In Faith is a Cascade, Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger considers the interplay between the speculative, mythology and culture to imagine a queering of urban subjectivities and their lived environments through digitally printed textile, video, 3-D prints, pocket-sized tech and a wearable. The starting point for this exhibition is situated in local history to Deptford: in 1698, Tsar Peter the Great stayed at Sayes Court in Deptford, a now buried manor house and once- celebrated garden that was owned by 17th century diarist and gardener John Evelyn. However, the Tsar and his men caused complete chaos, trashing both house and garden. Through a symbolic and mythic treatment of this raucous historical meeting of eastern and western European cultures and through revisiting John Evelyn’s prominent ideas on green cities now emerging as smart cities, Novikoff Unger is drawing upon her cultural identity as a Danish Russian artist and re-visiting the event through a queer lens whilst employing Catherine Malabou’s theories of plasticity to unpack the deconstruction of subjectivity and embodiment. Malabou defines plasticity as “the capacity
to both and simultaneously receive and bestow form on a material… each creation of form is an explosion of the previous one.”A repetition occurs; it’s a cascade: “We repeat what we cannot change. We repeat because we cannot change.” In Faith is a Cascade, the plasticity and repetition of the human body is significant, as it moves through these spaces of the present and future, activating the wearable devices and smart homes rendered in digital prints.

The exhibition title refers to a poem in Alice Fulton’s Cascade Experiment that echoes an epistemological drive that, in order to progress as a society and
to discover the world anew, it is imperative to look closely at what is around us: “Nothing will unfold for us unless we move toward what / looks to us like nothing: faith is a cascade.” A cascade is a series of waterfalls; a site of falling, renewing, repeating. It is also a scientific term to define a series of chemical reactions that cause a domino effect, triggering the reaction to repeat itself. Faith is a Cascade explores this notion alongside the development of smart cities, oscillating between the different temporalities of the past, as explored in the mythologies of the Tsar’s visit; the present, in the mixing of eastern and western european culture; and the future, through speculative explorations of urban settings.

(Alex Hull)

Date: April 22 — June 62021