Guest Project
March 22, 2021–March 27, 2021

Open Studio: Still Lives

Wilf Speller, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

March 22, 2021–March 27, 2021 | Warehouse 13

Explore the studios of Alserkal Arts Foundation's three artists-in-residence

Starts March 22, 2021

Ends March 27, 2021

Venue Warehouse 13

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Still Lives brought together the collaborative practices of Alserkal Arts Foundation artists-in-residence Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė and Wilf Speller in collaboration with Nilz Källgren. Comprising of works in video, sculpture, painting and sound, the exhibition engaged with the tradition of still life painting as a representational technology that stages nature and captures cycles of life and death in an illusory fixity.

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

night of the hunter (holding hands), 2021 / night of the number (dead swan), 2021

Polystyrene, permanent marker

200x200 cm

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Staging, 2020

Inkjet print on archival paper

50x70cm, framed

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor, 2020

4k video and sound

3:33

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Raw (Azur/Julia), 2020

Inkjet print on archival paper

50x70 cm, framed. Photo: Courtesy of the artists.

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

All this time I was finding myself, 2021

Three channel audio, headphones.

Dimensions variable. Performers: Nanna Olasdotter Hallberg and Behnam Taheri

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Ghost Feeder (III), 2021

Architectural model, acrylic and paint

15x15x42 cm

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Ghost Feeder (II), 2021

Architectural model, acrylic and paint

15x15x42 cm

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Ghost Feeder (I), 2021

Architectural model, acrylic and paint

15x15x42 cm

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

Salvage, 2021

2 channel HD video

5'00

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Embrace (Backstage), 2020

Inkjet print on archival paper

40x50 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artists

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Idzie Bobo, 2020 / Unknown (Fribourg City Archives), 2020 / Reader (Julia), 2020 /

Inkjet print on archival paper

40x50 cm. Framed / 61x91 cm. Framed / 61x91 cm. Framed

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

Principles of Biology, 2021

Water, distressed denim jeans

Dimensions variable. Photo: Courtesy of the artists

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

Principles of Biology, 2021

Water, distressed denim jeans

Dimensions variable

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

Hybrid, 2021

Hybrid SUV, car cover, swarm of flies

Dimensions variable

Wilf Speller & Nilz Källgren

Still Life (dead flies), 2021

Three imported dead house flies

Dimensions variable

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Reader (Azur), 2020

Inkjet print on archival paper

61x91 cm. Framed

Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

Photographic Series

The series of photographs on view depicts behind-the- scenes moments captured by the artists during the filming of their video works Mouthless Part I (45:26, 2020) and Part II (in production). Embracing speculative fiction and fusion of disparate texts, Mouthless sets out to critically contend with dominant concepts of nature, body, history and landscape and offers artworks as interfaces to mutate and re-think their relations as receptacles of multiple fictions, ghost vehicles of counter-stories.

Gawęda and Kulbokaitė propose the horror aesthetic as a means for looking into the fear which is attributed to being outsider or an “other”. Within this aesthetic the series of photos considers the construction of the deviant, heretic subject, and the 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.

Malevolent spirits inhabiting Eastern European bogs serve to demonstrate that the past was never actually ‘past’ at all. In the photographs, the readers performed by the artists’ friends are captured in the in-between moments of performance and becoming-monster they are to embody. Two still life assemblages complete the series with an array of symbolic interpretations, respectively depicting the red carnation flowers and a hand-written record of a civic trial from the Fribourg magistrate proceedings during the early-modern European witch persecutions (XVth - XVIII c.).

Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor 2020
4K video and sound. 3’ 33.

Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor is the title of Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė’s latest video work. Its title directly recalls the baroque work by the celebrated commercial painter of still life, Rachel Ruysch (1683). The video is a short critical fabulation on the idea of nature. In the eyes of the protagonist arise reflections of chimeric dissolving creatures which escape classification and fixity and haunt the onlooker. Coming in and out of focus is also her face, drawing the parallels between the instability of different representations.

Produced with the aid of a Generative Adversarial Network, the reflections contest the art-historicised trope of still life. With this piece, Gawęda and Kulbokaitė open up an important process of investigation into the concept of ‘Nature’ as that, which has been traditionally defined as outside to the subject. The environment separated from the body through its technological mediations, gives the illusory promise of a self as whole and intact. The work in equal measures points to the hegemonies of representation in art production and
to emerging algorithmic systems, which increasingly build our understanding of the surrounding world.

The video is accompanied by original soundtrack produced by the artists in collaboration with composer Haraldur Thrastarson and singer Abongile Gwele.

Ghost Feeders (I - III) 2021
Architectural model, acrylic and paint, 15x15x42 cm

This new edition of three small-scale sculptures take the traditional form of Stogastulpiai - carved wooden structures which appear on the crossroads in Lithuania. In pre- Christian times in Lithuania, such structures were used as ghost feeders for ancestral and wandering spirits. This was where food was laid out weekly as an offering to the hungry visitants. After the introduction of Christianity in the region, the structures became votive shrines with representations from the Christian pantheon and adorned with crosses.

Ghost Feeders has a glossy surface imitating the visualisation aesthetics of real estate development projects. The works comment on emergent symbolisms, drawing parallels with the common appropriation of folklore in national identity building. The objects hint on the in-between time and the cyclicality of time and ongoing reshaping of identities.

This work was produced in collaboration with one of Dubai’s architectural model making companies located in Al Quoz, Real Model International.