Ways of Being

Solo presentation at the viennacontemporary Art Fair 2023, section Zone1, curated by Francesca Gavin. Represented by Kogo gallery.

Ways of Being: Speculative Scenes Regarding Laura Põld’s Installation for viennacontemporary 2023

Text by Gary Markle

Photos by Simon Veres and Albert Kerstna


Scene One – Belonging

July 2023. Climate-crisis summer. She is at a lake in the mountains of Upper Austria, about to take a swim. She enters the deep cold water. After some time, her body begins to relax visibly. In water, She can move and glide in a way not possible on dry land. She lifts her gaze from the lake’s depth to the peaks of the mountains and the verdant meadows connecting them. From the water, She sees the mountains, the trees, the raspberry brambles and their thorns, and light, light, light. And claims a state of belonging in this (foreign) land. In this place, She recognizes the origins of her recent imaginings. Here, in this lake encircled by mountains, She finds her work’s meaning. Earlier, in her studio in Tallinn, she created layer-by-layer, more-than-human canvases made of green-hued bioplastic. She sees these skins as sheets of algae composed of wool and broken eggshells, among other things—a   oating island to support her ideas. Algae is a perfect metaphor for the worlding involved here, for it belongs to a material classification that is not fixed; The kingdom Protist to which algae is assigned is a catchall category for a range of organisms best defined by what they are not.

Scene Two – The Artist’s Gaze

It is nighttime in the early autumn of 2022. She is at an artist residency in rural Estonia. A gentle snow is falling, adding a hush to the world. She works in the collective studio while others sleep. She stands with hands on hips on the seat of a simple wooden chair in semi-darkness, silhouetted by warm light, her eyes fixed on an incomplete textile work lying on a large table in front of her. She maintains this mountain-like pose for a very, very long time. She pulls ideas from some deep inner source, like water from a dark well. From these ideas, She makes artifacts that are soothing and perplexing at the same time, asking viewers to participate in questioning, not what these creative works do but what the viewer would do with them. She is not the work; She is giving body and voice to the work.

Scene Three – Caregiver/Artmaker

She is in the communal kitchen of the artist’s residency. She is making a cake for those assembled. For now, it is her space. They can help with the making but are wise to avoid getting in her way when She cares for them and others. She embodies the roles of both nourisher and pragmatist in the creation of this assemblage. To make it well, She needs equal measures of care and practicality. She employs the same methodology in her kitchen and studio. She follows no receipt book. Later in Austria, at the Academy of Ceramics Gmunden, She will concoct luxurious morsels in the form of   owing objects resembling claws, tusks, stems, and branches —and ceramic confections of thorns and hands with metallic glazes that sensually protect and imprison cylindrical clay members. When this unusual cake is ready, She will invite you to her installation/table to g(r)aze on wool and clay and bioplastic; then, you will realize the magic of the flavour is not in the ingredients themselves but in the skill of her combinations. Will She offer another piece of this intoxicating delicacy later in Vienna?

Scene Four – Of Smoke and Ash

It is late in the evening in mid-November of 2022. She is huddled, with the other art residents, in a traditional smoke sauna in rural Estonia. Flames from a wood fire dance shadows on the rough wood interior, blackened with soot. Outside, a light coating of snow is on the ground, and the pond for cooling off grows a thin skin of ice. In the intense heat of the sauna, the initiates, already familiar with each other’s naked bodies, are asked to spread their legs and whip between them with a bundle of herbs. Next, to cover themselves with ash and honey from head to toe. They will perform a ritual of becoming tree-like, seeking nourishment from the earth, and moving this energy into the sky through branches of what is yet to come, of what might be. The learning is completed by entering ice-cold water, cleansing spirit, mind and body. She will take this teaching to the lake and the mountains of Austria.

Scene Five – Ways of Being

It is September 2023 at the viennacontemporary Art Fair. The viewer enters the installation space to examine the final labours of her recent practice, laid bare before them. Telling tales of mountains, lakes, the fields. They cannot fix their gaze on one still image; it is a complex story they are invited to unfold, a narrative to which they must contribute to complete and consume through ways of being.

There is nothing easy about making Art.