Renata Rara Kaminska: RUG/RAG
Exhibition: August 24 - September 17, 2023
Artist Talk: August 26, 2023
Venue: Egin Space, Almaty
For the first time in Almaty, an exhibition by the renowned Polish artist living and working in Berlin, Renata Rara Kaminska, is being presented. She is aptly referred to as an activist, not without reason. Over the past year, Kaminska has participated in prestigious exhibitions at several museums and independent art events, including Franz Gertsch (Burgdorf/Bern), OP ENHEIM (Wroclaw), Museum of Paper (Berlin), Tres Chien, Esh (Luxembourg), Public sculpture at Tempelhof Feld (Kulturbüro, Berlin), and Benetton Collection (Venice). Her activism extends to the most pressing thematic territories – political engagement, decolonial shifts, women's rights, minority rights, ecological concerns, and more.
Contemporary counterpoints – Russia's colonial policies, the war in Ukraine, and the decolonial discourse in post-Soviet countries – have led Kaminska to Central Asia. Kazakhstan is seen by her not only as a country preserving traditions but also actively utilizing modernity for independent development. The artist places the issues of colonialism on the agenda, employing visual imagery of sculptural objects crafted from so-called "invasive" plants – thin strips of veneer from rare species of African relic trees. The metaphor of handcrafted ecological change addresses not only the environmental concerns of the Anthropocene era but also political questions concerning strategies of resistance against the colonial policies of recent empires.
The exhibition features several pieces. "Scar" (from the series "Organ," 2022) – presents a found object, a board from North African maple, with structural changes caused by cambial growth disruption. Its texture resembles human skin marked by cracks.
"Hymn" (8 minutes, stereo, 2011-2012) – vocalizes the image of the contemporary human as a denizen of urban "jungles." The modern human, akin to a post-industrial force, poses more a threat to nature and its own population due to unpredictable, uncontrollable, and often destructive activities.
"Forest Indoors" (installation, veneer from precious wood species, 2023) – phantom sculptures made from veneer for luxury furniture finishing. The history of the sourced material is intriguing. Kaminska acquired the veneer from the family of one of the last German colonizers, who lost their African lands after World War I. The veneer, crafted from African mahogany and acacia, was on board one of the final ships carrying colonial cargo to Hamburg in the 1910s, then stored for about a century. The trees used for such veneer are still barbarically felled in African, Asian, and South American countries despite being relics and being listed in the Red Book. Interestingly, similar veneer can be purchased in Kazakhstan, as well as worldwide. Mahogany phantom objects serve as a reminder of the lost harmony between human life and nature, equality among peoples, and biological species.
Latent traits of colonialism manifest surreptitiously in various spheres of our lives. Abstract "scraps" of red wood stand as a gesture urging everyone to contemplate essential questions that can aid in devising a strategy to restore the delicate balance between the natural and the political, the civilizational and the ecological, ultimately on a local and global scale.
The curator is Yulia Sorokina.