11 October 2020, Trafalgar Square, London 3pm- 7pm What constitutes being human? Is it the mind, spirit or consciousness? Have you contemplated how you can only see your own body through reflections and shadows? These are the questions that Ona Telos imposes on the audience in her participatory happening, The Fifth Plinth, 2020. This takes place at the Trafalgar square, London, during the busy Frieze art weekend. The title, The Fifth Plinth, refers to the north-west Fourth plinth of the square. This space is typically used to exhibit contemporary public art sculptures. Here, the artist builds an unconventional fifth pedestal for experimentation with the public and spiritual games. Telos presents viewers with a briefcase sized white coffin. She asks them to open it as a ritual of commemoration to perished souls. Like the old Slavonic commemoration tradition, Telos offers the audience a glass of vodka. This is practiced to invigorate the body and to cheer the spirit. The coffin, made by Telos, is painted with small black wave symbols. These reflect both on the meaning of artist’s name (meaning wave), or a shape that resembles molecular bodies (i.e. virus bodies). Furthermore, the unusually white coloured coffin offers a light-weight view to life. It may suggest living through the ups and downs of life. Once the viewer opens the coffin, they see themselves. They soon come to realise that the coffin contains a mirror. Similar to the function of a mirror, the viewer reflects back on themselves and their lives. A happening is unlike seeing a painting. By participating in the making of the artwork, the viewer becomes part of the art. Therefore, they are an active, rather than passive, viewer of a work of art. Rituals can be defined as prescribed and repetitive behaviours that are performed to centre oneself within the universe. The ritual of self-contemplation encouraged by Telos, is an attempt to stimulate a questioning on the function of being human. More specifically, the work may be an instrument to stimulate contemplation on one’s behaviour during the current pandemic. Overall, this ritual offers a reveal and return to one’s essence, the reflection of the soul; thereby giving an out-of-body experience. Ona Telos states that humans are more than the reflection of the mind or body. Only by dis-identifying ourselves from the material can we (re)gain freedom. Written by Mariam Hussein
What Will You Fight For?
2019, Chelsea College of Arts, London “What will you fight for?” is an interdisciplinary project created for the Unit 1 Show at Chelsea College of Arts. The piece encompases three different mediums: live participatory performance, sculptural installation and 3d animation. This combination is not accidental. A unifying theme for all elements is the theme of political struggle and influence, as well as the issue of inter-ethnic interdependence. Intertidisciplinarity in the choice of mediums is intended to reflect the entire complex political situation in post-revolutionary Ukraine. This piece is representative of cultural and violent struggles between the East and the West; not just in Ukraine but as a historical conflict as well. The traditional Ukrainian ornaments on the rugged object of the punching bag represents the Eastern part of the country which was invaded by pro-Russian forces. The contrast of brutal masculine and militaristic activity (involved in the act of punching) in the country, as supported by Russia, is compared to the feminine aspects of the traditional Ukrainian paintings situated on the bag. The performance is an act of liberation, release and mediation between the two waring sides. The piece tries to move away from both spaces of influence to find Ukrainian independence. The main argument is to represent the continuous fight against juxtaposing East and West influences. The body of the performer is the body of the country, torn between the two sides striving for autonomy.
2019 Cookhouse Gallery, London
Towards Democracy in the Russian Federation
2015, S.Art Gallery, Moscow In this performance the artist acts as a judge. This is evidenced by her outfit: she is dressed in a real judicial robe and holds a funeral wreath in her hands. The wreath is decorated with a black mourning ribbon, on which you can read the inscription "Towards Democracy in the Russian Federation". The performance was realized in Moscow at the gallery S.ART , April 2015. At this time in Russia, cases of repression against dissenters were increasing, and political anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian propaganda reached their apogee. Democratic freedoms and views were not only threatened with extinction, they almost died under the yoke of official power. Such symbolic funerals of democracy in modern Russia have become quite a common practice during opposition rallies. Here, the artist performs the same funeral rite. But in doing it alone, not in a crowd, she thereby highlights the real seriousness of the problem.The artist also understands that this action is not enough for crucial changes in society; the system of Russian statehood itself will not change. Therefore, the performance is ironically taking place against the background of the advertising signboard of the school of contemporary art, equating acts of civic activism to an art game - or even just an element of another publicity stunt.
Falling in the Stalin Park
2014, Harbin, China The stone here suggests the Bronze Horseman monument in St. Petersburg. The stone under the feet of that horse symbolizes the barbarian forest which is supposed to be civilized; a snake represents enemies resisting this process. The monument's history implies that the snake was sacrificed to keep the monument stable. In this photo, the stone is empty apart from the inscription: 'Stalin Park'. Industrialization, seen as the high-point of civilization, liberated the place from old figures and reshaped the foundational base. The reliability of granite is replaced by cheap silicon. Russia,like a defeated snake, sleeps under the stone, clothed in a camouflage dress in the colors of the tricolor flag. A dream gives birth to the regressive monsters of Stalinism, unfortunately constantly appearing in contemporary Russian society, and the question - 'What spirit would saddle this beast?' - sparks out above the abyss.
The Will to Freedom
2015, War Museum, Kyiv On 15 June 2015, on the grounds of the National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 memorial complex, at the foot of the Motherland monument near the tanks, an artistic action-performance «The Will To Freedom» was held. The body of Ukraine is the territory of Freedom, Peace and Love. These are the three most important values, without which the life and healthy functioning of the country in the modern world is impossible. In the action, the body of Ukraine is the artist's body, which metaphorically portrays the entire complex militarized situation, as well as the consequences of the bloodthirsty policies of the pro-Kremlin invaders and corrupt local officials. Art is the key to the unspeakable. It expresses the emotional and subconscious aspirations of the whole people. It is an effective energy field for modeling the future. And civil art-actionism is also a foundation of a full- fledged civil society.