Curator: Valentina Ulisse
“At a time when the whole world is on the brink of collapse, Hanna Kokolo, the scientist turned hermit in an attempt to escape corruption, lives and works in her bunker. […] She develops innovative technologies that she offers, in vain, to investors… In the time of the year 3000, pessimism is the main ingredient feeding the veins of humanity. Each step forward is cancelled out, automatically leading to a step backwards. One day, Hanna Kokolo wakes up in the middle of a library, […] her face stuck to the page of a book… Zarathustra, by Jean Varenne… This book depicts the life of a magus long since excluded from the history of the world. She flicks through the pages and continues reading. At the end of a week of intensive research, she makes a decision: “I’ll be my own Zoroastre. I, Hanna Kokolo, will become ZokoHastra, a hybrid of Astraea, the celestial virgin from Greek mythology, and Zoroastre, the founder of Zoroastrianism. I will be the reinvention of what has been considered weak and dependent. I will be the reincarnation of the secret face of the author of an occult doctrine and a visionary, like an astrologer, a magician and an alchemist capable of transmuting the present and the future…” Hanna Kokolo finishes programming her time machine and begins her mission… a journey through the ages, times and mentalities, making herself the bearer of a new doctrine.”
In “ZokoHastra's treasure”, a Hanna Kokolo from the future returns to our time to save contemporary humanity from its meanderings and warn it about the world’s collapse. She becomes “ZokoHastra”, a new prophetess. In order to create this oracle, the artist became interested in two hermits. Astraea, the daughter of Zeus and the personification of Justice, was the last of the immortals to live among humans during the Golden Age, a time of peace. In the Iron Age, when humanity became corrupt, Astraea left Earth to join the heavens and form the Virgo constellation. Zoroastre, for his part, was a figure of occultism—a set of practices concerning the secrets of nature. For his statements and hymns on human morality, he was shunned by society because his “magi science” came too close to heresy.
The quests of these two characters inspire the journey of ZokoHastra, herald of the “end of the world”. On this subject, the artist evokes the philosopher Norman Ajari’s explanation of “afro-pessimism”. According to this view, under current conditions and in predominantly white nations built on centuries of racism and colonial exploitation, true equality and liberation for racialised people can only come about through the “end of the world”, meaning a radical change to the existing system.
This new chapter in Hanna Kokolo’s autofiction will unfold over the course of a research and co-creation residency in the Cœur d’Essonne Agglomération area. The artist will meet groups of different ages—primary school pupils, teenagers and senior citizens—in order to consider together the diverse meanings of the idea of the “end of the world”: the deconstruction of a known reality and the reconstruction of a new one; collapse as renewal; the utopia of the world of tomorrow. As this quest unfolds, the story of ZokoHastra’s wandering will take shape, as will their prophecies. The discussions and moments of collective creation will breathe new life into an archive of objects, stories and images. These testimonies imagine the fate of the Earth, whether saved or lost.
After studying art history at the university La Sapienza in Rome and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Valentina Ulisse completed a professional Master’s 2 degree in “Contemporary art and its exhibition” at Sorbonne Université and co-founded the curatorial collective espace projectif. Alongside her studies, she trained in the exhibition profession through internships at the Centre Pompidou, CAC Brétigny and Council, among others. Today, Valentina Ulisse continues her work through her various activities within the organisation of art projects, writing and cultural mediation. She assists gallery owner Aline Vidal with whom she organises “De(s)rives”, a curatorial project that experiments with exhibition formats outside of traditional artistic contexts. Valentina Ulisse is interested in art economies, in alternative systems of production and dissemination and in co-creative artistic practices related to pedagogy and popular knowledge.
Hanna Kokolo (born 1997) lives and works in Paris. After studying applied arts, she graduated from the École nationale supérieure d’art de Bourges (ENSA) in 2021. Her multidisciplinary pieces explore the issue of intergenerational memory through characters she embodies and depicts in works of autofiction. Her work was exhibited at the 66th Salon de Montrouge in 2022 and in a solo exhibition at the Graineterie in Houilles in 2023.