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FUTURA PROXIMA curated for Gucci
Squid Theory by Natsuko Uchino
Words by Vere Van Gool
“If you touch the world, it touches you back.”
Born in Japan, artist Natsuko Uchino draws on histories of agriculture and craft. She carves, melts, fires and encodes matter in her studio in the South of France, steadily developing a vast oeuvre that unwraps the gravity of the vernacular today. Her ceramics, currently on display at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris in the Les Flammes exhibition, trigger ideas about alchemy as a site for speculation. “The outcome will always be an incident of encounter of how the atmosphere affects the molten metal — and that lack of control — that alchemy between material and process, allows for fiction, for science fiction,” the interdisciplinary artist and Professor of Art at Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design in Le Mans explains.
Known for delicate sculptures and performances, Uchino’s recent Squid Theory (2021) journeys into the future by way of ‘fever-driven works’. Inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, a short story on the relationship between human evolution and technology, Uchino positions her new body of work as an exploration into future value-systems of people and natural elements. Uchino instills a sense of Terra Ignota — an unexplored field of knowledge, one that counters the plethora of apocalyptic doomsdays, with a vision of timeless curiosity.
Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast stack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story. In it, as in all fiction, there is room enough to keep even Man where he belongs, in his place in the scheme of things; there is time enough to gather plenty of wild oats and sow them too, and sing to little Oom, and listen to Ool’s joke, and watch newts, and still the story isn’t over. Still there are seeds to be gathered and room in the bag of stars.
— Excerpt from The Carrier Bag Theory Of Fiction (1986) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Akin to Le Guin’s ‘bag’ as a metaphor for preservation of seeds and society, Squid Theory is similarly born out of an ancient Neolithic technology – cephalopod mold casting. Composed of a series of novel bronze coins entitled Squid Money 1-12, Uchino’s hand-carved pieces contextualise the abstract concept of value into tangible objects that fit into the palm of our hand. “Vernacular crafts are interesting today as a type of techno-futurism, where past, future and science coalesce. It propels us to redefine the extractive and exploitative relationship man has to land, towards a more harmonious future.”
For FUTURA PROXIMA, Uchino’s Squid Theory is documented in a series of close-up photographs by French photographer Marvin Leuvrey, set against a variety of backdrops from paper to textile and green-screen plastic. As if holding invaluable keys to both past and future, Squid Theory asks us if speculative values can be found in reinterpreting historic craft, and how glimpsing at tomorrow, alchemy might transmute futures.
All works courtesy of Galerie Allen, Paris
Natsuko Uchino (b. 1983 in Kumamoto, Japan) lives and works in the South of France. Uchino graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, New York and the Center for Contemporary Art Kitakyushu, Fukuoka. Her work has been exhibited at Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Galerie Allen, Kadist, La Friche Belle de Mai, Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw and Plattform für Neue Kunst Karlsruhe.
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