What works have you chosen to show in Sofia?
I have brought a collection of my most recent work which was conceived after COVID became more serious in Europe. I am showing two different bodies of work in Goethe-Institut and have installed three works in total. Outside of the exhibition space hangs a large satin glove, “Ephelia.” Within the exhibition space, I am showing “The Party’s Over”, an installation of six different ceramic masks. On the opposite wall, there is a seventh mask, “Wednesday Bath.” In Swimming Pool I installed, “pinching, pressing, gnawing, beating,” a larger modular ceramic works that carpet almost two meters of the floor.
What was your specific response to each of the two spaces, Goethe-Institut and Swimming Pool?
It’s impossible to walk into Swimming Pool without feeling its history – an imagination of parties missed, ghosts of walls, exhibitions never seen, and people never met. The space is filled with spirit. Having never been to Swimming Pool before coming to Sofia, I understood the space to be an intimate space, nestled on the fifth floor. I wanted to make a work that referenced that intimacy and gestured towards domestic spaces. “pinching, pressing, gnawing, beating” is a work about one of the most intimate spaces, the bathroom. The bathroom is a setting of a type of personal intimacy, a time we spend just with ourselves. I think that personal intimacy functions in a similar manner to how Elaine Scarry talks about pain, “to have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.” Pain and personal intimacy resist language and also resist an ability to be communicated with others. I was interested in portraying this personal intimacy with ideas of being in the nude, but nudity can function, void of gaze or representation of the physical body. The ceramic socks are my way of representing the state of being undressed. They are burned into the permanent state of the dirty sock on the bathroom floor. The whole section of the bathroom is made from the memory of a bathroom.
For the space in Goethe-Institut, I wanted to engage with the wrought iron staircase, as it referenced a certain type of grandeur of a different era. I have always been interested in how sculptures are placed or hung in unconventional manners, as a way to destabilize architecture. The piece installed in Goethe-Institut, “Ephelia,” is dressing the staircase as the fingers dip into the foyer.
Can you talk some more about using clothes and masks not as something to be worn but as aesthetic objects? How do they interact with their surroundings?
“pinching, pressing, gnawing, beating” is about the lack of clothing and more particularly the lack of socks. Socks are often the last piece of clothing we take off as we undress, and hence their removal symbolizes a certain state of being undressed. The dirty sock on the floor is both humorous, gross, vulnerable, sexual, and poetic. I wanted my work to encapsulate this “dirty sock energy” and reflect these moments of being without clothing and outside of the gaze of others.
In the case of the “Ephelia,” I was drawn to how the form of the glove can mean completely different things when it’s made out of different materials. Gloves made out of leather, wool, or cotton often have a utilitarian function of keeping us warm or protecting hands that are doing labor, but gloves made out of silk, satin, or calfskin almost mock the utilitarian origins and primary purpose of the glove. A glove made of satin is meant to represent a certain class structure and gender construct, and a person wearing it communicates that they would not soil their hands in “touching” the world. With the pandemic, touch and physical contact with others have been put into question. Whom we touch and how often we are touched has been drastically changed in the last year. I think that’s why I became so focused on the ideas around touch, and how clothing was used and is still being used to represent certain societal constructs on what or who is allowed to touch what or whom.
In the case of the masks, I am interested in looking at how the sheet mask today is used as a tool for self-care, not only through caring for the skin but through its power to provide temporal anonymity. I believe that we live in an era of the hyper self: with smartphones and selfies, we have never been so aware of what we look like. There is an almost inescapable terror that we must always “wear” our face. I think that the contemporary sheet mask is a way of relieving ourselves from the terror of the self, even if only for a few minutes. The masks take on their expression from being thrown on the ground, and the anger or shock one sees in each mask is all very accidental; how amazing is the human ability to read emotion into three holes on a round slab of clay.