Artists Petrit Halilaj & Álvaro Urbano are set to unveil a new installation titled Lunar Ensemble for Uprising Seas at Ocean Space in Venice, Italy within the historic deconsecrated San Lorenzo Church. With the installation, the artists have created an evolving ecosystem filled with large-scale sculptures depicting imaginary creatures. The installation is on view with free admission as part of Thus waves come in pairs, Ocean Space’s 2023 exhibition curated by Barbara Casavecchia, a Milan-based independent curator and critic. Lunar Ensemble for Uprising Seas is a co-commission between TBA21Academy and Audemars Piguet Contemporary, and highlights the two programmes’ parallel missions: to support artists in research and artistic production, which encourages dialogue and imaginative thinking for a global audience.

With Lunar Ensemble for Uprising Seas, Berlin-based artists Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986) and Álvaro Urbano (b. 1983) are creating an evolving ecosystem comprising over 30 large-scale sculptures of hybrid aquatic, terrestrial, and aerial creatures, set beneath an egg-shaped moon that appears to have the same materiality as the walls of the former church. The installation is inspired by a popular song in Spain titled Ay mi pescadito, where young fish go to school at the bottom of the sea to study forms of survival and belonging. The artists have created an installation which explores cohesion as well as resistance or disharmony between different species, or between living organisms and objects. 

The sculptures range in scale and shape, with no creature being realistic to this world. All are in a state of evolution with a mix of features for survival under water, on land as well as in the sky. The sculptures’ metallic skins reflect the sunlight onto the church’s walls, ceilings, and floors, modifying the perception of the space over the day. Each sculpture doubles as a musical instrument, producing sounds from music boxes and other DIY techniques, however only human interaction makes them come to life with sound. Together, they attempt a “melody” inspired by the song Ay mi pescadito and under-water noises, which do not easily harmonize.  The difficulty in achieving a perfect melody mirrors the complexity of creating perfect synchrony in the material world. 

Above the creatures, a large egg-shaped sculpture hangs from the ceiling and seems to be floating in the space. The egg is covered with a chalky material that resembles the walls of the building. Reflecting the remnants of the space, the materiality symbolises how everything can be reused and transformed as part of the cyclical nature of our world. It evokes possibilities of alternative future forms of life, transformation, and parenthood to be reimagined. 

Throughout the exhibition run, a cast of musicians and performers will activate the installation at varying durations and intervals. In between performances, gull costumes, which Halilaj and Urbano will wear for two appearances, will be situated within the exhibition, welcoming visitors to the space as sculptures. They represent creatures from the Venice lagoon observing the evolving ecosystem from above. It is the gulls which coordinate the shared performance, bringing the collective action of the creatures together. 

The curatorial team at Audemars Piguet Contemporary and Casavecchia worked closely with Halilaj and Urbano to develop and support the creation of the co-commissioned installation. The duo shares a life together in Berlin yet typically maintain separate practices. This project is a unique opportunity to see the artists’ work together on a large-scaleinstallation. Like previous works, this installation explores and negotiates the space between two realities: the human and the natural world. Both of their practices imbue personal, playful elements that work to ask questions of societal norms. 

Opening Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Address: Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Castello 5069, 30122 Venice