CURA.

Dorota Gawęda & Eglė Kulbokaitė
Mouthless

Fri Art, Fribourg
WallRiss, Fribourg

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For their first monographic exhibition in a Swiss institution, Eglė Kulbokaitė (*1987 Kaunas / Basel) and Dorota Gawęda (*1986, Lublin / Basel) are occupying both Fri Art and the independent WallRiss art space in Fribourg at the same time.

If you listen, you can hear the murmur. Two places, two art spaces, a small old town, hidden histories, stories told by the landscape itself, stories buried in winter hibernation. In dialogue, two space-times that can however never be experienced together, a process of reconstitution is launched, starting with the construction of a place where the action has already taken place (WallRiss) and moving on to its fictionalized recreation (Fri Art). The interplay between WallRiss and Fri Art suspends geographic coordinates, taking the exhibition onto a speculative plane.
Mouthless, then, serves as a station, a hub that makes the rhizomatic tangible. The relationship between form and content is deliberately a-hierarchical. Nothing comes first. There’s no vantage point between matter and information, event and fiction, narration and theory, the body and its environment, the landscape and whoever perceives it. Order is dissolved, the frontier always already contaminated. Mouthless aims at dismissing the concept of point of view, of the division of the world into subjects and objects. The exhibition therefore stages a critical fabulation of our idea of nature, our way of understanding and framing it, our ways of conceptualizing it as distinct objects, the body, on one hand, and the landscape on the other.
Rather than observing from one’s respective distance, we’re advised to listen to that which calls out dispersion: of autonomous bodies, of natures and of the exhibition. In the in-between, objects, contributors and images become receptacles of multiple fictions, ghost vehicles of counter-stories. Eastern European legends stand side by side with archives of local witch trials, eco-feminist texts merge into performance of transformed bodies, mutant landscapes call for your attention.

Fri Art Kunsthalle. What happened, fiction.

In the first room, a piece of stained glass accommodates an imagery produced by artificial intelligence solicited to recognize a scene. Not far away, a muffled noise reaches us. It makes its way between stuffed animals that children of the former communist block shared with each other beyond the borders of their respective homes. The sound of a tapping at a window, the same window which, at the WallRiss art space, blocks access to the site and divides the scene into two distinct sides: the observer and the observed. In the distance, the cluster of animals forms a planet. From it emanates the continuous murmur of another story to which we do not pay any attention.
In the large square room, stylized strands of story are looped on a series of screens. They refer to heterogeneous sign systems: fiction, legend, making-ofs, digital images. On-screen, real time is just another version of the virtual. Fragmentation, manipulation, confusion, and falsity. The ten screens highlight the blurring of attention spans, constant interference, in which noise replaces the self-evident.
On the ground, a series of spectator seats highlight the behavior required to transform a body into a viewer. By means of the seats, the senses are aligned, structuring the perspective, designating the goal and demarcating the target within the landscape. To become spectator, is to drive out nature. In a final room, the smell of wet soil has been synthetically reproduced. On contact with it, we are reminded of the singularity of a place. This is only artifice, playing on the virtual nature of the present experience, and the threat of its disappearance in reproduction.
What kind of thing is it that emits such an eerie cry? Mouthless says nothing. Its porous body escapes this dual narrative to invade the town and its digital networks with its murmur. We listen to it address the senses, a fragmented subjectivity. Beyond our articulated perceptions commanding the faculty of judgement. A point of friction. An imminent point in the future. The crossroads of a decision without object.

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Techno-monsters, 2020. Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Exhibition view, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art, 2020. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Mouthless…, 2020. Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Enclosure (III), 2020. Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, WallRiss. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Exhibition view, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art, 2020. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Exhibition view, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art, 2020. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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Exhibition view, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art, 2020. Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle 
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WallRiss. What happened, reality.

Visitors float, abstract, in an airlock that at once welcomes and isolates them. An opening in the flat surface of a pane of glass allows them to feel, come into direct contact with, suck in, the material from a space kept sealed. Here, sense of smell offers an alternative form for capturing or making contact with that other side that sight transforms into representation.
It is said that a film was once made in the WallRiss space. It staged performers of hybrid status: people passing through, a reading group, living actors, those with deft or deviant bodies, which were prepared so as to be registered in the digital code, take on the role of navigators, inflections and orientations sent and received by their outer skin. They became the site of predilection for the transmission of an exhibition’s sign-matter, vehicles of stories that imploded in on themselves, exploded onto the surface of outer garments. In the mannered aesthetic of horror, these bodies hold our gaze. This gaze that approaches them from a rational distance or turns them into a spectacle. Obstructed by a window, this sealed box, we are told, housed these scenes. In this flattened décor, nature is enclosed in an agricultural conception, sedentary, a productive relationship to the earth. This representation is locked in a 19th century diorama. A surveillance camera establishes real time, the data of an ecological paradigm. In this space, ways of framing nature overlap. The successive layers of this story correspond to the spread of a landscape.

Curation and Text by Nicolas Brulhart

Featured image
Exhibition view, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Mouthless, Fri Art, 2020.
Photo Guillaume Baeriswyl, Courtesy of Fri Art Kunsthalle

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