When tobibi bienz [CH] arrived in Hong Kong to present an exhibition, in 2019, one could feel the heavy atmosphere of repression. Amid the violent protests that unravelled against the Chinese regime, they witnessed a deteriorating and dehumanising climate, and wondered how to deal with their art in times of censorship.
But one day, as they gazed from the top of a skyscraper, they found themselves falling in love with a cockroach. That infamous being, subject of despise and disgust, suddenly became the object of their affection.
“If people came to me, I would show them the insect and ask: ‘Do you want to see my new love?’. I would talk about the human, the non-human, about relationships,” the artist recalls. Also, it was a form of addressing what was happening there (“cockroaches” is how police would call demonstrators during the Hong Kong riots).
“But then, it became clear that I had, indeed, fallen in love with the cockroaches.”
tobibi smuggled the insects on the plane back home and has since lived with them. More precisely, with the Blaptica dubia species, a native to Argentina. This unfolded into a research on the deconstruction of our anthropocentric perception, on fear patterns and how we can transform them. And, why not, if we are able to empathise with a cockroach, a symbol of marginality.
To further develop their investigation, in late 2022 the performer and visual artist embarked on a residency at cheLA, in Buenos Aires [AR]. Resuming the partnership with visual artists Victoria Papagni [AR], with whom tobibi had collaborated in an online residency and for the virtual event «Segundas Intenciones», they worked in the intersection of art, science, and technology, with a transdisciplinary team.
Combining their artistic practices (visual and electronic arts, performance, and social activism), they conducted their research in labs, field trips, and 3D print studios. The idea was to deconstruct our anthropocentric perception through inter-species technological collaboration.
In January 2023, they set out to the Yungas in Tucumán (in the North of Argentina), a natural habitat to the Blaptica dubia. The trip, which counted on the participation of entomologist (biologist specialising in insects) Monica Iglesias, from the Entomology Laboratory of the University City, the Lillo Institute of Tucumán, resulted in a video installation: «Parasite Selfie – Homecoming», to be presented at cheLA on March 18th and 19th, 2023.
tobibi bienz [CH] is an independent artist working in the fields of performing, conceptual and visual arts. They work on the edges and blurry frictions of sections and genres, of art and politics, of plates and riverbank superstructures. tobibi is a founding member #BigDreams collective in Zurich, which creates different works and actions around themes of structural racism in the media landscape in Switzerland.