Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims is Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s first solo exhibition in Austria at Kunstalle Wien. It is centered around the presentation of new work.


The eponymous film is the latest part of a series called Elemental Cinema; each film in this series is dedicated to one of the four elements. In it, the artists have developed an approach that takes matter, material, and the “elemental” as a starting point – aspects which continue to be neglected and suppressed by the globally dominant order of thinking and being.


Ferreira da Silva and Neuman’s work undermines patterns of thinking about and relating to the Earth that have been shaped by European colonial modernity. They show that categories and distinctions that seem self-evident to us underlie a profoundly unequal, racist world. Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims turns the spotlight to this modern relation to the Earth in the history of neoliberalism and one of its defining early episodes: Chile under the Pinochet regime.

The film was shot in the Chilean Atacama Desert, home to some of the world’s largest mines. The elevated, extremely dry terrain and clear air of the desert preserve history. Today you can find prehistoric stone drawings there, but also labor camps from colonial times which were later reactivated during Pinochet’s dictatorship and used to exploit opponents of the regime. While telescopes are used to observe the sky in this place with the clearest and driest air on the planet, these stories of violence stay hidden in plain sight.


Neuman and Ferreira da Silva’s work experiment with thinking and sensing simultaneously the various moments of material existence: the quantic, cosmic, organic/mechanic, historic/geologic. It often departs from a particular site, but then moves through and weaves together various times and places to show the planetary scope and historical depth of pressing geopolitical issues.

In Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims, the wind—air is the classical element taken up in this part of the series—travels from the Sahara to the Amazon and along the Pacific coast. Like the film’s off-screen voices, the composition and movement of material reality tells stories of migration and displacement, but also of another geography drawn by the winds.


The extensive public program includes workshops, performances, open study sessions, film screenings, and discursive formats. In cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Tanzquartier Wien, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and other partner institutions.

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