Avesta Museum, Sweden
May 19th - September 16th, 2019
DP - Karolina Pajak
editor - Tom Waldom
Invincible, the young woman Sarah stands, her gaze fixed steadily on the visitor. Behind her, wave after wave of explosions destroy a home. The simple home, so lovingly cared for, becomes a ruin.
This horrendous moment is permanently etched into Sarah’s memory. In the fist sequence of the video work, she and Lama are rushed from their neighbourhood towards an unknown new home and an uncertain future.
The war in Syria has forced millions of people to abruptly flee from their homes. Some of them came to Avesta – and some of the Syrian refugee women came to Avesta Art to assist the artist OLEK in the extensive and painstaking project of crocheting OLEK’s installation for Avesta Art 2016. This was an encounter that would come to strongly affect both people and art.
OLEK – the Polish-born and long-standing New York-based artist – is known as the Crochet Queen who has taken a disparaged craft and made it into a celebrated artistic tool. OLEK always bases her works on the place in which the piece will be shown. On her first visit to Avesta, she became fixated on the simple peasant homestead, Stubbsveden, at Avesta Bison Park. Here, in kitchen and quarters are the simple essentials of everyday life, along with traces of a woman’s homemaking efforts. Curtains, flowers, a crocheted lampshade. It is here she now brings the Syrian women in her new video work. In the memory of an original home, they get a moment of peace.
“My art explores what is and what happens in our lives. I want to make people flinch, open their eyes and think for themselves. My first installation in Avesta, In the Blink of an Eye, brings us into a home where something has happened. An attack – an explosion – has wreaked havoc in the cosy shelter.
“The Syrian women showed me photos and videos from their ravaged homes and cities. Of course they want to go back, but it is not possible now. Their reality confirms that none of us can take anything for granted. Terror, war, earthquakes or other natural disasters may force us to flee. Illness and deaths of close relatives can forever change our living conditions. The challenges are universal.”
The video work Run Away from Me Now has grown out of the conversation between OLEK and the Syrian women, Sarah and Lama. It has also taken inspiration from the poem Home by Warsan Shire: No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.
Melodic, beautiful, tranquil images from Stubbsveden and a train journey express both the contrast to the terrible horrors of the war, and the search for a new home. The observer has time to reflect on the confinement of the livestock and on the spinning globe, which seems to be indicating that the refugee women will stay in Avesta. Resolutely, the women wander through healthy but autumnal Swedish hardwood forests. At the conclusion is Sarah, forthright and steadfast, on one of Avesta’s oldest bridges, as a link between two homes, two countries, two continents, in one humanity, on one planet.
“What is a home?” wonders the artist and searches for answers deeper than in mere objects. Moods, feelings, memories, a few belongings of very special significance. In the new work, the women try to rest even in the devastated home.
OLEK is the artist name for Agata Oleksiak. She was born in 1978 in Poland, studied at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and is a long-time resident of New York. OLEK is very engaged in women’s rights, freedom of expression and human equality.
(Text from Avesta Art Catalogue written by Karin Perers and translated from Swedish by Chris Kleinman.)