Walking Inside: Discovering Jasmina Cibic’s Boudoirs
Walking Inside: Discovering Jasmina Cibic’s Boudoirs
Jasmina Cibic: Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage in-depth explorations of key concepts evoked by the works presented in Jasmina Cibic: Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear.
Different kinds of walks can be performed within the exhibition Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear, by Slovenian artist Jasmina Cibic. The following instructions offer you three: a walk that undulates alongside curtains, a dance-walk with diverse allegorical figures, and a walk that allows you to traverse a cinematic screen to carefully consider the architectural decor where a political debate is taking place.
Your wanderings will take place inside DHC/ART’s main building, 451 St-Jean Street. You will need a notepad, a pen, and an exhibition plan. You will move through all four floors of the building, identified as G1, G2, G3, and G4.
Jasmina Cibic’s exhibition at DHC/ART is a vast, immersive installation that explores the notion of “soft power”, which is when a political regime uses strategies of seduction—rather than coercion—in order to impose a certain image of the nation. Art and architecture are prime instruments for soft power, which subtly infiltrates their walls, ceiling, furniture, and materiality and influences our bodily movements within these spaces. At DHC/ART, Cibic uses the case study of former Yugoslavia and focuses on its different pavilions presented at Universal Exhibitions during the twentieth century: at Barcelona (1929), Paris (1937), Brussels (1958), and Montreal (Expo 67).
While DHC/ART’s satellite building at 465 St-Jean deals with state-sanctioned public architecture, the building at 451 St-Jean is re-imagined as the residential house of an unnamed collector, who has assembled imagined artefacts from the above four Yugoslav pavilions. Thus, Cibic allows us to investigate the myriad ways in which politics may dangerously permeate public architecture.
1. Walking, Undulating, Alongside Curtains
Architecture is never neutral: it ‘does’ something to our bodies, makes them move in certain ways, directs our gazes. Knowing this, let’s focus first and foremost on the curtains. These are the main design motif of the entire building: they cover the inside walls of all four exhibition floors and transform the gallery into a boudoir-like space.
Upon entering G1, direct your attention to the curtains, then walk slowly following their movement, observing the effect that they have on the other elements in the space. Now, walk up the stairs to the other floors, observing this same design element. Pause at the fourth floor, and watch the film State of Illusion. You will find the curtain motif in the film as well. At the end of your exploration, find a quiet spot to sit and think about two things that are happening on each of the four floors in relation to the curtains: these can be emotional, gestural, sonic, atmospheric, or visual elements, among others. Write them down on a few pages in your notepad, in a non-linear fashion, in a shape inspired by your walk.
2. Walking and Dancing with Mother Nation
Women’s bodies are constantly instrumentalized in the soft-power goals of a nation, and take the shape of various allegories, all stemming from the Mother Nation. Female allegories populate throughout 451 St-Jean. As soon as you begin your walk in G1, you will encounter the central allegory of Mother Nation, titled Land of Plenty.
Walk slowly around the Land of Plenty sculpture in G1. Observe the suggested gestures, posture, expression, clothes, what is in her arms. Reinterpret these with your body (or imagine yourself doing it). Afterward, do the same thing for the three figures that are suspended on the curtains. Then walk to the other floors: you will find other female figures circulating throughout the gallery spaces, or in the filmic spaces. Repeat the same exercise as in G1.
Use a few pages in your notepad and draw a continuous line that expresses your gestural explorations (imagined or performed) in relation to each figure. Each should have its own page, its own continuous line. Are there resemblances between the shapes? Differences?
3. Walking Across a Cinematic Screen and Exploring a Filmed Architecture
Watch the film Tear Down and Rebuild in G2. This time, observe everything that is occurring aside from the language and the four protagonists: the interior of the ancient Palace of the Federation in Belgrade, the sculptures, and the tapestries located in the various spaces. At select moments during the film (or for its entire duration), put your hands over your ears and watch the film in silence. Afterward, draw the fragments of architecture, sculptures and 2D artworks that struck you or fascinated you in your notepad. Let these reflections rest for a while—you can come back to them later.
Now come back to the front desk in the lobby. Take an exhibition brochure, where you will find the essay written by DHC/ART’s curator Cheryl Sim. We invite you to read it, and to think about it in dialogue with your somatic and tactile walked explorations.
Photo: Jasmina Cibic, State of Illusion (production still), 2018.