Swimming Pool is delighted to present "there is not, there is not a soul", an exhibition by artist duo Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė that is to open on June 24. For their show in Sofia, the artists consider topics around the ecology of landscape and eco-feminism as they relate to urban legends, witch trials, and Eastern European folklore. Central to the show is the video work “Mouthless Part I” which stems from the artists’ ongoing involvement with YOUNG GIRL READING GROUP – a community project initiated by Gawęda and Kulbokaitė that looks for a different way of approaching text, reading, and sharing knowledge. YGRG inspires the film’s serial and fragmented form, as well as its use of collective reading practices as a narrative trigger. Aesthetically, Gawęda and Kulbokaitė are interested in the horror genre as a vehicle for exploring the fear attributed to being outside or other (as related to norm, society, etc.). Within this convention they consider the construction of the deviant subject and conversely monstrification and othering of nature as intertwined phenomena. Horror, and folk horror in particular, embodies an explicitly ecological worldview in which human and nature, human and nonhuman, are thoroughly imbricated. “Mouthless Part I” also implements the artists’ current research into witchcraft as a transcultural and transhistorical signifier across disciplinary, social, geographic, and traditional boundaries. Another important aspect is the film’s inclusion of various spirits and creatures from Eastern European history and mythology.
The video work is accompanied by photography and sculpture. The photographs use behind the scenes footage from “Mouthless Part I” to depict the moment when a friend (a reader) transforms into a monster. The concept of metamorphosis plays a key role in the body of sculptures as well. Gawęda and Kulbokaitė have previously included the pieces on view at Swimming Pool in different performances surrounding the film piece to build an ambiance that acts as a moment of trespassing, or of crossing a boundary, possibly between the living and the dead. However, due to their nature of abstract, non-functional furniture, the sculptures create another kind of home that is mostly uncanny. A few additional objects – such as the glass double pots – originate from the symbolic / ritualistic realm and thus evoke the scientific framing of Gawęda and Kulbokaitė’s work, or the absence of such.
There is one more perspective that the exhibition touches upon since the series of works Spectator(s) is a comment on how we relate to nature. The objects take inspiration from the golfing chairs which one carries and positions to observe a landscape. Here these are transformed into free-standing objects, also referencing the chicken legs of a witch’s house. The moment of observing and framing remains crucial as it relates to the artists’ role in shaping the landscape through their gaze by defining nature as “other”.
Dorota Gawęda (b. 1986, PL) and Eglė Kulbokaitė (b. 1987, LT) are an artist duo based in Basel (CH). They work within a variety of media spanning performance, photography, installation, fragrance, sculpture, text and video. Gawęda and Kulbokaitė are MA graduates of the Royal College of Art, London (2012), and have been working together since 2013. In their work, the duo explore artistic production through collaboration and search for aberrant media that lend themselves to creating speculative environments. Formally, Gawęda and Kulbokaitė explore incompleteness and linguistic ingraspability, apparent both in their approach to performance as in the sculptural objects and environments that they propose, offering ways to renegotiate our complex relationship to Nature - ecological system that we have historically defined as separate to ourselves, as outside. Their recent solo shows include: Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf (solo/film screenings, 2020); Body Archive, Zurich (2020); Trafo Gallery, Budapest (2020); Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London (2020 and 2018); Fri Art – Centre d’Art de Fribourg / Kunsthalle Fribourg and Wallriss (2020); Futura, Prague (2019); Lucas Hirsch Gallery, Düsseldorf (2019); Cell Project Space, London (2018). Upcoming exhibitions include: Eat the Museum, Alte Fabrik, Rapperswil (group, 2020); MOUTHLESS (DZIADY), On Curating project space, Zürich (solo, 2020), Swiss Performance Award presentation, Le Grütli, Geneva (shortlisted, 2020), Lucas Hirsch Gallery, Düsseldorf (solo, 2020), Istituto Svizzero, Milan (screening/performance, 2020). Gawęda and Kulbokaitė are also the founders of YOUNG GIRL READING GROUP (2013-).
Photo reportage about the exhibition from Echo Gone Wrong here.