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UPCOMING — Friday, February 17th, 2023, 24:00 | midnight
#128: Mikhail Karikis

Friday, February 17th, 2023, 24:00 | midnight—   add to calendar
BABYLON, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, Berlin, big cinema hall
Eintritt frei | admission free

Voices, Communities, Ecologies – Mikhail Karikis develops filmmaking strategies that undermine dominant frames of representation and employs listening as a form of activism. He works in sustained collaborations with individuals and communities located outside the context of contemporary art, often pushed into economic and socio-geographic fringes. This results in participatory film projects that highlight alternative modes of human existence, solidarity and action while nurturing dignity and tenderness.

Mikhail Karikis will show:

Sounds from Beneath, 2012, 7 min
For his first collaboration with a community, Mikhail Karikis worked with a group of old miners in England, twenty years after they lost their jobs, and their village was abandoned. The video is set on the disused coal mine where the group of miners used to work until 1986 when the then British government closed it down. Over a six-month period, Karikis invited the miners to recall and sing the sounds they used to hear when they worked in the mine, and he created a composition with those sounds. In the video (co-created with Uriel Orlow), the desolate colliery transforms into an amphitheatre resonating sounds of subterranean explosions, alarms and other mechanical sounds, as well as a miners’ lament, all sung by the miners. The writer and curator Katerina Gregos wrote: “documenting a community of workers who serviced an industry of extractivism, Karikis’s work is at once political and poetic, cutting through conventions of documentary realism and exploring the solidarity of sharing a common purpose in work and song. It functions as a salvaging of memory, a tribute and a collective lament.”

SeaWomen, 2013, 16 min
This work is a video and sound installation adapted for cinema screening. It focuses on a disappearing community of elderly female sea workers living on the North Pacific island of Jeju – a volcanic South Korean island between Japan and China. The work was created during Karikis’s stay on the island when he encountered a group of female divers between 70 and 80 years old. The women dive to depths of up to twenty metres with no oxygen supply to find pearls and catch seafood using a traditional breathing technique that is passed from one generation to the next. This ancient profession became the dominant economic force on the island by the 1970s, establishing a matriarchal system. Karikis’s observational film witnesses the old women’s insistence on traditional sustainable ecofeminist work operating outside the trend of industrialised fishing. It captures the reversal of traditional gender roles, the women’s sense of community and collective economics, their sound subculture, their professional identity, purpose and fun in later life. Since the making of this work, the culture of this community has been designated a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status and Karikis’s sound recordings have featured on David Attenborough’s documentary on the Aquatic Mammal Hypothesis for the BBC.

Children of Unquiet, 2014, 16 min
This film explores themes of post-industrialisation, sustainability, and futurity. Karikis worked with forty-five children between the ages of 5 and 12, who live in a volcanically active region known as the Devil’s Valley in Tuscany where the world’s first sustainable energy power plant was built in 1910s. Until the 1980s, five thousand workers and their families lived in industrial villages constructed there, but they were abandoned due to unemployment caused by the automation of the geothermal power plant. This film orchestrates an imaginary children’s take-over of a deserted industrial village and its surrounding areas. In three chapters we witness the children creating a choral portrait of the area, reading about love as a vehicle of change, and taking over the area with joyful play.

Ain’t Got No Fear, 2016, 10 min
This project was created with a group of young teenage boys growing up in a militarised industrial marshland in south-east England. In response to the isolation of their village and the lack of space for teenagers, in 2015, youth were organising raves in a secluded local wood in the area until they were raided by the police. Karikis worked with the young people for a year to explore ways in which industrial sites can be re-imagined with an energy that is defined by friendship, love and play, and a form of spatial justice driven by the thrill of subverting authority and evading adult surveillance. Ain’t Got No Fear is reminiscent of a music video clip. Sampling the crashing noises of the local power plant Karikis and the young people co-wrote a rap song in which the youth sing about their childhoods and future. The film glimpses into teenage experiences on the edges of urbanity. It follows youths to their secret underground hideaways and captures their noisy reclaiming of their local site wearing demon-like masks in a playful and critical response to feelings of demonisation by adults and the police.

No Ordinary Protest, 2018, 8 min
For this film Karikis collaborated with seven-year-old students from an East London primary school and adopted the science-fiction novel The Iron Woman, by Ted Hughes, as an eco-feminist parable in which listening and noise-making become tools to bring about change. In Karikis’s film, a group of young children receive a mysterious message about an enigmatic noise and an ecological emergency caused by adults. They debate and discover a shared sense of responsibility towards the environment and animals. The children’s singing begins to vibrate matter and they transform into masked agitators testing their powers through communal noise-making. 

Ferocious Love, 2020, 12 min
In the face of adversity, what might bring us together? The need for water, competition, the desire for human touch, communal singing or mutual care?

Ferocious Love 2020 is an audio-visual installation, commissioned by the TATE in partnership with Birmingham City University, reflecting on young people’s perspectives on an uncertain future, in the face of environmental adversity. Mikhail Karikis created this work in collaboration with young people from Birmingham City University and the activist choral group of the Liverpool Socialist Singers.

Karikis and his collaborators speculate on a future where the climate has changed and there are no more seasons. Noises of turbulent, extreme weather resonate around the gallery in a new choral composition created with the singers. This surrounds a video installation featuring an imagined community of young people seeking refuge in the depths of the earth and a nature reserve, reflecting on why they are together.

Inspired by students’ environmental activism, and referencing the feminist music thinker and performer Pauline Oliveros and the writings of Naomi Klein, Karikis’s Ferocious Love focuses on the need for community and togetherness. It echoes the yearning for hope and the emotional challenges faced by the younger generation’s awareness of the scope of dramatic change.

Mikhail Karikis is a Greek-British artist living between Lisbon and London. His work in moving image, sound, performance, and other media is shown internationally in museums, contemporary art biennials, and festivals. He was selected for the Film London Jarman Award, UK in 2016 and 2019. 

His solo exhibitions have been presented, among others, at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, GR (2023); Carpintarias de São Lázaro, PT (2022); Tate Liverpool, UK (2020); Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, IT (2019); Tate St Ives, UK (2019); MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), UK (2019-2020); De la Warr Pavilion, UK (2019-2020); MORI Art Museum, Tokyo, JP (2019); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2018-2019); Turku Art Museum, FI (2018); Casino Luxembourg Forum d’Art Contemporain, LU (2017).

Karikis has participated in group exhibitions, festivals and biennials including at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Lisbon, PT, (2022); Mardin Biennale, TR (2022); 2nd Riga Biennial, LV (2020); European Capital of Culture, Aarhus, DK (2017); Kochi-Muziris Biennale, IN (2016); British Art Show 8, UK (2015-2017); Steirischer Herbst, AT (2015); 5th Thessaloniki Biennale, GR (2015); 19th Biennale of Sydney, AU (2014); Mediacity Seoul, Seoul, KR (2014); Videonale 14, Kunstmuseum Bonn, DE (2013); 2nd Aichi Triennale, JP (2013); Manifesta 9, BE (2012); Danish Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, IT (2011).

Karikis has released three solo music albums with the Belgian record label Sub Rosa, and appears on compilations and collaborative albums with members of the Hilliand Ensemble, Dj Spooky and Björk. He also performs as a musician and experimental vocalist including at Barbican Art Centre London and Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Karikis teaches and mentors internationally, and holds a professorial position at MIMA School of the Arts and Creative Industries, UK. His recent monograph publication For Many Voices is published by Freigeist Verlag Berlin.