with Milena Desse, Zuzanna Dolega, Paul Jacques Yves Guilbert and Nikolay Karabinovych.
During the recent restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece, restoration and conservation scientists revealed the surprisingly anthropomorphic face of the Mystic Lamb. After almost six centuries beneath layers of dirt, varnish and overpaint, the lamb has become the source of discussion and controversy. These processes of hiding and the subsequent revealing paved the way for the construction of entirely new meanings, both in terms of individual subjectivities and collective identities – alternately surprising and enriching or as a cause of discomfort and denial. The artworks presented in this group expose the unconscious or concealed structures of affect, knowledge and identity. They question our experiences, putting us in conflict with an established set of deep-rooted concepts. Whenever such a conflict is experienced sharply and intensely, it reacts to our preexisting belief systems. As a result new meanings or alternative truths that were hidden before may be revealed.
Milena Desse works around language, memory, and storytelling through various mediums. For this exhibition, she invited artist and researcher Reem Shilleh (Ramallah and Brussels) to read a text about the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank in Palestine. ‘Reading of an absent film’ is a sound piece based on a poem that shapes Milena Desse’s last film ‘The Sun and the Looking Glass – for one easily forgets but the tree remembers’. Employing sound to explore a more private and intimate dimension of storytelling in a web format, Reem Shilleh’s reading takes us to a place that remains alive through the trees, the buildings, the roads, and the trails – witnessing the Palestinian people’s resistance to further colonization and oppression. To accompany the sound piece, Desse translated super 8 photograms and video stills from her film into a visual composition entitled ‘One second times five’.
Specialising in the rare technique of pyrography, Zuzanna Dolega has created twelve new works from her ‘Pyrosłowa’ (Pyrowords) series for the exhibition. In an accompanying interview, she tells us more about her technique and sources of inspiration. In this series she uses discarded Polish books, their authors and stories are not important to her anymore. Based on self-observation and the subconscious she erases numerous words with fire. Dolega compares the pyrograph to the seismograph, treating it as a device that records the changes in her emotional states like shifts in the earth’s crust. Words spared from the fire create new constellations of meaning that expose the fragile inner world of the artist. Under the pyrograph, random old books become the pages of an “erased” (self-burnt) diary. The old order of printed signs and their significance turns to ash, while new more intimate meanings are revealed, as a kind of burnt poetry. Dolega’s artworks are created in her mother tongue (Polish), although she believes that emotions expressed through fire are powerful enough to be transferred beyond the language barrier. A viewer that has no command of this language can follow the topographic maps of her emotional states drawn by fire.
Paul Jacques Yves Guilbert (PJYG) produces ASH (Auto essais, superfictionnel hypermédiatique – Superfictional Hypermediatic Auto Essays). ASH activate the porous nature of performance and video. They challenge the notions of authorship by blurring autobiographical anecdotes within a digital hypermediatic framework. Άποτίλματα Ομφαλόυ’ (started in 2014) is the title of a series of videos, that are activated through performance. Realised during the 2020 lockdown, ‘Άποτίλματα Ομφαλόυ KNIT#5: The Golden Bleating. An umbilical-eyed trichotomy’, is the fifth installment in PJYG sequence of KNIT. Using tourist pictures as spatio-temporal collages to recreate the St Bavo’s Cathedral as a vitreous-bodied cave, ‘KNIT#5’ is an interactive 360° video created from PJYG’s mental projections. The viewer is invited to change the speed and interact with the “gold सूत्रात्मन् (the thread-soul) navigating between what is shown again and the ομφαλic-eye (umbilical-eye) in a praxis to unverborgenheit (Unhaberged, unconcealed) the tricotomic πνεῦμα (spirit) of the navel fluff”. PJYG investigates Glaucon, also known as Plato’s interlocutor in the allegory of the cave. He guides a non-authoritarian position on his version of Glaucon’s reenactment, raising new objections, questioning the allegory of the cave as the dogma for Western society. The name Glaucon, is derived from the adjective glaukommatos (γλαυκόμματος) meaning bright-eyed, owl-eyed, or grey-eyed. As a revealing process, it also invites viewers to consider the uncertainty of the cave allegory as something always questionable and never permanent.
In Christian religions eggs represent creation, their shape reminding us of the eternal cycle of life. In his video ‘The Story of an Egg’, Nikolay Karabinovych investigates the system of a globalized culture conveyed by centuries of Western cultural colonialism and “universal” ideas of history. What is the link between Odessa, Ghent and the Venice Biennale? Karabinovych’s research started with the Ukrainian Pavilion (54th Venice Biennale in 2011) and the work of Oksana Mas ‘Post-vs-Proto-Renaissance’. In Venice the project showed a mosaic panel of 3.640,000 wooden painted Easter eggs, presented as a proposed imitation of the Ghent Altarpiece, and acting as a prototype for the ‘Altarpiece of Nation’, embracing “universalism and spiritism”. ‘The Story of an Egg’ uses found footage to bring together different narratives and ways of storytelling. Karabinovych’s post-production practice appropriates images to map a series of events confronting each other in various circumstances and contexts, while positioning them outside a universal conception in macro stories. With Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ (European Union’s official anthem), the accompanying melody to the video’s opening sequence of the Ghent Altarpiece framed by an iPad, he questions these images and sounds and the universal values they transmit. Through the overlaying footage of Mas’s eggs in Venice and the demonstrations in Odessa (where Karabinovych and Mas both come from) Karabinovych interrogates the strangeness and overlapping temporalities in Mas’s project.
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