Photo by Thirangie Jayatilake
Among the flashy posters adorning the elevator walls, what catches one’s eye is a simple white sheet of paper. On it are the words “things happening to you” and “things you do” scrawled as if by an unsteady hand. The relationship between these phrases is seen in the squiggly arrows drawn connecting them to a big red circular scribble, the only color on the page.
It takes a moment to notice the text at the bottom right hand corner of the page. Unobtrusive and inconspicuous, it states, “for text lovers. and sound. and space. for space not the lovers.” and on the next line “evgenija filova. project space. tuesday april 3rd 5:30pm.” A poster that vaguely whispered the event succeeded in singling itself out from the indistinguishable cacophony of most poster-covered notice-boards. This one was an indicative of the project itself.
Walking into the Arts Center after April 5, one could not help but stop abruptly, regardless of one’s destination, and look into the transformed Project Space. Its open doors are the sixth side of the cube into which the Project Space has shrunk. The other five sides of the cube’s interior are covered in letters that initially seem arbitrary, until you notice words such as “forget,” “can,” “holdings.” Blue lines form an uneven grid around the letters, adding color to a space that is otherwise black text on white paper. A soft but distinct ambient sound surrounds the space.
In a rush of realization, one discovers that within the grids are contained sentences and phrases. The linear, horizontal pattern of the text and unequal spacing serve to confuse the viewer at first glance. As text it could read as ordered nonsense or as complete meaning, depending on how one approaches it. The space could be described as inspiring, unique or even somewhat unsettling, but incontestably memorable.
The absence of a concluding opinion on this artwork is not unique to the spectator.
“I still reflect on it, I’m still not quite certain what I did. I’m still unpacking it and it has become a big case study for me. Actually, the take-home from my defense — the conclusion that we reached — was that this was one big draft,” said Evgenija Filova, its creator.
There was just one thing she concluded for certain before she started the creation process: “I knew I wanted a space that text lives in.”
The project was inspired by the creator’s multiple interests, most notably spaces, text and its materialization in space, poetry, the institution of art and the ways of exhibiting in a gallery. She derived inspiration from the poetry book There: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other by Etel Adnan, and The Queer Art of Failure by Judith Halberstam.
Halberstam’s book assisted her in the theoretical aspect of her project, through its information on the reading of queer spaces. This furthered her project as it helped her interpret her own artwork as the exhibition of a queer space, through poetry.
Adnan’s book explored the idea of an uncertain and unknown place called there and how we relate to it. It served as an enlightening source as it also conveyed notions of an unknown space through poetry.
In light of this, Filova did a lot of research about the concepts of, she said, “unknowing, unlearning, undoing, unbecoming, unbeing” which led her to conclude that she was interested in a space of absence, one where you cannot be present at.
The exhibit itself wished to give the viewer different aspects to their experience. The little room itself, the rest of the gallery space and the view from outside generated three distinct ways to experience the project, what Evgenija described as “simultaneity of multiplicities.” The background sound was made by layering multiple sound recordings of her text being laminated.
“I’ve had all these writings of mine that I’ve collected, that I assembled and wrote in a grid and printed out on 823 sheets of A4 paper,” she said, explaining the process of physically creating the space.
Filova faced several challenges in the process of creating the piece, including figuring out how to attach the laminated sheets onto the ceiling and how to fill in the little gaps of wall that still remained after she had assembled the text. She appreciated the process, however, and described the idea to add “glitch space” in the empty spaces of the wall, with some of the original text repeated, as the cherry on top of the project.
Her major take-home from the project was that she liked working with theory and reading to explore different concepts and pull them into her work.
“This is where I want to keep going on, in terms of exploring space and the relationship we have to space, how we feel when we are in a particular space. This is the kind of direction I want to be going,” she said.
Shalini Corea is Deputy News Editor. Email her at [email protected]