Emilija Škarnulytė, Æqualia, 2023 / Courtesy of the artist / Commissioned by Canal Projects and the 14th Gwangju Biennale
Emilija Škarnulytė: Æqualia
Jan 19 – Mar 30, 2024
Canal Projects
New York, USA

Æqualia (2023) is a new immersive installation by Lithuanian artist Emilija Škarnulytė (Vilnius, b. 1987), on view in our ground floor January 19 – March 30, 2024. Co-commissioned by Canal Projects and the 14th Gwangju Biennale, Æqualia features a video of Škarnulytė, swimming through two bodies of water in the Amazon, shedding light on the ecosystem of the Encontro das Águas in Manaus, Brazil.

Through lush video and scenography, the artist submerges viewers in the Encontro das Águas – the confluence where the Rio Solimões and Rio Negro gives birth to the Amazon River. Rio Solimões’s milky white waters, turbid with suspended silts and clays from the High Andes collide against the black and heavy flow of Rio Negro, dark with the decay of lowland rainforests. The stark difference in temperature, between the icy mountain water of the Rio Solimões and the warm Amazonian flow of Rio Negro, causes the two rivers to remain distinct in color for a six kilometer stretch before merging. Their endless swirl is a fractal – describable, but infinitely complex and ultimately impossible to replicate.

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Æqualia continues Škarnulytė’s practice of working between the documentary and the speculative to create films and immersive installations that explore deep time and invisible structures, from the geologic to the ecological, and the mythic to the political. Throughout her career, the artist has probed toxic absurdities of global histories, from nuclear waste to industrial mining to mass pollution. Her video works guide viewers through decommissioned nuclear power plants, deep-sea data storage units, forgotten underwater cities, and uncanny natural phenomena. Through a future archaeologist perspective, Škarnulytė suggests that the environments and worlds we believe to be confined to science fiction and fantasy can already be found on our own planet. Diving deep into the earth and sea, the atomic and otherworldly, Škarnulytė reveals the traces of human hubris and dimensions where we are not the center of the universe.

As of October 2023, less than a year after the filming of Æqualia’s video, the Encontro das Águas ran dry due to excessive droughts, changes which threaten the endemic boto, or Amazon pink river dolphin. Continuing its commitment to supporting artist projects that allow audiences to reflect on the visual and material consequences of globalization and its extractive economies, Canal Projects will organize public programs in partnership with the More Than Human Rights (MOTH) Project at New York University to shed additional light on the sites and subjects of Škarnulytė’s exhibition. This collaboration will bring in expert voices from the Amazon and continue to create spaces for collaborative knowledge production and the promotion of environmental justice.

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