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by Anna Micińska
…we can absolutely not rest content with “mere words”, i.e. with a merely symbolic understanding of words… Meanings inspired only by remote, confused, inauthentic intuitions—if by any intuitions at all—are not enough: we must go back to the “things themselves.
Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, transl. J.N. Findlay
Let us approach the series of works by Olga Micińska by outlining the difference between an object and a thing. In his etymological deliberations, Remo Bodei defines an object (Latin: obiectum) as an obstacle, a form of impediment, which appears in front of the subject, initially resisting its affirmation but ultimately making itself available to the subject's manipulation and possession*. A thing, on the other hand, does not pose the same struggle, but it also does not subject itself to the human. To the contrary: a thing is dialectical by nature. Having entered an emotional and intellectual relationship with a physical form, humans assign meaning to it and place it in the sphere of things, which are comprehensible and filled with ideas or functions.
When we try to grasp or express the essence of things, human language proves to be impotent. We lack the vocabulary to describe them, and hence turn back to their physicality and materiality in order to comprehend them. After all, a thing in itself by definition presents its own meaning without any words; the intellect, however, still has to follow the path of analysis, leading to the core of the subject matter via metaphors, symbols, and gestures. Therefore, a thing simultaneously generates and narrates a knowledge about its presence.
The first part of the exhibition functions as a kind of laboratory, showcasing experiments with materials, forms, and their mutual relations. Some of them remain unfinished, open to further explorations, or displayed in the middle of the production process. This is a lab of the artefacts as well as of their meanings. We, the visitors, act both as guests invited behind the scenes of these artistic investigations, observers, and co-creators, who turn objects into things. We strive to identify their origins, methods of production, materials used, and seek to describe them, inscribe in the context of an exhibition, or perhaps a workshop.
In the following room, the attributed sense prevails over the physicality of forms, pushing them towards the realm of symbols. Here, it is not the materials, but the semantic and cultural connotations that lay out the essence of these things. The form of a crystal is usually associated with finesse, nobility, and status. Its assigned value raises respect, and perhaps even desire. The next item seems to possess a utilitarian function; however, its symbolism takes over: the phallic shape and the potential contained in it, which turn the object into an emblem of power and might. Without even knowing how it is going to be used and by whom, we recognise its force. Finally, the flag: the one in front of us, made out of paper, is not connected to any movement, nation, or identity, but it is also more than just a piece of fabric. It is displayed here as an illustration of a political and emotional charge usually attached to this form, and thus gains a symbolic role, typical of flags, which represent an ideological vision. These three exhibits are materially more passive than the things in the laboratory—but it would seem that they nonetheless possess a much greater potential.
* Remo Bodei, “A constellation of words: Causa, res, pragma, Sache,” Res 65/66 (2014/2015): 348-351.