Before the pandemic hit, Ulijona and I had promised to e-mail each other only while at work. It was a sort of experiment: we’d both been working as administrators, trying to balance our ‘art’ and ‘work’ lives and feeling that our workplaces could themselves be a source of inspiration. Connecting via e-mail was a way to discreetly share experiences on the clock and I included snippets of our conversation in an essay I was writing. Ulijona worked in accounts and described falling into researching other topics: ‘I need to steal my work time for myself’ she wrote in one message, ‘it’s also a way to get paid for your art, if you do it by working at your job!’. Finding art at work is a poetic and practical arrangement; it takes both a certain cognitive dissonance and choosing to take ownership of your surroundings by relating to yourself, the space and others.
This exhibition brings together several years of Ulijona’s thinking and making and is underpinned by images of professional as well as domestic labour.
Spreadsheets is a series of carefully soldered metal grids whose cells hold items collected in and around the office. They include tiny leaves, paperclips, roots, and string, which populate the physical shiny worksheets with alternative and ordinary functions. A piece of hair is woven delicately around one cell - it inputs the world! Fragile ‘spreadsheets’ feel particularly powerful given that Ulijona’s accounting role is in an architecture firm, because they form a blueprint for her administrative labour. Like her own small maquettes, this physicalised software accounts for an alternative way to occupy yourself on the job, a tiny way to nurture agency and find a voice. Though not seen as overtly productive, administration and accounting have their own physicality. There is a material weight to the systems: heaviness to data, competing urgencies, pressing deadlines...
Many jobs are rendered invisible when they are done well. Here, Ulijona’s artworks somehow give work a form, even a body. Angel Rack is a clotheshorse, which holds translucent sheets of silicone placed where the laundry would usually go - it becomes a heavenly domestic vision. Made with the IKEA ‘FROST’ rack and an unused tub of silicone spread out on kitchen surfaces, Angel Rack is also a ghost, a bird, a butterfly and a body with plastic and metal ribs. Putting up one of these drying racks is a strange ritual. They are like monuments to housework, designed to spend most of the time folded up and hidden away, markers of temporary homes in rented accommodation.
Located in the downstairs hallway, Paper Works are pages of coffee-stained lined paper, which are sliced up then reconstructed. The pieces begin to look almost like pastry or leaves, turning ‘paperwork’ into a more natural form. Think of all the forests of paperwork in office basements right now filed away in rows of archive boxes. Ulijona has arranged some of the pieces formally in strips and folded others into roses. There is no information on the pages, what is important is that they are a material.
Hannah Le Feuvre
Fridays 6-8 pm. or by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org
The exhibition will be open until December 26th.
Address: Kauno st. 1a - 408 (4th floor), Vilnius.
The show is sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture