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Exhibition: Shifting Sands: Hybrid Rituals & Symbols in Contemporary Culture, Modern Art Oxford

An exhibition of works by Serena Korda and Dr. Lakra

‘Folkloric rituals, from harvest festivals in Sussex to Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, continue to be shaped by the rites and activities which traditionally bound communities together. The symbols, images and materials produced as part of these rituals are often appropriated, developed and repurposed over time to gain new relevance beyond their pagan ritual origins. They are the visual representations of myth and familiarity, fear and hope, and of community identity in a specific place and time.

Shifting Sands brings together the work of two artists who continue these traditions in a contemporary context, working with images and ideas that resonate across time and cultures. The sculptures, collages and drawings presented in this exhibition reach into the past and mix traditional folklore with symbols of contemporary culture. They reflect the evolution in how we think about community, culture and history, and how this has altered over time.’

Situated at the very back of the gallery, A space not usually open to the public felt like more of a discovery. a sort of hiding place for this work to live in. With low lighting, and grey walls the work as a whole began to appear tomb like as if it had been there for years.

Initially you are led carefully through the show, through a maze like structure. First a wall of collages initiate you into the work, a series of manipulated found imagery that look like its mutating into brain like jellyish shapes. A set of found postcards that had been reworked, displayed images of bear like ladies dressed in fine clothes as if going to a picnic in the woods.

You then found a gap in the wall space, as though you had flipped a secret switch somewhere and your eyes were immediately drawn to the centre of the room which situated a case containing a book with a series of small objects displayed on the right hand side of the text. It had been made by the artists who had collaborated on this project, it seemed they wanted to make their own book of the dead, a celebration of these weird and wonderful worlds of make believe in which small communities had invested so much time and care into. It felt a little like being in an Indiana Jones movies, if I took the book of the dead, I would instantly be cursed and chased out of the gallery by a swarm of bloodthirsty creatures!

On the left hand side of the room were a series of large jugs called ‘the witch bottles’ which were based on the 17th century ballermine jugs that could found in many house holds and used to ward off evil during witch hunts.

I later discovered these witch bottles were used in a performative event called ‘ The Hosts: Ectoplasmic Variations’ in which people were invited to come and play the jugs using their voices, transforming the work in to a fusion of sculpture and voice. – see link

The ceramic witch bottles showed designs which appeared to have the faces of bearded men, toads and the texture of toads, brain like lumps, nipples and many orifices too. The pots looked as though they were still moving, as though deciding what to become. They felt as though they could be used in a ritualistic setting, which is something I am looking to bring into my own work.

I am very excited to be going to one of the choir events at Modern Art Oxford Gallery and have booked place to join the group performance at the end of June – see link


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