Strophe, A Turning
Bureau is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Ellie Ga: Strophe, A Turning. The exhibition features her latest work, a two-channel video installation, which is the culmination of over three years of research. As with much of her work over the past decade, drift is a central focus and unifying theme.
Ga opens the piece with a quote from the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, who compared launching messages in bottles to the act of writing poems to an unknown reader. The piece then explores the obsession of launching and collecting messages in bottles, including the pilgrimage to the patron saint of messages on the Greek island of Symi. On visiting this island, and its neighbor Lesvos, in the summer of 2015, Ga is confronted by the mutable context of these islands, and decides to join a team of volunteers aiding asylum seekers and refugees. This experience, and the experience of documenting what is happening over the course of the past two years, raises numerous questions about the role of the artist, and how the symbol of a message in a bottle can be interpreted as a call to act.
The video installation is structured in separate strophes or verses, each one connected to the next by a shared geography or narrative. As each strophe closes, the screen darkens and a new verse opens on the opposing screen, requiring the viewer to turn and follow the reversals and shifts which have altered the course of the piece. Each turn launches a new facet of the narrative: an imperative change of direction in the story and perspective. On the screen, images are often truncated or blacked out: evidence of the artist’s decision to show or omit material. For Ga there is a deliberate commitment to the act of seeing, or showing, which weighed heavily on her during the making of this piece.
Initially, Ga was interested in how drifting objects have been used to chart sea movement: how accidental drift leads to new discoveries. These interests have been inherently tied to her biography ever since she was part of a small crew following the frozen tides in the pack ice near the North Pole on Tara, a sailboat built for that purpose. Like the Tara, drifting in the ice indeterminately, Ga’s practice centers on her willingness to drift with a current, following uncertain leads and allowing for unexpected turns. In that way, she collects her material like a beachcomber, gathering and indexing messages as they come to her. With this new work we witness Ga’s most complicated shift on the shores of Lesvos and watch how her work unfolds from this turning point. Ga processes her material following the models of archeologist, linguist, sociologist and poet, always questioning how the artist can bring depth and nuance to those methodologies. Her own history of drifting, never certain what will come of it, has enabled her to construct a powerful new work. Strophe, A Turning wrestles with very real political and humanitarian realities, and contextualizes it conscientiously in a complex history of endurance, faith and chance.
Ellie Ga (b. 1976, New York) lives and works in Stockholm. Recent museum solo exhibitions include: The Fortunetellers, Frac Franche Comté, Besançon, France; Square, Octagon, Circle, Le Grand Café Centre d’Art Contemporain, Saint-Nazaire, France; Grand Arts, Kansas City, Missouri; Pharos, M-Museum, Leuven, Belgium; It Was Restored Again, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Group exhibitions include: La Criée Centre for Contemporary Arts, Rennes, France; Villa du Parc Centre d’Art Contemporain, Annemasse, France; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; and the New Museum, New York. Ga has presented performance works at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, France; Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, Sweden; The Kitchen, New York; Le Consortium, Dijon, France; and the Fondation Cartier, Paris, France. Ga’s lighthouse play, Eureka, which she developed with The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in 2014, has been presented at the Guggenheim Museum; EMPAC; The Playground Festival, Leuven, Belgium; and the Kitchen. Her work is in the public collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, FRAC Franche-Comté, Hessel Museum of Art, Foundation Galeries Lafayette and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her book Square Octagon Circle will be released by Siglio Press in spring 2018. This is her third solo show at Bureau.
Special thanks to Vetenskapsrådet (The Swedish Research Council) and the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm.