Saturday, November 15, 2014

Euroarabia in Stambul

Euroarabia in London

Text and coordination: Ewa Sułek

Euroarabia is an art project in space by Julia Curyło and Liza Sherzai. Sherzai, who these days lives in Warsaw, Poland, is of Afghan origin and Warsaw artist’s Curyło family was displaced to central Poland from “kresy”, the region that is today part of Belarus. The migration is deeply written into the Euroarabia project, underlining the complicated clashes between cultural, religious and historical background of Europe and the eastern lands. The project touches the problem of belonging as well as moving and the intertwining of those two in the modern world. These topics are combined with the main subject of Euroarabia, which is the issue of women’s rights and their place and importance in history.

The eyes of the Matrioshka dolls belong to Frida Kahlo, Yoko Ono, Oriana Fallaci, Marina Abramovic, Alina Szapocznikow, Golshifteh Farahani, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Simone de Beauvoir, Tamara Łempicka, Shirin Neshat, Amelia Earhard, Hannah Arendt and others. The choice of these characters is very conscious. All represent courageous, intelligent, independent and important women, who somehow, by their lives and works, contributed to the fight against stereotypes historically and culturally attached to women. They belong both – to the eastern and western cultures and come from all over the world. What unites them is their individuality and disagreement to the set rules and roles often imposed to women back in the days and now.

The installation consist of fifteen Matrioshka dolls, sculptures 220 cm high and 130 cm width made of poliuretan and filled with air. The material was already used by Curyło before in the famous Chicks installation (currently on view in New York, Brooklyn, ART3 gallery). The inflatables also occurred in a number of her paintings. The objects filled with air underline and symbolize the impermanent, and the unstable, the gentle hidden in the intense and heavy black overwhelming figure of Matrioshka, the East European traditional doll. Each sculpture is placed on the flower wreath, typical folk attribute of Slavic women. The Eastern European elements are combined with the Arabic burkas – every Matrioshka is covered completely by the black veil, so that only eyes are visible. The burkas are covered by the sentences in Persian and English that, if watched from the distance, create the visual sophisticated embroidery.

Traditionally Matrioshka is a Russian doll – colorful image of a girl in a folk floral or striped dress, stereotypical in its idea of pretty faced, big eyed healthy village woman with red chicks. Dolls by Curyło and Sherzai have nothing of that cheerful peasant carelessness. They are overwhelmed by the black burkas, symbols of the modern slavery of women, being at the same time the grotesque or even absurd figures and scary fairytale creatures introducing a lot of discomfort to the viewer. The depressing black color is only interfered by the colorful wreaths and sentences and the vivid female eyes – full of hope and determination regardless of the heavy physical cover of the burka.

2014 is a Polish year in Turkey and an installation is a part of Polish-Turkish art interactions with its premiere in November in Istanbul.

Matrioshka – special action, Victoria Station, London, October 2014, curator Ewa Sułek

Matrioshka – special action, Tate Britain, London, October 2014, curator Ewa Sułek