Back in the vanishing days of mid-December 2019, when Modeka Creative Space first opened its doors with their inaugural exhibition, Nothing Gold Can Stay, the prospect of exhibiting there must have come brightly to the show’s artist-attendees, and to none so keenly than sculptress Ciane Xavier.
Modeka, the latest to have joined the long and envied mile of galleries for weekend art hops along Chino Roces, made a firm impression, both through the strong artist lineup and the bare industrial-style design that had been newly consecrated with art. This latest artist-led space, with its wide cement flooring, two long stretches of wall, and metal beams that guide the entrant’s eyes to the mezzanine overhead, not only opened more possibilities for contemporary art to be exhibited. It also made the viewing of said art, for any peering passer-by, loitering smoker outside, or nervous art-digest-writer-guy, an inviting pastime to do.
Even then, when managing partner Bubbles Bermudez told me that Ciane Xavier, upon stepping into the space for the first time all those months ago, immediately decided she wanted to hold a show with them, no one could have anticipated the generous lengths the parties involved took to make that show count. Specifically, the collaborative efforts between Ciane and Modeka creative director Riccardo Corsini. The result is a multisensorial exhibition decked with motion sensors, which trigger playbacks of spectral audio Ciane herself had produced, along with a virtual reality counterpart that can stand on its own.
Frankly, this feels unheard of. We are, after all, still in the time of a pandemic. Soft-pedaling, though not so much now, is not outside the realm of expectations. That aside, for Modeka to push the envelope of what can be done, remain consistent with the principles of innovation that attended their launch of Experiences earlier this year, and with circumstances as they are, is not just a risk worth taking in a time when other, older spaces have shuttered. It could have also been necessary.
And when done right, it could be something to behold. Ciane Xavier’s When Everything Stops, Nature Keeps Going is one such show. The setting is post-Anthropocene: human activity has come to a terminal halt (for real this time), and nature has its way. All sense of time’s passing is thus obsolete and, with it, any gauge or measure of self-worth.
It’s not nihilism that fills the void when it’s gone, though. You’ll see when you head up to the mezzanine. In that black box, lying sideways and curled in a fetal position, rests one of Ciane’s bodies, the organs of which are picked clean by a crow. There’s an abiding calm there, a sense of postmortem parity from looking at this scene lighted by a neon heartbeat. It might best articulate the feeling invoked from the exhibition going on below. Seeing the show online or through a VR headset, you’ll quickly observe something similar: submerged, the sculptures sway about to-and-fro with the water, unbothered by any above influence, nary a current nor undertow. Suppose there’s a reprieve to being forgotten.
A model for thirteen years before picking up the brush, Ciane Xavier knows better than most the outward qualities and failings of the human body: above what bone defines what muscle, as well as all the persistent ways fat can conspire. But contorting bodies to fit a standard is a far cry from Ciane’s interests. What Ciane knows intimately about the body is, I wager, the one thing she’s dedicated to deterring: its unpredictable, voyeuristic, and often cruel reception.
The physical space becomes headspace, but not necessarily Ciane’s. If the exhibition venue is allegorical for the psyche, then these beaten bodies are allegorical for self-image. Self-image, for me, is as much looks as it is the reason behind every alibi and tiny concession ever made, as well as every paranoid thought, and every blunder.
At When Everything Stops, Nature Keeps Going, the anxious need to compensate doesn’t come so strongly, one might even come out of it feeling compassionate. I have since learned it’s not too impolite to stare. When I last came across one of her sculptures, I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I marked my progress by tracing the lesions, the bruised ankles, and the backs of its knees and elbows. I tried, at each level, to look at it from every angle. And when I arrived at the crown of it, I was looking from a blind side. For a second there, I was half-worried that if I were to walk around and face it, I’d discover the face to be mine.
When Everything Stops, Nature Keeps Going continues until October 10, 2020. To schedule for a private viewing, send an email to email@example.com or contact 0956 174 9185. To learn more about Ciane, Francesca Testa wrote a full feature for her. Access it here.
This article has been edited for accuracy.
Anchor photo: Self 2. Oil paint on Fabriano Paper on Glass Frame. 45 in x 45 in | 112 cm x 112 cm. Cropped for banner.