THE WORK OF TODAY - DETERMINES OUR TOMORROWtext by Zarina Muhammad of The White Pube
Concrete, chewing gum, ice, and hands. I am scared of thinking about the future. It makes my stomach drop and crunch to think of how I will experience life at 35, 11 years ahead, my calendar fills up 3 weeks in advance and that is as far forward as I can account for, the rest does not exist. I can see, however, how the deep future can be a great comfort, a reassurance that the pain and labour of the present has affect and purpose. there is something about the way we live now,,, under the neoliberalism, sad individualism, and advanced capitalism of Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn, the way it comes packaged up in an abject, tiny portion for one, slightly stale and under-salted;;; there is something about this that makes me think that any talk about the future/good would be lost on me bc the structures around me make me feel like I am an island, I do not deserve bulk amounts or sharing bags of popcorn for my lunch-on-the-go.
Rafal Zajko’s work feels like a clean break, snapping the bone of this stomach crunch; an aesthetic f L E XX towards filling the gap between my experience and expectation. concrete slabs as monuments, monumental (yes) and aggressively modern in that very old way. The kind of aggressive modernism of public sculpture from the 80s/90s, fresco, mural, statue, MONUMENT, yes. When Rafal and I spoke about it, he said it was casting back to that very Soviet aesthetic vocabulary of forward momentum, the image of futurity (i think that’s a word? i hope that means what i think it means..) RGB of old school TVs, chunky buttons, hands grip in towards a centre, and then larger hands hold the image from the side. State, structure, support; this is all just a recreation rather than a statement. It is enough for us to recreate and re-present images as they are just in a different place, it is enough for us to reexamine them without didacticism or polemic weight. Images are images are images, aesthetic-objects are enough for me to feel like work is being done in exploring how they can make us feel under different weather conditions and timezones, it is all j an exercise in ~ f e e l i n g ~ tbh.
For me, what i felt pressing the hardest was the weight and heft of it all. Heavy concrete, sad and grey, but then shards on the floor stuck together with chewing gum,,, soft and tacky, and jesmonite chewing gum; a bending lie in its texture and feel, like cartoon bubblegum. Something about that as a material, the way it belongs inside ur mouth n then when u see it as a material in the work… it is a kinda defacement, but it’s a vandalism of the internal: of the work n the chewing gum, n it feels abject but also ~aesthetic~ in a way that makes sense; an aesthetic logic to it all. And tHEN the ice,, a melting hardness; hardness that is indecisive as it melts into the softest texture of all::: wetness. softness feels like a sliding scale, from solid to liquid with silky and sticky somewhere in between, and ice slides all the way down that scale within a few hours. I wonder, dear reader, i wonder if while you’re in the gallery, the chunk of ice will crack or split or fall to the floor. it did while i was in the studio, and the drama and performance of it disintegrating, splitting in its holster and smashing on the floor; this felt like a moment. a slither in time where politics and concept are all kind of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things; a moment where we can all see clearly through it bc it has been made transparent n subtle. it is hard not to feel sad at that, for it to feel like tragedy; an artist’s work, so monetised and valuable n inflated, smashed on the floor and what’s left of it melts away into a puddle of wet. I don’t think it made me feel sad, i think it felt right, but idk what that means symbolically like. Labour n that. i think it j kinda rejects all that symbolic baggage doesn’t it? it embraces a futility i identify with - nice.
I think this show is about weight, texture, and labour. Labour: hard or soft / in concrete or in fabric / all done with the hands and fingers. Rafal showed me some more of the lil embroidered patches he has, and next to them samples of fabric made by his grandparents in the factory where they worked; the factory that had a sign above the gates saying “THE WORK OF TODAY DETERMINES OUR TOMORROW”. that work, this work, the work of images feels like a net cast into the deep future. together, alone, solid & soft & wet all at once. who knows, not me, do you?
Zajko’s first solo exhibition in London takes its title from the motivational text written above the entrance of the factory where his grandparents spent their life working; The work of today – determines our tomorrow.
Born in 1988, a year before the fall of the Soviet influenced Polish People’s Republic, Zajko’s work pays tribute to a past where humans worked together as collective machines towards an optimistic industrial future.
For the exhibition Zajko has made 3 sculptural reliefs and a single floor sculpture that dominates the room, blurring the line between human and machine, monuments to an industrial past that defy their materiality. Zajko’s work does not critique this past but instead seeks to reinterpret it, excavating history to reimagine it in an alternative future.
The concrete and steel reliefs have an industrial materiality that contrasts with the craftsmanship from the freehand embroidery enmeshed through them. A recent innovation in Zajko’s practice is the incorporation of ice that melts throughout the course of the exhibition. The ephemeral dripping of melting ice adds a performative quality to the work as the invigilator is tasked with replacing the ice every few hours as if part of a strange ritual. All these elements give the work an almost religious quality and could be seen as strange votives to a time that blurs past, present and future.
Zajko was born in the Polish People's Republic a year before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. He currently lives and works in London. Recent shows includes: "Unputdownable" at The White Cubicle, London, “Art of Translation" at MMAG Foundation in Amman, Jordan (2018) "Failure" at Litost Gallery in Prague and “Haptic House" at Horse and Pony, Berlin (all 2018). Forthcoming shows include Three Works, Scarborough (2018), Invasive Behaviour, Cole Projects, London (2018) Hot wheels Projects, Athens (2019)