Duration: 15:45–16:45. Max 20 pers. The registration is closed.
“River Biographies”, the project’s title refers to the story of a river’s life from its source to its mouth, including the cycles that link different bodies of water across the earth. “River Biographies” borrow the grammar of animacy. In the language of Potawatomi, over 70% of words are verbs: “to be a river”.
Written in the language of embodiment, “River Biographies” reinterpret the medium of exhibitions as inter-subjective processes. Visitors augment their own reality to evoke the lifeworld of a river directly within and between their bodies inside the gallery. By following a choreographical score in wireless headphones, groups of up to a hundred participants conjure the elements of water and stone in their own bodies to form an imagined river between visual and auditory organs and nerves of the skin. This shift in perspective encourages visitors to see the river as not just an object separate from themselves but as something intimately connected to their own existence. It is a collective practice that fosters a sense of embodied kinship – not only with the river’s ecology but also with inanimate entities often relegated to mere objects of exploitation.
Rivers connect the inland with the sea and other continents, often in colonial and extractive relationships with the human technologies that shaped and tamed these waters. “River Biographies” is a silent protest against this cosmology that sees nature as separate from human culture. “River Biographies” aim for a deep connection between the artwork, a local river, and a local community – continuously learning from all the rivers and human interpreters that flow through its body. Like the global water cycles, the work carries memories from previous rivers preserved in the artwork’s choreography that are carried further and contaminated with the next commission.
In an international co-production that transmutes traditional boundaries between exhibition and art-making, “River Biographies” emphasise that there is no absolute separation or classical objectivity regarding the experience within the exhibition. Instead, sensory choreography is a collaborative and dynamic process where visitors co-create their reality, blurring the boundaries between self and environment. Oscillating between performance and spaces for healing and repair, River Biographies shift a paradigm within environmental aesthetics from a mere data-driven model to Jane Bennett’s “geo-affect” concept, the project highlights the role of emotional connections with the environment and the material world in shaping ethical and political commitments.
Instead of relying on expensive resource-intensive VR technology, the project uses fabric-based “sighless goggles” combined with spatialised audio to trigger the imagination, movements and sensory perceptions of the hundred participants. Projectors and common technologies like hazers and silent disco headphone systems are rented locally.
“River Biographies” is commissioned and supported by Southbank Centre, London. The first location-sensitive adaptation of “River Biographies” is for River Thames, May 2025.
Lundahl & Seitl live and work in Stockholm. Their immersive solo projects reinterpret the medium of the exhibition as interpersonal processes via choreography, matter and time. Presented around the world, notably at Royal Academy of Art in 2014, Gropius-Bau in 2016, and Kunstmuseum Bonn in 2017. Group Exhibitions include the 8th Momentum Biennale of Nordic Contemporary Art 2015 (NO), ‘An Imagined Museum’ Centre Pompidou Metz 2016-2017 (FR), the 3rd Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016-2017 (IN), and a recent commission: Echoes of Alternative Histories at Staatstheater Kassel, which coincided with Documenta Fifteen. In the fall of 2022, the duo was visiting artists at the ACT Programme at MIT.
Image: Workshop on River Biographies at Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm. Courtesy Lundahl & Seitl Photo: Clement Morin