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Abrasive Paradise Exhibition - A Short Commentary

Updated: Jun 14, 2023



The Abrasive Paradise exhibition: utopia threatened by climate change.

Abrasive Paradise Exhibition - A Short Commentary illustration
Steps to Heaven by Aveera Juss

Paradise. A place or condition of great happiness where everything is exactly as you would like it to be. It is a subjective experience that raises important questions about the world we inhabit. The Abrasive Paradise exhibition is currently located in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, and it welcomes people to reflect upon their idea of utopia when threatened by ongoing tensions like climate change. I recently visited it, and in this article, I will share with you some of the paintings and installations that amazed me the most.


Hosted at Kunsthal KAdE, the exhibition finds its starting point in one of the greatest artists of the 20th century: Piet Mondrian. Born in Amersfoort in 1872, this Dutch painter’s work is now finding a meeting point with societal issues of contemporary relevance. The title ‘Abrasive Paradise’ represents Mondrian’s search for an ‘earthly paradise’, a concept belonging to the modernist dream of building a perfect world of beauty and truth. To create this exhibition, twelve contemporary artists were invited to interpret the idea of a makeable world through paintings, photographs, and installations.


Eruption, by Lola Landscape Architects
Eruption, by Lola Landscape Architects

As soon as one walks through the main hall of the museum, beautiful bright green tree ferns transcend over the pavement. ‘Eruption’ is an installation made by Lola Landscape Architects, and it intends to show what many daily landscapes lack: nature and our contact with it. Hence, the ferns are erupting from the pavement, symbolising nature reclaiming its space in the midst of our concrete jungles. In a way, it could also reflect the growing popularity of urban farming and greening in several cities that are recognizing the need to integrate nature into their landscapes.



Looking at it immediately made me think of paradise, small and sublime in its most primordial form. I suppose this is due to a longing for nature, driven by the artificiality of everyday life and the domination of concrete over what existed before us. This, of course, may not be the case for everyone, as there are multiple settlements around the world that are immersed in nature in various ways. Feeling separated from nature is, therefore, not a universal feeling. Elsewhere, people’s paradise might acquire a different shape.


Monkey, by Marina Klabin
Monkey, by Marina Klabin

Another artwork present at the exhibition is this painting by Marina Klabin, in which an intriguing perspective is depicted. If you look closely, you will find a small monkey lurking in the bushes, staring at what seems to be eco-tourists. Nevertheless, instead of looking at the landscape as if we were those tourists, the artist reverses the roles and asks us to immerse ourselves in what the monkey sees. In a way, it could be seen as a reflection of ourselves.



Here, Klabin is portraying the truth behind ecotourism and the problems that surround it, as this form of tourism may be more damaging than we believe. In fact, ecotourism involves harm to wildlife induced by stress, disturbance of daily routines, and even an increased transmission of diseases. Moreover, the artist depicts this particular environment as a zoo, where humans look at nature as if they were complete strangers to it. After, they move on, tireless and indifferent.

Paraná de las Palmas, by Alexandra Kehayoglou
Paraná de las Palmas, by Alexandra Kehayoglou

Alexandra Kehayoglou expresses her environmental activism through the creation of enormous, beautifully decorated carpets that portray vanishing landscapes. Here, she presents Paraná de Las Palmas, one of the branching rivers in the Paraná delta located in Argentina and home to exceptionally biodiverse wetlands. In 2020, this ecosystem experienced its worst fires in 12 years caused by severe droughts, which have destroyed habitats for more than 700 types of plants and almost 60 different reptile and amphibian species.


With this installation, the artist shows pieces of land that are untouched by humans (left side of the picture), while others where land has been cleared for pastures and developments (right side of the picture). With her art, Kehayoglou shows that our world is far from being an ‘earthly paradise’, as it is full of endangered and disappearing ecosystems that are leaving nothing but our egotism behind.


FLESHPOT, un Triptyque, by MAISON the FAUX
FLESHPOT, un Triptyque, by MAISON the FAUX

My last appraisal is about the thought-provoking installation by MAISON the FAUX, that welcomes the viewer to reflect on the decay that arises from excess and abundance. In it, waste is masked with opulence, symbolising today’s conspicuous consumption that ultimately leads to squandered wealth and pollution. In fact, the visual display shows three women coated in luxury, but who stands in the midst of rotting waste. At the centre of the installation, there is a kind of sculpture, filled with sparkling jewellery and diamonds. However, it depicts abundance moulding away, making this gluttonous paradise not that desirable after all.


To me, this installation is a provocation towards our society that equates materialism with wealth and status. It wants you to look at what we are often pressured to strive for: the ever-growing possession of goods. Yet it also wants you to see the darker side of this desire, which is turned into an amass of decaying waste.


This reflection can be a good closing point for my commentary on the Abrasive Paradise exhibition, as it highlights the multiplicity of flaws present in our society. In my opinion, most of the artworks made for this unique exhibition essentially portray one thing: we cannot move towards a better, more idyllic world with the current structure of our society, as it is underpinned by problems rooted in inequality, overconsumption, speciesism, and more.



References

CABI (2004). Growth in ecotourism may harm wildlife. CABI. Retrieved from


Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.). Meaning of paradise in English. Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from


Kunsthal KAdE (2022). Abrasive Paradise. Kunsthal KAdE. Retrieved from


LOLA (2022). New installation at Kunsthal KAdE. LOLA. Retrieved from


Stone, M. (2020). An Enormous Wetland in Argentina Is Burning Out Of Control. Vice. Retrieved from


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Nivedita Bansal
Nivedita Bansal
Mar 25, 2022


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