Maria Kulikovska, ‘Memento Mori#1’, 2010, SABSAY

An architect by degree, and an artist by calling, paves a difficult path, merging the use of non-traditional materials and time-consuming techniques with elements of performance – the process of creating a piece of art is equally as important as the finished result. It’s hardly coincidental that she often is the main character or “the material” she uses for her projects. She isn’t afraid to take risks her works are unexpected and ambiguous.

In the projects “Icon”, “Clone Army”, "pandora" “Homo Bulla” and “Memento Mori” the artist uses moulds of her own body. An exploration of self as something alien allows to have an outsider’s perspective and to reflect the confusion, perplexity and conflict of self-perception which are connected with the loss and search for identity – something that every person nowadays is experiencing. The creation of the projects made Maria experience pure terror when she almost suffocated while forming a plaster mould of her face, and “an exfoliation of consciousness”, “a loss of self” when surrounded by her own “clones”.

Although the naked human form is inherently a classical artistic image, Maria’s contemporary work becomes a dialogue with the traditional art. If the classical sculptures were created with the materials that were sure to immortalize the ideal artistic vision of classical masters for centuries, the unstable cast molds of an actual living person are doomed to imminent destruction and a quick descent into nothingness. “Homo Bulla” takes it even further, presenting three armless figures – as do the classic sculptures – made out of soap. The sculptures were placed outside, in the environment where they would age naturally. Under the influence of the sun, rain and other natural events the soap began to get washed off the metal carcass, until it assimilated into nature completely – as do the human bodies after death. But, the natural death of soap bubbles, 3 soap sculptures never happened, because they were destroyed but terrorist’s forces and shoot all of them as “Army of Clones” project…
Can we interpret those works of art as a version of “Vanitas”? Did the “liquid modernity”, a concept beloved by psychologists and sociologists, find itself reflected in those sculptures, characterizing today’s society as a “society of risk” that prefers technology to life, while life becomes an exercise in improvisation? Or perhaps those sculptures are a product of Maria’s childhood memories of a life on the ruins of Panticapey in Kerch, Crimea, where the remains of ancient statues exist alongside the relics of another lost “civilization” of the Soviet Union (the life in Crimea she also lost, become a refugee)… A fine line between life and death is a thread that runs through Maria Kulikovskaya’s art and binds the topic of “identity search” and her own personal memories and impressions together.

Anthropological conceptualism is a prominent tendency in contemporary art. In the age of genetic engineering and cloning the basics of human existence and the very phenomenon of human life are becoming more and more problematic. The human body loses its integrity and independence. It becomes the focus of new technological parameters, an object of manipulation, but at the same time it is seen as the last sanctuary of “human-ness”, which is the ability to suffer and to empathize. A person isn’t just “in a possession of a body”, as if it were a thing to possess and dispose of, but is the body, which determines who a person is on the outside and on the inside.

The unpredictability of human nature is the topic of “Memento Mori#1”. A female figure made out of green epoxy resin, with a chains in her transparent feet, presents a strange and terrifying symbol of unpredictability of new life and getting penance and freedom out of your deeds. "Memento Mori#1" it is continuation of the project "Army of Clones" and "Homo Bulla", and it is a vanitas tradition and it is a words, what used slaves for remind to greatest heroes about death. The feared of death is not full of terrible mythical creatures, but of desires and deeds of man. The internal dramatization of life characteristic to Maria’s work adopts a tragic quality in this piece.
Paul Vilirio said that progress “treats us as a court physician”, entering every orifice of the body he is inspecting. Not only does it not let go, but, it goes through your body, wounding it – in a visual, social, affective, intellectual, sexual way. Every invention brings about new destructions.

Galina Sklyarenko, art historian, curator, art critic

Series: A reproduction from the series Army of Clones

Code Art Fair, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2017

About Maria Kulikovska