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Thus waves come in pairs

Simone Fattal, Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano  — 

  • Admission

    Free of charge

  • Opening date

  • Location

    Ocean Space

  • Curated by

    Barbara Casavecchia

TBA21–Academy presents "Thus waves come in pairs", an exhibition comprising two new commissions launching at Ocean Space in Venice for the 2023 exhibition program, curated by Barbara Casavecchia.

The exhibition "Thus waves come in pairs", the title of which is taken from the poem "Sea and Fog" by Etel Adnan, sees the encounter between the American-Lebanese Simone Fattal's monumental ceramic and glass sculptures and the new installation by the duo Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano, co-commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Audemars Piguet Contemporary.

The exhibition project is a site specific evolution of "The Current III", three-year cycle led by Barbara Casavecchia, surfaced in Venice as a transdisciplinary exercise. This pioneering initiative - aimed at supporting situated projects, collective pedagogies and voices along the Mediterranean basin across art, culture, science, conservation, and activism - has evolved in the generative format of walks, performances, podcasts, conversations, and field trips, and built platforms for collaborative thinking.

Focused on to the rapidly changing climate around the Mediterranean basin, occurring at a pace 20-percent faster than anywhere else on the planet - with the expansion of drought areas, the disruption of the water cycles and proliferation of heat waves - "The Current III" calls for reorienting, and registering “the limits of our own apparatuses of knowledge”, as Iain Chambers and Marta Cariello write in their essay “The Mediterranean Question: Thinking with the Diver”.

In 2021, Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal recorded for "The Current III" an intimate conversation at their Parisian home (that will appear in an upcoming publication by TBA21–Academy and Sternberg Press): “There are many Mediterraneans: the geographical, the historical, the philosophical... the personal, the one we swim, and we have swum in. It’s an experience to swim, it is something you can’t explain to somebody who never swam. This feeling of being held up by this water.” This too needs to be constantly unlearned and relearned: how to hold up each other.

Simone Fattal

Simone Fattal’s installation "Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai!" (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessy!, after the poem "L’homme et la mer" by Charles Baudelaire) will inhabit the East wing of the Church of San Lorenzo, including two empty niches of its Baroque altar, with a group of monumental ceramic and glass sculptures created for the occasion. Among them, the figures of Máyya and her lover Ghaylán - a couple celebrated in classic Arab poetry, as well as in folktales and legends, differing from country to country. In the Persian Gulf, their story is that of two owners of a flotilla of vessels engaged in the pearl trade. Mayya’s fleet was more efficient, as her boats were quicker. Ghaylan pondered upon this; one day, after looking closely at a firefly, he had its wings imitated, so that his boats could be moved by the fast speed of winds. He had invented the sails. Will humans still be able to find solutions in the future by learning from nature? Fattal’s installation will also include a series of glass spheres, manufactured in Venice, inscribed with fragments of the vanished “lingua franca”, a mixed language borrowing terms from Italian, Arabic, French, and Spanish once spoken by merchants, pirates, and slaves across all Mediterranean shores.

Simone Fattal was born in Damascus, Syria, and raised in Lebanon, where she studied philosophy at the "Ecole des Lettres" in Beirut. She then moved to Paris, where she continued her philosophical pursuits at the "Sorbonne". In 1969 she returned to Beirut and began working as a visual artist, exhibiting her paintings until the start of the Lebanese Civil War. She left Lebanon in 1980 and settled in California, where she founded the "Post-Apollo Press", a publishing house dedicated to innovative and experimental literary work. In 1988 she enrolled at the "Art Institute of San Francisco", which prompted a return to her artistic practice and a newfound dedication to sculpture and ceramics. Fattal currently lives in Paris.

Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano

The artists Petrit Halilaj and Álvaro Urbano share a life together yet typically maintain separate practices. Halilaj’s work is rooted in his biography and his practice embraces an array of media and creates complex worlds that provide space for freedom, desire, intimacy and identity. Urbano utilizes various media to explore notions of space, architecture, and the environment in his practice. His interests frequently intertwine narrative, reality, and fiction. Together, the duo draws on personal and collective histories to create new environments, exploring and negotiating the space between human and the natural world. Both of their practices imbue personal, playful elements which work to ask questions of societal norms. The artists are invited as a duo to develop a site-specific work, premiering at Ocean Space, Venice. The installation echoes the Spanish children’s song 'Ay mi pescadito', where young fish go to school at the bottom of the sea in order to study forms of resistance to humans. The artists will create an ecosystem that comprises a series of large-scale sculptures of hybrid aquatic and terrestrial creatures, which speaks to creating cohesion as well as exploring harmony (or the lack thereof) between different species, or between living organisms and objects. A cast of musicians and performers will activate the installation, at varying duration and intervals, throughout the exhibition period. The installation will occupy half of the historic San Lorenzo Church, reflecting on the unique architecture of the deconsecrated church as well as the city of Venice.

Petrit Halilaj (b. Kosovo) and Álvaro Urbano (b. Spain) are two visual artists based in Berlin. Mostly working individually, their common practice combines specific aspects of each artist’s interests and complements each other’s research. Their joint production reflects on the dichotomy between built environments and nature, and on the possibilities of negotiation between these two realities: in that regard, the inhabitants that occupy these liminal spaces suscitate a particular interest for the two artists. Halilaj and Urbano jointly attended the artist residencies at MAK Residency, Los Angeles (2016-2017) and at Villa Romana, Florence (2014).


Barbara Casavecchia is a writer, independent curator, and educator based in Venice and Milan, where she teaches at the Department of Visual Cultures and Curatorial Practices of the Brera Academy since 2011. She currently teaches also in the Art & Ecology master at NABA, Milan. Contributing editor of Frieze magazine, her articles and essays have been published in art-agenda, ArtReview, La Repubblica, Flash Art, Mousse, Nero, South, and Spike, amongst others, as well as in several artist books and catalogs. In 2018, she curated the solo exhibition "Susan Hiller, Social Facts" at OGR, Turin. In 2020, she acted as Mentor of the Ocean Fellowship Program offered by TBA21–Academy at Ocean Space in Venice.In 2021–2023, Barbara is leading the third cycle of TBA21-Academy flagship program "The Current".

Audemars Piguet Contemporary

Audemars Piguet Contemporary commissions international artists to create contemporary artworks, fostering a global community of creators. The brand believes in the power of contemporary art to connect and be connected. The team accompanies each commission process from inception to development to exhibition and builds experiences for audiences to engage with the work around the world. As with mechanical watches, commissioned artworks are about more than what you see. These works are sensitive to our ever-changing world. They are an opportunity for new creation, bringing together audiences and leading to conversations that go beyond first impressions.