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'SUMMONING' by Dorota Gawęda & Eglė Kulbokaitė at 16 Șepcari, Bucharest

Oh, rise, from the earth,
From the dark soil;
What legs, poor me, can I use to lift myself, ah,
Oh, what arms to lean upon;
Ah, my soul, my little heart.
Oh, make your fingernails into spades,
Your palms into shovels;
Oh, throw the soil onto one side,
And the slab to the other.
Turn your hands into shovels. Dig yourself out. Return to me.

                                                                                                                  (Mouthless Part I)

For their first solo exhibition in Bucharest, artists Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė bring together Mouthless Part I, a video work in which witchcraft becomes a transcultural and transhistorical signifier, alongside a series of new, site-specific sculptures that extend the topics of the video.

Mouthless generates the fictitious story of a family conjuring the deceased and the harmed, be it human, plant, animal or anything resisting classification. Through a fragmented narrative, it draws parallels with the historically intertwined development of the monetary system, the depletion of Eastern European woodlands and the contemporary ecological urgency associated with capitalist expansion into the former Eastern bloc. Esotericism and science, folklore and technology stem from the entanglements between the subject and its surroundings, bracketing and unbracketing nature.

The more present the denial of hybridization is, the more possible an interbreeding becomes, in Latour's words. Hybridization is embraced by the horror genre, in itself a vehicle for investigating the fear of being considered an outsider or the Other.
Natural materials become leather totems, inspired by characters such as Russian cartoon Cheburashka, changing its shape with each new iteration, much like the oral imaginary of the fairytale. These insentient beings hang from the wall, laying as working tools, waiting to serve unconditionally and eternally for the people that possess them.

Welcomed by two fans as small shrines pierced with rather dystopian offerings, multiple folkloric and futuristic entities to unfold and cross-contaminate. The source material of the shed is damaged furniture found locally in Bucharest and reworked as to encapsulate the Mouthless video work. IKEA and other flatpack producers are some of the main consumers of illegally logged Romanian timber, much of which becomes chipboard for furniture, contributing to an alarming rate of forest (in many cases old-growth, primeval forest) depletion.

Moving on to the irregular pitchforks that survey the environment, the hay that hides, the working creatures awaiting for attack unless they are offered work, the empty brackets willing to hang the viewer’s desires, all collapse in a mesh of atemporal aesthetics.  

SUMMONING takes place in the frame of QUOTE—UNQUOTE, a long-term interdisciplinary and collaborative research platform which explores the mechanisms, uses and effects of (public) speech and language in contemporary society, through artistic practice and its intersections with other fields of activity.

1.7.21 — 31.7.21

Photo by New Folder Studio

Image Courtesy: the artists and Quote—Unuqote


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