Whispers, world above, world below


A Tale of A Tub, Rotterdam

The solo exhibition Whispers, world above, world below by Italian artist Chiara Camoni (1974), whose work comprises drawing, sculpture, video, and installation, responds directly to the site of A Tale of A Tub, both in terms of its architecture and its history. Standing in the centre of the Justus van Effencomplex, a social housing experiment built in the 1920s, our three-floor building was originally a bathhouse. Historically, collective spaces associated with water, such as wells, bathhouses, and washrooms, have predominantly facilitated the (domestic) labour of women, and this site was no exception, providing space for the practical daily rituals of washing and bathing. Ancestral knowledge, vernacular know-how, and the ways that these are transmitted between generations sit at the heart of Camoni’s daily practice. In this way, she also conjures the daily practices of the women at the bathhouse of the Justus van Effencomplex one hundred years ago. In her work, Camoni echoes their transmission of knowledge, their domestic labour, and their sense of community. We can almost hear their whispers.

As well as the social history, Camoni also responds to the architecture of the space. Its three levels, namely the ground floor, the mezzanine, and the basement — or, respectively, the ground, the above, and the below — are reflected in the title of the exhibition itself, which marks the first time that Camoni is able to present the different works in such a dialogue with each other not only horizontally but vertically. The exhibition proposes a certain sense of direction: the works can move upward, starting from the soil, as with growth, with butterflies, with floating spirits, and downward, to a chthonian dimension, as with roots, shade, and the unconscious.