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‘bourn’

Antonina Szram

 

28 JUL – 11 AUG

Feathers, raw wool, barbed wire, ashes, home-grown silk, vellum made from human skin: these materials form the basis for Bourn.

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Two years in the making, the exhibition explores man’s relationship with nature – a relationship which the artist Antonina Szram has explored in depth, with a great deal of soul-searching.

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“When my husband and I were running a farm shop, there were times when we had to bring the animals we had reared to slaughter,” she says. “I don’t come from a farming background, so it was a new experience for me.

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“I remember when we had been plucking the birds, we had generated ten enormous bags full of feathers. I was overwhelmed with exhaustion and guilt. It seemed wrong to just throw them away: I almost felt as though they should be honoured in some sort of ritual.

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“I began to be interested in other rituals involving nature, such as tarring and feathering: it was as if nature were employed to enact human feelings of shame and guilt.”

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To express her feelings about the experience, Antonina created an installation in an abandoned Cornish mill, creating a “feather wall” which in January 2018 was installed at the Thrown Gauntlet Arts Festival.

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The human skin was donated by a patient with an autoimmune skin disease, who sheds his skin abnormally quickly. This could be a result of environmental factors.

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Antonina is exploring a concept called “dark ecology”, which explores man’s relationship with the Earth, which he loves but on which he makes his irreparable stamp. Climate change, exploitation, the “dance” between man and the land: these are themes that Antonina explores with her work. She cites philosopher Timothy Mortons as the originator of dark ecology, and says her work stems from what he has developed. “To grasp the changes we created for ourselves, we need to go down into all th small worlds, and stop maybe seeing this whole world of ours as one,” she says. “There is more than just one biosphere but masses of them – and inside humans, too.

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“The whole is not less than its parts, and the human is not above it all. That’s the reason why I have been deconstructing things and examining them with a microscope.”

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She also explores the concept of boundaries. Born in Poland, the child of intellectual dissidents, Antonina lived in Denmark before finding her way to Cornwall with her family. “I think that being a serial migrant, crossing many borders and boundaries, one develops this curious inconspicuous survival skill,” she says.

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Many types of boundaries appear in Antonina’s exhibition, including barbed wire and water: a moving image is of a drop of water where the river meets the sea, in the Camel Estuary.

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Many types of media are utilised in the exhibition, including painting, sculpture, and film: one of the two films created for the event is projected into a bowl made of ashes, with gesso on the inside.

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This exhibition is both an attractive and thought-provoking experience.

 

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