Maja Sikorska

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A piece of irony
(I can't remember when I stopped touching trees)

The whole thing was an experiment. An effort to create a line of communication with an audience, using a language that is new to me. Part of my practice is trying out new techniques on my own and in collaboration with others, combining mediums and choosing challenging processes hoping to gain something, learn something through it. In a way, this time, I have failed miserably. In the end I could not make the piece work properly, due to my lack of experience with its medium. I simply have not learned to speak this language.

The idea came from thinking about language and how much it shapes how we experience the world. As children we learn what something is by experiencing it, it gets labeled with a word which then becomes the association for it and a sort of extension through which we experience the thing. After a while it need not be experienced again since we remember what it is and what it feels like. But is there something lost when you experience the world primarily through language and sight? I can't remember when I stopped touching trees. When the simple curiosity and tactile enjoyment of experiencing the world physically was overpowered and stifled by convention - by how to physically move throughout the world (preferably with your hands in your pockets).

I wanted to make a work that invited the audience to touch and spend time on their own with the work, feeling, looking and listening - simply put, to experience it physically. Alas, the technical part of the work failed near the finish line. Now there is nothing to touch, nothing to hear. And I offer you this: a piece of irony. I call it this because it is the furthest away from my original intent. I offer you a written narration of an absent work.

In front of you is a monochrome black painting. There are different structures protruding from the canvas and next to the painting are a pair of headphones and a bottle of hand sanitizer. You come closer to the painting, and read the title - a simple instruction written out in three languages: Touch me gently / Dotknij mnie ostrożnie / Rör vid mig försiktigt. You take a few drops of hand sanitizer and rub your hands.

You put the headphones on and gently touch the surface of the painting with your fingers. As you do, a pre-recorded sound starts playing. It is a calming sound of liquid, somewhere between the rippling of a brook and a distant sound of boiling water. You move your hand, feeling the surface, maybe you close your eyes and put your whole palm down to better feel its structure. It has an organic irregular shape to it, a bit like molten rock that has cooled down and hardened. The surface, however, is smooth to the touch and slightly bulging, like stone smoothed out over time by waves and sand. Your hand moves over to a different part of the painting and the sound changes. You might remove your hand at this point, and the sound stops. It needs your touch to play.

So you return to it. You find that this part has a surface a bit like charred wood, with some deformities around it. As you move your hand over it you hear a deep crumpling sound. There is a quality to it, a kind of echo that suggests the sound comes from a large enclosed space, perhaps underground? As you move your hand to the third and final surface of the work you find that this part looks and feels less like something found in nature. You feel lumps - larger at the center, thinning out downwards. There are horizontal lines cutting through them, pulling the material to the sides and creating uneven bulging lines that fade out into the flat silent surface of the canvas. This surface is accompanied with a loop of a gentle wooshy sound, as if something was emanating air - pushing it out of every cell - inside a glass dome, where the sound stays and whooshes around, blending with its own echo.