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How to Tread Lightly. st_age expanded, an exhibition at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Yeo Siew Hua, An Invocation to the Earth, 2020, Film Still. Co produced by NTU CCA Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, TBA21 for st_age. Photo: Nelson Yeo.

MADRID.- How to Tread Lightly. st_age expanded, an exhibition reframes the challenges raised by the Covid-19 crisis in terms of supporting artistic practice. It not only asks how commissioning can be developed in a more caring and meaningful manner, but demonstrates how it can adapt to emerging scenarios. The exhibition, curated by Soledad Gutiérrez, is a physical-world extension of the artists’ projects currently being presented during Season 1 of st_age, an online commissions initiative launched in September 2020 by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) to mitigate against cultural loss in the current climate.

It is the first project of its kind that embraces the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDG program while raising awareness of the most relevant and pressing issues of our times, through the lens of art. It is an invitation to artists, independent cultural organisations and practitioners, as well as activists, to engage together with the urgencies that have been made more visible by the current crisis.

As for the exhibition, a series of cinematic presentations, audio experiences and artificial intelligence works in the galleries of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza now represent transformations and translations of st_age episodes from a digital-first realm. Furthermore, several artists specifically conceived their st_age projects as pilots or trailers, and the exhibition space now hosts expanded versions through newly produced sculptures, drawings, textiles, and performances. st_age is an invitation to artists, institutions, practitioners, and activists to engage together with the current moment, and the many urgent issues that it has made more visible. How to Tread Lightly is just one possible version of the artists’ proposals in the physical world; it is also an invitation to others to further engage with them and the urgent issues they explore.

For Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, founder of TBA21, both st_age and now How to Tread Lightly, are manifestations of a vision of a new art world. “There is a critical need to shift and transform the structure of the arts ecosystem towards more social responsibility. This is a vision of more collaboration rather than competition, and of helping support artists at the very source of their practice,” she says. How to Tread Lightly also provides a wide overview of contemporary artistic practice by working with a new generation of artists within their communities and from diverse geographies. It invites artists to imagine potential futures and how we all might re-situate ourselves. It is a call for change and a call to action.

Following the collaborative thinking that triggered st_age, for How to Tread Lightly, TBA21 has joined efforts not only with the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, but also a whole range of inventive international partners and peers—from Khoj International Artists’ Association in India, to FLORA ars+natura in Colombia, the 13th Shanghai Biennale, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, and TBA21–Academy. The voices of these partners are present in the exhibition through the works they have co-produced, as well as through the public programs.

The challenge of conceiving an exhibition design that transplants st_age’s online seedlings into the spaces of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza has been realized by Enorme Studio, the Madrid based architecture group. A Mind Map of the entire project as it grows, designed in collaboration with Jotateam Studio, is included in the exhibition to map out the connections between the commissions, related curatorial topics, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the various Calls to Action that spring from st_age.

Artists: Dana Awartani, Patricia Domínguez, Virginie Dupray and Faustin Linyekula with Dorine Mokha, freq_wave by Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Courtney Desiree Morris, Eduardo Navarro with BaRiya, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Christian Salablanca Díaz, Yeo Siew Hua, Himali Singh Soin with David Soin Tappeser, and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané.

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