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simone fattal

Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai! (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessy!)

Ocean Space, Venice
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simone fattal – Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai! (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessy!)


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’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.