Galena Sardamova, Шепа шипки (Shepa shipki), 2019. Cyanotype on fabric, 8 x 30 ft; Video, color, sound, 01:11:05 hr.
Shepa shipki arose from my thinking about home and safety; time and memory; and longing and belonging – conceived in a moment of literal and metaphorical displacement.
The large-scale cyanotype acts as an artefact of a series of meditative and ritualistic interactions with it. After treating it with the sensitizer solution, I held the 8 x 30 ft fabric and walked with it. For an hour, I methodically turned different parts of it toward the light so that different sections would get exposed. My body, as well as the material itself, became imprinted into the folds; thus, my body joined light and time in the fabric’s becoming. As I kept walking, I became increasingly aware of the weight of the bundle; I also felt strangely responsible for not dropping it and for helping it “develop.”
The video traces this meditative process of caring and interlaces it with additional footage. The left clip presents the full documentation of the progression; the other two clips are looped and depict the next step of my symbiotic coexistence with the fabric. After carrying it for so long, I felt the urge to let it engulf me, turning it into a literal cocoon. My rolling down the hill with the fabric is documented from two angles, one from an external perspective and the other from my point of view. Putting these two clips together creates a sense of disorientation, giving the scene the uncanny effect of a dreamscape. Looping the clips turns them into another form of ritual, one not based on endurance but on repetition. The juvenile connotation of the act of rolling down a hill adds a layer of innocence and conveys an urge to return to a state of primordial safety, but also acts as a reminder for the impossibility of this return.
The sound ties all these acts and the documentation of them together. The repeated Bulgarian tongue twister “Shepa shipki v shapka sybrah. Shipki s shipcheta po tyah” translates to “I gathered a handful of rose hips into a hat. Rosehips with thorns on them.” The nature of the phrase – both the repetition of it and the alliterated “sh” sound – is a ritual in itself, and language becomes another disorienting element. Initially, the words only hold meaning for a speaker of the language while for everyone else they have the trance-like connotation of an ongoing whisper. Gradually, the words start to appear unreal as they slowly lose their distinctiveness even for those aware of their meaning. The familiar becomes unfamiliar, joining the visual footage in the realm of the uncanny. The tongue twister and the repetition of it tie to the looping and looped nature of the two clips on the right; its meaning, on the other hand, relates to the left clip’s act of gathering, holding, and caring, as well as to the precariousness of it.
Guided by a series of motions rather than a sense of predetermination, all these acts create a ritualistic experience of caring and being cared for. Underlying this gentleness is a sense of displacement – impossible to verbalize and instead turned into a physical manifestation of a cyclical train of thought.
Aquarium Moon, Salami Rising, Dec. 2019, group exhibition
Part one of a thesis project developed by students in a year-long studio and research-based class taught by Kayla Romberger and Ivanco Talevski at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design
Charles Addams Gallery
Philadelphia, PA, USA