Ars memoria

Venue: Bokvillan, 00560, Hämeentie 125, Helsinki, Finland
Openning: 5th of November at 5:00 P.M.
Exhibition: 5th of November - 27th November 2017
Artists: Agnieszka Piasecka (Gdańsk, Poland), Małgorzata Żerwe (Gdańsk, Poland)
Curator: Marta Wróblewska

Producers: Kari Salo and Aura Neuvonen
Organizer: Neighborhood Living Room - project / Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences together with Arabian asukastalot ry
Partner: Gdańsk City Gallery

Ars memoria exhibition is part of The People’s Smart Sculpture / Creative Europe Project

“Remember in order not to forget.” (Paul Ricoeur)

Who are we without our past? Can we exist both as societies and individual citizens without a history? What is in fact “memory” and could it constitute a credible tool in the discourse concerning our past?

Bokvillan is one of those unique places shaped by overlapping pasts, personal stories of people who used to live or work here, and narrations concerning the surrounding neighbourhood in which it was located back in 1870. At the same time, its unmissable charm and multi-layered history make it a perfect starting point to begin both researching as well as fantasizing about possible scenarios that could have taken place there, or might have happened to its inhabitants.

Hence, inspired by this fascinating space, we are proud to present the exhibition of two projects made by Polish artists Agnieszka Piasecka and Małgorzata Żerwe, under the common title “Ars memoria”. Both artists are profoundly interested in employing processes of (self)reflection as a way to identify their place within the society and the world that surrounds them. The main tool they both use is a specific game with memory. Their works balance between the not so clearly defined past, presence and future. Purposefully, they blur the border between reality and imagination, negotiating the status quo of the images they present with reference to the everyday life. They both seem to practice some sort of private archaeology, aiming at uncovering different layers of potential histories to tell. Their artefacts trigger certain mnemonic processes closely connected with the viewers’ imagination and personal experience. The photographs and objects open the doors to speculations based on objectively identified images, and interpretations imposed on them from individual personalised perspectives.
Małgorzata Żerwe plays with invented and real personal stories with the use of aptly combined objects either found on flea markets, or accidentally discovered on forgotten country roads or in the old attic of a friend’s house. The collages and objects composed of the remains of little dead animals, lost items, second-hand anonymous (?) photographic portraits, form a bizarre yet very poetic collection of curiosities, uncovering dreamy stories to fantasize about. One almost feels like a voyeur, watching those miniature universes, stepping into other lives and imagining what circumstances accompanied those particular images or items. This is the game of remnants, to paraphrase the words of Jean Baudrillard, on top of which the viewers are invited to build their own mosaic of personal stories relevant to their own experience.
Agnieszka Piasecka takes the viewer out into the city space. However, which city is she confronting us with? Is it really the lost Inka town described in Hiram Bingham’s book, or perhaps it is a place we recognize from our own past experiences? The traditional cyanotype photographic technique blurs the real landscapes with a fairy lapis lazuli haze, dematerializing them almost into a mysterious fantasy, one is invited to participate in. Their beauty might seem a bit melancholic, just as individual memories are many a times endowed with the longing for the past events. Again, the viewer receives only fragmentary images forming parts of the story to be filled in with one’s own imagination. What we, as the viewers, are confronted with here is, on the one hand a sophisticated and inspiring creative memory game invented by the artists, which could take place anytime and anywhere. But on the other hand, we are obliged to actively take the challenge to follow

Paul Ricouer’s process consisting of: recognizing, reminiscing and reminding, so crucial in the context of exercising the memory of our own past, strongly connected with the space/city/society we are living in here and now. It seems that the creative and sensitive practise of those mnemonic rituals is the key to identify ourselves with and understand our cultural heritage thanks to which we are who we are.