The Polish word gusła can be loosely translated as “witchcraft.” Traditionally, the term encompasses a diversity of practices and beliefs that transcend both the prescriptive framework of religious morality and the positive absolutism of scientific rationality. Besides representations in popular culture and critical surveys of attested persecutions, witchcraft remains most manifest in the variety of rituals and superstitions related to the evocation or conjuration of spirits on account of their power over the living and nature. While witchcraft in the West is habitually characterized by an ambivalent narrative of control and repression from ecclesiastic and secular authorities alike, the history of occultism in Eastern Europe often remains attached to the eerie tales of an extant folk culture surviving through a syncretism of religion and pagan traditions.
In their exhibition at Body Archive Project, artist duo Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė build up their current research about witchcraft as a transcultural and transhistorical signifier across disciplinary, social, geographic, and traditional boundaries. The multimedia body of work emerging from their ongoing engagement with this polysemic subject matter correspondingly represents as many fragments of an open narrative that seeks to inhabit the gaps between these diverse—and at times antagonistic—discourses. Within this multisensorial assemblage of triggers and implicit references to rural folklore, spiritualism, and memory, the viewer is enjoined to play an essential role in reconciling the heterogeneous components of a project at the intersection between esotericism and science, folklore and technology, feminism and ecology as well as cultural history and speculative fiction.