Tuesday, October 17, 2006

THE FORUM: Britta Bielak

Britta Bielak, UVA: Artist Statement

I’ve been in competition with memory since the first pauses of my late adolescence; muted by my mind’s absences, waiting helplessly for the recollections to surface. My elusive memories estranged me from my own life. A body of exasperation, research, and experimentation, my work confronts my nostalgia for this loss of control.

I had to find new ways to thrive in my ongoing rivalry with memory, and called on my senses for reinforcement. As active participants in years of collecting and storing memory, my sensory stockrooms gave me more wholesome ways of remembering. My recent work sprouted with buttery and cracked textures, stenches, and melodies as my memory fragments grew into monumental sculptural spaces. People engaged my singing headpieces and watched me curling my body across the floor, pulling my sculptures through the air. Senses stimulated, there was greater yet still insufficient resolution; everyone was mourning all we surrender to memory.

Refusing to embrace memory’s inevitable fracturing and continual decay, my current work transcends the truncation of both mental and sensory memories. Including hair, earlobes, and the skin of our elbows, these body sites are passive in the moments of living. Termed “dead sites,” by their lack of cellular growth, independent movement, or sensory reception, these witnesses have records of living that can be trusted to fill mind-memories with accuracy and richness.

Exposing these “dead sites,” drawing their warehouses of observation to the body’s surface for release; this is my art practice. Onion membranes, rinds, and nutshells are harvested and morphed into incubators. Isolating each “dead site,” these petite incubators revive and hatch the memory collections inside. Here poetry and innovation merge, making my sculptures simultaneously specimens of science and child-like imagination. This innocence and candidness of my incubators offers a new approach and solution to our natural human voids and imperfections: rather than rely on the inadequacy of medicating symptoms in my synthetic habitat, my practice provides a potentially nature-healing-nature triumph over memory.

The work of Tim Hawkinson, Lee Bontecou, and Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days, challenge and inform the imagery and conceptual processing of memory in my work. Their perceptions and appropriations of nature and humanness into their art help charge the penetration of memory in my drawings, incubators, and interactive sculptures. Throughout my practice, my work evades vulnerable submission to these innate mental voids; my work has built a beautiful home in this purgatory as a memory activist.

Britta Bielak participated in October 14th's Graduate Artist Invitational Forum at 1708 Gallery.
You can see reviews and more work here.
Participate in the comments section to continue the critical dialogue started at the Forum.

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