The Secret Garden of Love - Excuse Me, Didn't You Lose Your Baggage?

August 13, 2020 | Anna Zielazny

The work of Karolina Voleska and Tomas Kurecka, Excuse Me, Didn't You Lose Your Baggage?, is taking place in OKNA gallery. This creative space concentrates mostly on the modern and contemporary art from Central Eastern Europe. It opened on the 1st of August and will last till the 15th of August. 

In the room, on three walls painted black, small wooden boxes are hung. The boxes are open and present white (in some places shiny like a pearl) material that forms abstract shapes. The background to them provides a zoomed-in picture of dry grass and a rose that lays on hay. In the center of the room, visitors can see a little platform covered with black material, with a black rose in the middle. 

As the artists suggest, this world "holds fragmented remains of an ancient poem, Roman de la Rose, dragged into the present world". Because the exhibition holds a bit of mystery, the hint about the poem included in the description of the work becomes a key to solving this elaborate artistic story. 

The Roman de la Rose is a French text created in medieval times. It tells a story of chevalier love. The lover, led by a mysterious power, ends up in the walls of an orchard whose owner is Déduit (an Old French word for pleasure). Here the lover must seek for his love, the Rose. During his journey, he is assisted by many different characters that in modern times are interpreted mostly as allegories of particular aspects of affection. 

While focusing on the shapes enclosed in the wooden boxes, segments of the body might appear. On the first abstract view, they seem to form shapes that are emerging from their structure while watching. The viewer can discover the explicit character of the flesh enchanted into the plaster with the pearly layer that covers their vulgarity. From the deformed material, in the eyes of the observer, emerge reproductive organs, uterus, testicles. The symbols of the physical form of love are exposed in frames, separately. 

If visitors follow the hints shared with them in the piece description, they can discover that the forms in the boxes are deformed faces that are gazing on the gallery spaces, observing the love scene that happens inside, between the viewers and the rose. Entering the room, spectators become part of, or are rather caught in, this unique garden in the middle of which the rose can be found. The relation between body and gallery space changes - visitors that usually are looking at the piece of art are now observed by the art itself. This feeling gives a bit of a thrill of the unknown. 

While entering the gallery space, the visitor enters a unique type of hortus delicarium. The garden of pleasure was a place to which the rigorous rules of everyday life did not apply. Here, wealthy women could enjoy cultural and intellectual amusements, hidden from the judging gaze of others. Now, the space between the viewer, gallery, and this piece becomes a unique place, where different kinds of pleasures can be experienced. What is worth noticing is the fact that there are seven boxes on the walls. The hortus delicarium was also considered a place where seven liberal arts could be experienced. This is why the boxes can be also interpreted as these arts. The gallery becomes a secret garden of love, where the black rose lays on the black platform, covered with a mournful shroud. Even though it seems passive, the rose, a metaphor of love, becomes the center of all the events. 

The additional mystery that put another interpretational layer to this piece is included in the title: Excuse Me, Didn't You Lose Your Baggage? This seems like a bit of a weird question to ask, as a person who loses baggage usually notices it. Then, what exactly is the baggage in this context and who is the one that asks this question? It can be interpreted as an emotional heaviness that is lost while entering the frivolous, unique garden of love. Observing the masks in the windows, created with the wooden boxes, may silently be asking this question. It's the emotional baggage that is lost when we are entering a garden of fresh romance, away from judgmental eyes and critics. 

Even though the work is quite elaborate, what is missing is the key that would connect them into one logical structure. Multiple interpretations that pop up while looking at the piece brings down the wholeness of the composition. It may seem like a disadvantage of this work. However, it highlights the complexity and hardness of clearly defining the art of love and art itself. 

I'm a polish art historian, specialized in Eastern European art. Currently, I am living in Porto, Portugal. I am a creative writer and the author of SlowMotionTravels blog.

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