Growing a Home with Magdalena Dukiewicz
By Magdalena Dukiewicz, guest contributor
In my latest exhibition "In every dream home a heartache," curated by Elisa Gutiérrez Eriksen for Stand4 Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, I explore the concept of “home” that has been inoculated in my mind from an early age. It is a notion driven mainly by society and religion and reinforced by family, and is one that brings a cumulus of anxieties related to social expectations.
The house, the central piece of the project, is made out of a bio- textile cover fabricated with hydrolyzed collagen and vegetable glycerin, natural pigments, and my own blood which was patiently and meticulously collected for several days. All the elements are stitched together awkwardly in a desperate attempt to build a home. The concept of a house is based on a portable playhouse made of textiles that I had as a child and explores how “playing house” and practicing social roles at an early age has been adapted in my adult life.
The title is another reference to my childhood memories. As a mature woman I can finally, fully comprehend the dark lyrics of a Roxy Music song that my parents would listen to: “Home sweet home is only a saying...” There is a clash between feeling safe at home as a child and the reality of being afraid to grow up and to face life; the longing for a dream home and for innocence, combined with fear and disappointment; the sacrifices made as a woman, partner, and mother and being exposed to physical and mental violence.
The yellow light coming from inside of the house that reacts to the surroundings is both welcoming and hostile - the place is a shelter that can become a prison. Ashes scattered around the house’s foundations suggest the possibility of redemption and recovery.
The house is accompanied by three other installations. This is my body this is my blood is a lamp placed on a recycled table with a very decorative lampshade made of hydrolyzed collagen, a high concentration of my blood, and textured with air bubbles. Framed is more abstract, an almost picturesque light piece that might resemble a bed frame. Finally, Singular Plural, an installation constructed with thousands of gelatin capsules formed into organic shapes makes a reference to Jean Luc Nancy’s concept that existing is always coexisting. Single capsules glued together representing clusters of peoples that, in the bigger picture, are forming a society where all individuals depend on each other.
As Nancy stated: “A world is not something external to existence; it is not an extrinsic addition to other existences; the world is the coexistence that puts these existences together.”
The use of impermanent materials and incorporating and dissolving my DNA with and within them add to the idea of temporality and imperfection. The house, like the other pieces, will transform, eventually collapse, then disintegrate and disappear, but the process and its traces are my way of leaving an imprint in the world.
I was searching for a material that would have similar properties to the human body and I discovered that, in ballistics, models made out of gelatin are used. Upon researching the properties of gelatin, I learned it is actually hydrolyzed collagen – a collagen that's been broken down into more easily dissolvable amino acids. Native collagen, on the other hand, is a triple helix of alpha-chains of amino acids, which builds strong fibers used for the body’s structure. Collagen is the body’s most important building block. It is the glue that holds our tissue together, ensuring the integrity, elasticity, and regeneration of our bodies’ connective tissues, and thus maintaining our skin, cartilage, and bones.
I started to experiment with this material about five years ago. It took me a while to figure out how to work with it to get the results I wanted and to create three-dimensional objects. To create "In every dream home a heartache" I fabricated sheets of the material blended with glycerin, some natural dyes, and blood. I pieced everything together with a sewing machine and by hand, intentionally leaving stitches visible. The collection of my blood was a long and rather painful process, which adds to the concept of the installation and intensifies my personal relation to the piece. The skin-like, organic, semi-permeable material that forms the house walls is a reference to the skin being a connector between inside and outside of the body.