of reconciliation as going back to a state of harmony and balance - purifying the masculine energy of its aggressive patriarchal quality.
Sound piece, extract
Reading of Luce Irigaray
Voice : Céline Siani Djiakoua
Editing : Ioney Smallhorne (commisioned)
Installation, overall view
Paint and felt tip pen on the wall, 5 x 3 m
All following extracts are from "Speaking of immemorial waters" in Marine lover of Friedrich Nietzsche by Luce Irigaray.
"Let me go. Yes, let me go onward. Beyond the place of no return. Either you seize hold of me or you throw me away, but always according to your own whim of the moment. I am good or bad according to your latest good or evil. Muse or fallen angel to suit the needs of your most recent motion.
And heaven or earth, rock or air, foothold or abyss, midday or midnight, according to the day that tolls for you. And I am broken by all these to-ings and fro-ings. As weary of hope as of despair - since both amount to the same.
Are you waiting for me to scream out so loudly in distress that the wall of your deafness is broken down? For me to call you out farther than the farthest recesses you frequent? Out of your circle?
But isn't that your game: ceaselessly to bring the outside inward? To have no outside that you have not put there yourself? My scream would then merely be the sign of your recall."