Blesok no. 36, May-June, 2004
Handwriting / of / Clothes
– or, the clothes as personal hermeneutics –
The latest exhibition of Liljana Gjuzelova, which took place in December 2003 at the Museum of the City of Skopje, that is, the installation “Writing Oneself” is based on the very interesting, modern and intriguing procedure of conceptual self-stripping (or self-writing), which follows the shivering reflections of the personal and family history, the fragmentary memories and mosaic-like interwoven memories.
This is more precisely an exhibition of clothes hung (with pegs), made of paper, hanging on a rope, clothes that are wordy testimonies (memorials) of the past. All of these clothes have or contain a unique, common “pattern”: the handwritten text, as if they are clothes-minutes of the rich personal and collective drama. They are “costumed” rolls of family history and archive, which contain the touching hermeneutics of the personal survival, but also the always open “horizon of questioning”, where (according to the “ethnographic” custom of the great history) there is no place for the final truths and revelations.
We are facing a handwritten exhibition, or an exhibition of hand written, designed, two-dimensional clothes (more precisely, cuts), as metaphors, which in this way reveal the intimate, underwear of the precious, difficult to announce and discrete, quite often painful, vulnerable memories. This time, with its entire creative wave, placed in the intermeadially doubled writing – in the material (clothes), paper fabric and in the virtual (attire), of verbal fabric (in the text as waving).
The texture of the clothes (eventually, the text as clothes of the feelings and thought), taking into consideration this creative principle, becomes a hermeneutic indicator of the existential narrative, in a time span of half a century ago. The paper clothes speak on behalf of, or instead of, the subjective hermeneutics of suffering. The proverb that “man is known by his clothes” in this case can quite referentially and metonymically be applied: the parts of the clothes themselves lightly (airily) make the collage of the narration, history, identity in constant (externally imposed) split of self-confirming and self-denial.
The idea itself that the family archive is shown as an exhibition boutique has its deep and painful argumentation, in the real doom of this family to constantly find itself under some (ideological and political) supervision. In this way, this installation made of handwritten “loaded” clothes cuts for the first time shows publicly the “confection” of the life-long (although difficult to prove) condemnation and suffering because of the very (given fact of) origin.
This is where the very important and always open issues of guilt and responsibility, forgiveness and redemption – even more, the metaphysics of sin, offense and punishment. It sounds shaking, the seeming acceptance of the delegated guilt that strikes from a “shirt”/letter to the father, which starts with the words “I am writing you in a space, because you have no address”. But this seemingly poetic conclusion actually comes from the cruel, anecdotic background, from the bodilenessnes of father’s never dug grave – which results in this hanging (floating in the air) address of his daughter to him. And this address is both personal in its creepiness, and archetypal as well – “I have known a long ago, and that is how I act, that both the parents and children are free in their choice, regardless the consequences. And even more, that the children should not be held responsible for the actions of their parents and vice versa, although I have lived in the time when this criterion was upside-down: we, the children, were oppressed because of you, the parents. But I also have to confess this. Somehow (in)explicably, your ‘guilt’ has ‘moved in’ me and I started taking it one myself”.
It is this, radically acting complex of the “delegated guilt” that deeply impregnates this letter, which also explains the key obsession of the author with the identity (or name) as a stigmata.
The history turns into a hyper-reality in this: it becomes more real than reality itself, in spite of the permanent de-realization (misshaping, beautification, ideological “re-cutting”) of reality.
Therefore, the simulation of voice and chronotope of the girl, in the separate pieces of clothes/writings, becomes a token of the authenticity and liveliness of the memory, charged with numerous moments of temptation.
When the author says “I got Igor. I exchanged the freedom for him” – she actually subtly articulates her originally experienced gender self-awareness, which, at another place, very funny, in a joke she opposes to the stereotypes of the fertile female desire “I was weak and with education”.
In the final comment to this rarely successful, intriguing, well based, existentially interwoven, brave and inventive exhibition – very sophisticatedly marked by the “impressum” of the confessional intonation (which sharply differs from the more frequent trendy and trivially revealing self-exhibiting), I would add several more remarks, which finish the more complete understanding and inspection of the undoubtedly interesting creation of Gjuzelova.
She deals with the poetics of “family chronicle” in a stressed well-thought way, where the autobiography, anecdotes, historiography are fruitfully redirected to the research not only of personal, individual, but also perennial (eternal, omnivalid) topics: such as guilt, punishment, forgiveness, mortality.
In this context, we rightly observe her creative sequentiatlity and consistence: in the previous exhibition, held in 1997, Gjuzelova also reached for the family topics: trauma and non-forgetfulness. In this occasion, her genre priority, the installation, consisted of a slightly open casket (symbolic reproduction and compensation for the object, her father’s non-existent grave) and (mummified) sculptures of her mother and her father.
In this way, the artistic involvement of this author has renewed her interest in the hermeneutic processing of past, especially when we know the fact that the hermeneutics comes from the “inbuilt” position of the interpreter in the text, the presence of the interpreter in the interpreted. In this case, the ‘interpreter”/Gjuzelova as a participant and actor in the family narration is integrally (and existentially) present in the idiomatically marked rhetoric and poetics of the installation.
In the cruelly instant desire of the contemporary culture of living, in the middle of the always hungry consumerism and waste of feelings, values, life itself, finally, these deeply personal, almost monastically remote from the noise, esthetic, artistic and spiritual researches of Gjuzelova shine with their subtle, at moments dark but nevertheless authentic and impressive energy, which is so different from the cosmetic remake and superficial borrowing of “new poetics” with some of our authors praised by the media.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska