February 1-27, 2020 in The Demo Room at Galleri Image
Opening and performance: January 31, 16:00-18:00
Małgorzata Żurada’s Liminoid Shrine draws inspiration from Polish kapliczka, or “small chapels” - outdoor shrines that house images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or Christian saints. Kapliczka can be found throughout Poland, often as standalone structures along roadways and intersections, or as smaller shrines mounted to the outside of buildings and within window sills.
Żurada is interested in the “in-betweenness” of such semi-public shrines. Kapliczka represent an element of one reality transposed into another, as thresholds to the spiritual realm. They form pockets of sacred space in otherwise profane landscapes, out of the ordinary and out of place.
The artist is similarly interested in the in-betweenness of The Demo Room. As a street-level window gallery, The Demo Room is located on the border of Galleri Image and Vestergade, at once above ground and below ground, high and low, public and private, accessible yet insulated. The gallery could thus be understood as “liminal” in the sense that it straddles different boundaries and classifications. It is ambiguous.
“Liminal” is often used in a theoretical sense to describe in-between phenomena that allow for subversive transformations. In writing about rites of passage, for example, Arnold van Gennep uses the term “limen” to describe the transitional phase between one state of being and another (such as that between a “boy” and a “man,” to use a generic example). He argues that such transformative spaces have the power to subvert social norms - in certain rites of passage, it is encouraged to literally break the rules during the transitional phase. But Żurada instead turns to cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, who argues that liminal phenomena are not truly subversive because they are born out of social obligation. Rule-breaking is both sanctioned and temporary, with a prescribed outcome. Rather than subverting social norms, the liminal actually upholds the logic of the larger social structure.
In searching for something with more subversive potential, Turner theorizes the liminoid. Like the liminal, the liminoid functions as an in-between space that enables transformation. But according to Turner, the liminoid is not rooted in obligatory ritual or divine worship. It does not fall on a predictable rite of passage. It is instead a space for voluntary, playful, and spontaneous experimentation that may lead to novel outcomes.
Turner would likely describe kapliczka as liminal phenomena because they are informed Orthodox dogma and follow a predictable script; worshippers approach the shrines as sinners and, through the act of prayer, walk away forgiven of their sins. In contrast, Żurada’s Liminoid Shrine combines allusions to many different religious and cultural traditions.
The encircled, asymmetrical arrow that fills the back wall points to the shrine’s directionality, as each element aligns with the North-South axis of the world - pointing up and down, towards heaven and hell. The paper scrolls on either side of the arrow allude to the Chinese meridian system of energy flow in the human body, specifically two acupuncture points on one of the main vertical pathways: “One hundred meetings” is on the very top of the head (baihui), and the “Governor vessel 1” is between the coccyx bone and the anus. In front of the arrow stands a horned, spherical sculpture that refers to the alchemical symbol for bismuth, the Earth, and the astrological sign of Taurus. Sitting atop an elliptical mirror, the sculpture plays with the idea that the material world and the astral world are mirror reflections of one another.
These allusions make Żurada’s shrine much more open to interpretation than kapliczka. Its distance from any one specific religious doctrine creates space for choice. Viewers can choose to engage with Liminoid Shrine on a spiritual level, or not. Or in the spirit of Turner, they can choose to consider the meaning and function of public shrines.
Performance - Breath of Vacancy
At the exhibition’s opening reception, Małgorzata Żurada consecrated Liminoid Shrine with a performance made together with composer and programmer Andreja Andric.
Titled Breath of Vacancy, the performance was a meditative exploration of sound inspired by the classic Chinese text, Tao Te Ching. Andric encoded an excerpt from this text using the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) to create a score for wooden recorders. Each breath-long recorder tone corresponds to a specific letter or space from the book.
These tones are layered on top of electronic sounds sourced from Andric’s video work, 60 Chords 60 Colors. The interplay of acoustic and electronic sound creates a directionless and evolving soundscape that echoes the Tao Te Ching concepts of doing nothing with a purpose, teaching without words, and the advantages of non-action.
Andric opened the performance with the following oration:
Important message for the consecration of object or place.
Each breath is a loan that can not be paid back. Each breath you take is an allowance from the pool that cannot be exhausted. Each action you take is an investment to the memory pool. Each action is a donation to the Hall of Records. Each action is an expenditure from your limited resources of jing. Each action is a loss of yuan chi that can not be replenished. Yuán qì. Jīng. Mana. Ancestral life force. Now: listen.
Liminoid Shrine is the first of three exhibitions at The Demo Room featuring former AaBKC Residency artists-in-residents, and is presented in collaboration with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter. Curated by Pamela Grombacher. Supported by Aarhus Kommune.
Małgorzata Żurada (PL) is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Zurich (CH). She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (MFA in 2002) and took part in many exhibitions and a-i-r programs in Poland and abroad. Her area of interest revolves around the notions of meaning and belief. She develops her works from esoteric theories and rituals of past and present. The main areas of her research are visual languages connected to various belief systems and means of coding secret knowledge. She’s a recipient of various grants and awards, including the scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland in 2016. Website: mzurada.com
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To view the previous exhibiton series Demo, curated by Sophia Ioannou Gjerding and William Kudahl, follow this link.