Abisso Calypso, Text by Lara Amann, 2018 (english)

Running in the Dark

Calypso Deep

Neither a disco hit from the ’70s, a fancy tiki cocktail nor the newest Chanel nail polish shade, ‘Abisso Calipso’ or Calypso Deep is a deep submarine territory “located in the Ionian Sea south-west of Pylos, Greece”, “the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea, with a maximum depth of 5,267 m”, where “ the African Plate slides under the Aegean Sea Plate, creating the Hellenic Trench”. This the surprisingly short Wikipedia entry about something as intriguing as the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea, an area that certainly has been on everyone’s lips and minds in the past years and is a contested political and environmental place, be it with regards to migration, pollution or new ways of colonization.

It is even more surprising considering that the ocean and its depths provide 95% of the Earth’s habitat, but maybe less surprising if we remember that the deep sea is still thought of as the ‘last frontier’ on a planet otherwise largely explored, inhabited or ravaged by a particularly insatiable species - humans. Despite or maybe because of our ignorance of the deep sea, a vast ecological system and an innumerable array of creatures reside in the deepest and most inhospitable corners of the sea, often under unbelievable pressure, with no light and in freezing temperatures. Studies have been so rare though, that life in the dark blue depths remains a mystery and while our basic knowledge of deep sea life shows “shocking gaps”, to quote an article by Oxford University, it is very likely that harmful human-caused effects on these systems are growing. The disparity thus, of little to no information and our increased impact on this environment is highly alarming.

On the other side of the surface we seem to be living in a diametrically opposed reality but with a somewhat similar outcome. While heavily relying on unfathomable masses of data collected and interpreted through computation over the past century to make sense of the world and produce models for simulations, we have not only lost the capacity to grasp the world on our own but our prediction models have started failing us. As we surpass the pinnacle of our knowledge of Earth, we are ultimately led into a New Dark Age of looming ignorance, anxiety and oppression, revoking the prevalent notion of enlightenment that the more we know the more we can influence the course of life.

If you are running in the dark,

prepare well,

choose your route and equipment wisely,

make sure you see and can be seen,

light your own way,

when you are running in the dark.

It is in this space that Benedikt Hipp carefully places his works and it is into this space the works lure the viewer.

The ‘grid’ becomes a cohesive motif. It is not, however, the perfectly perpendicular, modernist grid that has served as an ideal implemented into reality, to both design our world and the way we see it, so often associated with rigorous science and highly organized forms of planification. Rather, here it is a fragmented, visibly used and misused, almost battered grid that materializes in an abstract space - a ruin or a remnant of the grid - at times resembling a net. It is no longer clear if it is a helpful support structure, a treacherous trap or itself an object in need of support.

Caught in this net we find eyes, hands, arms, feet and more diffuse, limb-like biomorphic shapes, reminiscent of votive offerings - a spiritual practice meant to give sculptural expression to a wish or plea left by the supplicant, in anticipation or gratitude, in a public and sacred space. An ancient tradition assimilated by Christianity, votive offerings became common practice in many regions and were considered just as legitimate as medical interventions. Revealing a certain kinship to Brueghelian surrealism, suspended cyclopean mollusc-like beings mingle, while votive objects merge into bodily collages conjoined by chains, hooks or straps and at times framed by our recently gained handheld digital-corporeal extensions. Deep sea soil samples observe us instead of revealing their innermost secrets,the probes the result of a collaboration with artist Lisa Reitmeier, and further expanding the narration by organically translating the painterly space into the sculpture realm. But don’t be fooled. Here it is not everyday-life gone uncanny but rather our uncanny metaphysical-life materializing - an inverted Rorschach test if you will. So what is it that Hipp has us so fervently pleading for?

If you are running in the dark,

you will think you are running faster than you actually are,

and a well-known road might become treacherous,

when you are running in the dark.

Entangling us in an oracular trap where distinctions between abstract and figurative, scientific and spiritual lose their meaning, we are eventually forced to realize that the world is nothing else than our own representation of it. ‘The world is my idea’, Schopenhauer famously states, suggesting that the world as we perceive it is a ‘presentation’ of objects in the theatre of our mind, where each of us is carefully crafting our own idiosyncratic show with its stage manager, set, lighting, costumes, pay scale and so on.[1]

Nevertheless, in order to connect, exchange and ultimately function as a social system of sentient beings we have always needed ways to render reality abstract so as to understand it. Conversely, we have applied abstract ideas to reality to cope with its complexity, often wreaking havoc instead of implementing the sought after order. The system of taxonomy is one such example: concerned with scientific classification and the grouping of organisms, it is a seemingly precise and structured methodology. However, it not only bears theoretical shortcomings such as taxonomic vandalism[2] but also replicates colonial power structures, by renaming or ‘westernizing’ nomenclature, disregarding pre-existing local ones and perhaps most destructively justifying so-called scientific racism.

Benedikt Hipp leaves it up to us to decide how deeply we submerge ourselves into the vast, bone-chilling, light-deprived, pressurized currents of this New Dark Age. But not without pointing to the potential that lies in action within this space where our senses are heightened and our perception modified, empowering us to push ourselves beyond superficial beliefs produced by current discourse, and instead discern the unconscious, underlying rules that truly govern our thinking and behavior.

If you are running in the dark,

you’ve just gained significantly time and space,

you will heighten different senses,

and therefore train and learn other abilities,

when you are running in the dark.*

*these lines are inspired by a guided run from the Nike+ Run Club app titled ‘Running in the dark’ and lead by Nike Running Global Head Coach Chris Bennett

Laura Amann

Laura Amann is a curator, architect and writer based in Vienna, AT and Prague, CZ. She is a graduate of De Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam, NL and runs the space and curatorial platform Significant Other, which is concerned with the border regions of art and architecture, self-organized and institutional structures as well as the exchange between peripheries.

[1] While the other aspect present in perceiving the world - our will or Kant's thing-in-itself - is not perceivable as presentation and therefore exists only outside of time, space and causality.

[2] The naming of new species without enough evidence