ISLET FICTIONS Or the presence of the gap
Amidst the fall and pandemic of 2020, curator Meryem Saadi and I had a residency at Art Lab Gnesta. Challenged by the COVID-19 restrictions, we took on a hybrid format that allowed us to invite and collaborate with the geographically far away located artists Milagros Bedoya, Tatiana Danilevskaya, and Abdellah M. Hassak, who all, in one way or another, engage with sonic, performative, and participatory practices and deal with questions related to language, sound culture, and alternative narratives. The project developed slowly over a year through online gatherings, collective and individual research, and exploring the various cities where we were all based. One of the outcomes was an exhibition presented at Art Lab Gnesta, located at an islet in central Gnesta, Sweden.
When our mind conceptualizes a place we have never been to, it glues fragments together and begins to imagine as a way to fill the gaps missing. This exhibition deals with the human sensation of being situated locally at someplace and simultaneously being remotely distanced in relation to elsewhere, and the images created of sites we have never been to. Artists Milagros Bedoya, Tatiana Danilevskaya, and Abdellah M. Hassak have never been to Gnesta and for the exhibition they have created new artworks that show that a place can only be legible by looking at other sites. The artworks can be seen as an artistic response to the invitation to participate in a site-related project formed by the curators.
In the video essay Shoreline Anatomies (2022), Milagros Bedoya has collected data and historical information to learn and get to know Gnesta. From her perspective as a trained architect, she measures and juxtaposes the waterside lines of Frösjön-Bryggeriholmen with the shoreline of Lima that she revisits from her childhood. In a time of strict isolation, she has collaborated with her father, knowledgeable of geology, and together they explore the steep muscular anatomy and the mountains her hometown rests upon. The work reflects on time passed and coastlines as sites of transformation due to geological agencies, re-drawn territories, and climate change through effects such as erosion.
With a practice working with language, history, and narration, Tatiana Danilevskaya often pays interest to mediums used as political tools for communication, such as radio, posters, and augmented reality — a way to simulate reality. Her collaborative project Sister’s Talk (2022), consisting of posters, a mini-zine, and an AR mask that can be experienced outside the building, finds an affinity between two disparate places. It narrates a dialogue between two industrial buildings with brick chimneys of the late 1800s — the former brewery, today Art Lab Gnesta, and the bakery in Voronezh that was originally built as a steam mill. However, after several challenging decades, the bakery was sold to a real-estate developer who demolished it — despite being marked as cultural heritage. Sister's Talk plays with commercial copywriting with inspiration from information signs tourists encounter in new places. At the same time, with seriousness, pointing out how sometimes chance shapes history and what is preserved for the future.
As a sound artist and art educator for youths, Abdellah M. Hassak works collaboratively and engages in the relationship between sound and spatiality. For his installation A Symphony of Cities (Gnesta, Lima, Marrakech, Voronezh) (2021-2022), he recorded sounds in Marrakech and collected urban soundscapes created by other members of the project in Gnesta, Lima, and Voronezh. Then, he mixed them together and translated them into music compositions played by classical instruments, revealing the various atmospheres of the cities. Yet the compositions are inseparable and blend into a diversity of tonalities. The sounds are mediated through megaphones associated with citizens’ voices in the public space and presented together with large printed textile banners with layered partitures. A Symphony of Cities is installed in the communal greenhouse at Art Lab Gnesta — a shared room used by the people living in the city.