Sofia Goscinski | Believer

Sofia Goscinski – Believer

The fragment of a body transmits cryptic signals: a bent arm, its upper end leading into a stump. The biceps slightly tensed, completely without the toning of muscle exercises, fist clenched. The thumb and digitus quintus of the long-limbed hand are splayed out, while the index and ring fingers, wedged into one another, form a triangle. The curved middle finger rests on the arm stump. It is this detail that the clay sculpture entitled Le main d’Artaud owes its self-enclosed form. The obvious association here is to Antonin Artaud, the theatre revolutionary between genius and madness, with an ascetic appearance, something martyr-like dwelling there already in early years. The relic-like object radiates – like so many works by Sofia Goscinski – an existential fundamental mood and mysteriousness.

In her third solo presentation at unttld contemporary, Goscinski brings together sculptures and pictures under the title Believer, albeit – at first glance at least – they seem only loosely related. Besides Le Main d’Artaud, we encounter a portrait of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sketched in limber brushstrokes, a rain dancer with water jug in Desert Plants – ceiling-high, concrete-gray steles –, a floor sculpture made of a coat and bronzed hands jutting out of the sleeves. The latter evokes the association with gestures of prayer or submission. And then a canvas work, the background washed in skin color, on which the English adverb Not seems to turn into fluid. Out of the ground of the thickly layered paint, scarcely perceivable, there arises the word Paranoia. And finally – in this highly idiosyncratic combination of very different carriers of meaning – the self-portrait of the artist in the form of a death mask.

What to believe or not to believe in to give direction to one’s own life? Which inner attitude needs to be fostered, which standpoint taken, which conviction pursued? Fundamental questions like these lay the intellectual foundations for the exhibition Believer. Taking up the lead provided by the title, the single components of the show plausibly converge. Artaud, who tirelessly tweaked at his conception of a theatre of cruelty, which though at the time never quite came together, but exerted enormous influence on following generations. Assange, who swears by the democratizing power of the internet to put an end to political secretiveness and covert operations. Demonized by his opponents, venerated by his allies because he campaigns for a transparent knowledge society. Rain Dance pointing to the confidence indigenous peoples have in dancing rituals to bring about the long-hoped-for rain. The sculpture group Desert Plants, a symbol for the desert as a place of knowledge, but also where mirages like the fata morgana cloud and delude the mind.

In Goscinski’s exhibition, Believer does not mean the followers of religious or ideological communities. Rather, the artist is interested in actions and their consequences which are grounded in individual will and convictions, not fixated into dogmas. Thus finally, the death mask as self-portrait functions as a mirror. Who am I? What do I believe in? Or have trust in? What am makes me up and what can I bring about? Sofia Goscinski stages the dilemma of (artistic) self-reflection against the foil of famous names, symbolic landscapes and ritual-like props. As visitors to her exhibition we are – at the end – thrown back to ourselves. And ponder.

Manisha Jothady
Translation: Paul Bowman