How do we think about the ground we walk on, how to heal and protect it? Otobong Nkanga’s exhibition tells the (hi)story of the elements earth and water. The Earth’s survival is reliant on water. Otobong Nkanga conveys such a message in four vibrant, large-scale tapestries depicting the entanglement between land and ocean. The woven works, hanging separately on each floor of Kunsthaus Bregenz, render the depths of the sea, the seasons, and climatic zones.
On the ground floor of KUB darkness prevails; a small pond near the glass wall glistens with life, as in Unearthed – Abyss, the first of four tapestries. A tree trunk rises from this shallow hollow, appearing to pierce the ceiling and penetrate the subsequent floors.
On the following two floors ropes perforate the now tapering trunk, with glass spheres tied to the cords and in the presence of the tapestries Unearthed – Midnight and Unearthed – Twilight. The interconnected, movable spheres are opulent glass objects that have been fabricated in Murano. The amorphous containers are climate controlled display cases, colored terrariums for various lifeforms, which Nkanga has filled with soil and plant samples. On the upper floor, the ragged, scorched top of the tree protrudes from loamy soil, overseen by Unearthed – Sunlight the last of the four tapestries. The ascent through Kunsthaus Bregenz becomes a journey through the exploitation of nature, a path towards desolation, yet one where islands of life may still exist and hope germinates.