dimitrina sevova

Twenty-second series – Porcelain and Volcano. The Cracks and the Game

2022. Medium-specific installation investigating different stages of clay. Various hand-built and cast objects, raw clay to fired and glazed porcelain by the artist, intermingled with found objects treated with clay slip and pigments, wall painted in geometric monochrome clay slip. Dimensions variable. Installation and detail views at @theOff.space in the exhibition Last Words from the Periphery III.


Installation and detail views of Twenty-second series – Porcelain and Volcano. The Cracks and the Game from the group exhibition Last words from the Periphery III at @theOff.space, Zurich, curated by Rocco A. De Filippo and Olena Iegorova. Photos courtesy of the artist or, as indicated, by Sebastian Lendenmann

Twenty-second series – Porcelain and Volcano. The Cracks and the Game

Working deliberately across contradictions, in this installation the artist investigates different stages of clay, from softness and fluidity to concreteness, from raw to fired, from roughness to smooth glazed surfaces, from brittleness and fragility to the hardness of the material, between painting and sculpture. It evolves different temporalities, the blocking of movements, and process between material and concept – it is about dualistic transformation.

The wall, painted with clay slip, half in different hues of the clay itself, half treated with pigments, forms a geometrical abstraction which evokes modernist aesthetics. The sculptural objects have a baroque, figurative sensibility. As though the two aesthetics cannot hold together, respectively associated with progress and cleanness or with decay, negativity, pathos, and the sublime. The installation unfolds a dream reality by displacement, tracking down, producing and invoking a phantom at the limits of its incongruity, in a theatrical setup that unfolds a drama in the relation between mass and surface to release an incorporeal double. The wall painting, within the architecture of the building due to be demolished, is clay slip applied to the wall and left to dry, revealing cracks, peeling off under the inherent physical forces and resistance of the material that lead to its shrinking and disintegration in a probabilistic sense. This process is independent from the operation that founded it, in this case the artist. Chaos is a property of time that intervenes in the ideational material or stratum to valorize the event as a crack. Being creative but also destructive, abusive, the process inscribed itself into the very activity of living, in the inevitable relation between death and life that, “as natura naturans produces the world by a process of derivation and degradation without limit.”

Usually, flat representation by artists must prevent cracks. In the installation, the surfaces invite cracks. The entire logic of sense is located on the surface. The cracks relate neither to concept nor to form. They are neither sensible nor rational representation but are “neutral” and altogether indifferent. They speak of the irreducibility of the event, unlike the conceptual design of the objects which is formed by the artist in complicity with the collaboration and resistance of the material.

The cracks are incorporeal and silent lines at the surface that happen inside and outside in complex relations of interference and interfacing. A labyrinth of empty place and perceptual displacement – a place without an occupant and an occupant without a place. They elicit something incommunicable that we all share – “the abyss of the present, toward which I am unable to project myself,” in Deleuze’s words in reference to Blanchot. “Death as event, inseparable from the past and future into which it is divided, never present, an impersonal death, the ‘ungraspable, that which I can not grasp, for it is not bound to me by any sort of relation, which never comes and toward which I do not go.’”

The cracks are immanent lines that run through life itself. In the installation, the artist asks: “How do we save ourselves by saving the surface and every surface organization, including language and life?” The clay material demonstrates a fanciful geological thaumaturgy that resonates with Hal Foster’s observation in the September 2022 issue of Artforum: “Art, in order to be critical, must be immanent to the structures of its world” in the antinomies between Tony Smith who “evokes a sublime overwhelming of the subjects” and Eva Hesse’s “traumatic piercing.” The installation also points to recent, traumatic environmental changes, wars, the blows and the hazards that strike us, reframing the concepts of concrete and immanence, the soft core and outward solidity of the artichoke, or Earth itself, in an understanding of change that turns fluidity and solidity into mutually exclusive properties.

Imagine a game without rules! It can only be thought as nonsense, pure hazard. Even roulette is not that. Perhaps only art can be thought of as a game without rules. Unlike art, psychoanalysis must have geometrical dimensions. The rules of the game apply deeply in every sphere of human activity. The model of language is a function of the possible games. As the organization and orientation of psychoanalysis becomes more geological than historical, it can escape the subject to give rise to a fantastic botany and zoology.

“Who is speaking?” – subjectivity is pure imagination in the free game of becoming-bird. Have you heard the laughter of the kookaburra? Humor is impersonal and pre-individual. It is the art of the surface and doubles death. It is incorporeal and infinite, grounded only in itself, and the absurd question lingers: Which came first, the egg or the bird?

Text: Dimitrina Sevova