Sofia Goscinski | funfun rituals

funfun rituals

Making/paining pictures with spray paint: the contours of a golden mask in front of blazing red and bilious green. The face of the theorist of liberation, Frantz Fanon, shines forth, a four-coloured blotch in an ocean of gold. A stylised jungle scene in which snaky lines and jaggy structures swirl into a semi-abstract thicket of forms. Photo works like Self Portrait with Ritual Mask or two portraitures of a man and a woman decked out in a stylised S/M bondage outfit draw on a different visual reservoir: the white man, who seems fragile and sensitive, is equipped with a prosthetic black phallus, the woman with a head mask and long dark cape appears like a demonic-dominant Darth Vader figure. The photographic double portrait is an artistic improvisation/inversion/contraindication of a theme elaborated by Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks: the sense of inferiority overwhelming the white man when faced with the presumed phallic dominance of a black man: “…on the genital level,” writes the theorist, “isn’t the white man who hates Blacks prompted by a feeling of impotence or sexual inferiority? Isn’t lynching the black man a sexual revenge? Is the black man’s sexual superiority real?”

A sheet covers the artistic aggregation of artefacts, it soaks up oil/silicon and turns yellow. A kind of artificially produced sudarium out of which pillows were made – one may associate sexual practices which use oil and rubber, or should a whiff of the transcendental waft in, the Veil of Veronica.

There is also a Buddha-like bronze figure that is sticking its arm in its mouth and is about to, so it seems, devour itself – self-cannibalism as a milestone on a road that leads to a city called ‘Greed’. “You won’t find it on any map / But you can take three steps in any direction, and you’re there.” (Lee Hazlewood) Fragile antelope horns, poured into concrete, stuck in brick-shaped foundations like swords set at rest.

The new work group of Sofia Goscinski, who plays on the faux Afrique piano without striking the false sounding Exotica chord, is divided across two exhibitions: funfun rituals and Peau blanc, masques noires, which celebrate their respective visual exuberating in line of sight of one another: this is not some postcolonial appropriation aesthetic, but a feverish dream petrified in artefacts, one that evokes, as a kind of radiating background, Hollywood’s fantasies of Africa and the visual extremisms of ‘Mondo cannibale’, so too the concrete jungle of a western metropolitan consciousness or the crossfades of historical avant-garde signs with ethnographic objets trouvés. Taking up the title of a book by David Toop, one could say: Fabricated Visuals in a Real World.

The aggregation of works from different categories, which were produced with various techniques and form a kind of artistic palimpsest, on which different epistemological, psycho-geographic, and transhistorical structures are layered over one another, opens up a difficult-to-measure space of thought: graffiti techniques, usually applied to scratch empty signs in the flesh of the walls of public space, serve here the tattooing of rectangular image formats. The ‘embodying’, that erogenous-producing effect Jean Baudrillard identified on the walls and surfaces of the city or the underground trains covered with puzzling sings in Kool Killer, is shifted onto the intimate work in the inner space and in turn creates a sexually-charged relationship to the explicitly erotic visual contents of the photo works. With a view to Kafka’s short story In the Penal Colony, one could, as many interpreters have done, conjure the “unity of image and death, of ecstasy and Thanatos”, when one hurls the frozen hallucinatory counter world of a demonic desire into the immobilized artefacts. And simultaneously think of the “feast of the martyrs” Foucault describes in Discipline and Punish.

In Self Portrait with a Ritual Mask the artist inscribes herself – peau blanc, masques noires –, in an act that is at once transgressive and approximate, into a grammar of illegitimate lust for expression: “My Mask is my Master” (Kevin Ayers).

This work, as well its spinoffs which are to be seen in the exhibition, pronounce the character of the mask to be a tool of metamorphosis, which most notably appear at festivities, the – as described by Roger Caillois – “interregnum of inverted efficacy, a rule of the principles of disorder and excess generating an effervescence out of which is born a new and reinvigorated order.”

The festival / the party / the drug-induced dissolution of the boundaries staked around being is already prefigured in the title of the exhibition: funfun rituals is per se a clever little word flurry, for in the Yoruba language the term stands for white, while the English meaning resonates with the infinite fun relentlessly pursued by the jaded, over-civilized societies of our contemporary age. An intoxicated frenzy is conjured with artistic means that draws inspiration equally from shamanistic ritual practices – Santería, Palomonte, Candomblé, and other syncretic cults from the African diaspora – as it does from the kinetic magic of the 1980s graffiti milieus and – closer to home – from sex, drugs, and rock n roll. It is a strange, simultaneously familiar and alien world that is brought to a conclusion here: the frenzy marks the state that the ethnologist Victor Turner described as the liminal, characterized by unbridled lawless forces intruding on social reality. In this existential sector between authenticity and simulation, between Anacreontic banter and lethal experimental setups, Sofia Goscinski situates her new works, which place mimicry and the differential constitution of meaning into a tension-charged relationship. The exhilarating frenzy, so Roger Caillois, is the victory of deception: “the disguise ends in being possessed, that now itself does not pass into dissemblance. The ritual becomes that performance which is at once the ‘real’ and the ‘acted’”. Aché to.

Text: Thomas Miessgang