The Art of Domestic Compulsion

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The Art of Domestic Compulsion Magdalena Bors

The Art of Domestic Compulsion Magdalena Bors

curator and writer Alasdair Foster

A Galleri Image Touring Exhibition

European Tour

DENMARK 24 May to 30 June 2013 Galleri Image, Aarhus POLAND 8 November 2013 to 5 January 2014 Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk 9 April to 9 May 2014 Galeria BWA, Jelenia Gora SPAIN 29 April to 28 June 2015 Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía, Almería 14 July to 30 August 2015 CICUS (Centro de Iniciativas Culturales de la Universidad de Sevilla), Seville October 2015 to February 2016 Museo del Gas, Fundación Gas Natural Fenosa, Barcelona

Introduction It is with great pleasure that Galleri Image presents the work of Magdalena Bors. This is a particularly special event for us because, while we have shown artists from many parts of the world, this exhibition is our ďŹ rst from the continent of Australia. The Art of Domestic Compulsion has been developed in partnership with Alasdair Foster. A highly respected curator on the international art scene, he has been a dedicated and passionate promoter of high quality photography and media art for over 25 years, the last 15 of them from his base in Australia.

The idea for this exhibition was born in China during a major international festival at which both CDC and Galleri Image regularly present exhibitions. It provided an opportunity to meet and develop the details of the project and well illustrates how intercultural projects evolve one from another. The result is this magical exhibition. We hope that our Danish, Polish and Spanish audiences will enjoy it and share our enthusiasm for the enchanting imagery of Magdalena Bors.

Beate Cegielska



What if…? What if there is a monster under my bed, or a secret land through the back of the wardrobe or a fairy forest under the coffee table … just out of sight, but there to be glimpsed if you are very quick … and truly believe. Magic, like creativity, tends to be found at the intersection of two contrasting paradigms. It is at this point of dislocation that something new arises; something tantalising but not yet fully understood. Here, the magical narrative is the spark that springs from the clash of quotidian reality and fantastical possibility. But the images also speak of a dislocation known to many Australians – that of the émigré caught between the not-quite-here and the no-longer-there. Some of these images suggest landscapes of the antipodes. The characteristically rounded mounds of the Bungle-Bungle mountain range in Western Australia are lovingly recreated in shimmering

Magdalena Bors’ fantastical constructed images suggest a domestic magic brought into being by obsessive desire. In this first series, Homelands, fairy-tale scenes grow from the mundane materials and bric-a-brac of everyday home life. Wool winds its way into an Arcadian landscape secreted below the coffee table; spilled sugar lumps rise up from the kitchen floor to form an enchanted castle. The viewer’s angle of sight makes evident this magical world which, all the while, remains unremarked by the figure in black – an anonymous ‘everywoman’ going about her household chores. These images play out the perennial narrative trope of a magic that others cannot see and, consequently, do not believe. Only the storyteller and their audience fully understand the mystery. It is a delicious mix of frustration and privilege wrapped in the elaborate folds of folklore and wish fulfilment. 4

brass pushpins. The sponge-plastic torrent rushing through the yellow gorge and swirling around the central stack echoes the Rock Island Bend on the Franklin River in Tasmania. It is a location made famous by the photographer Peter Dombrovskis, whose image of the scene became the emblem of environmentalist resistance to the planned damming of the river. Meanwhile, the sugarcube castle and woolly coniferous woodland speak strongly of a western European landscape and sensibility; of stories carried across the oceans and retold to keep the memory of the old homeland alive in the imagination. The characteristic round towers of the castle (developed as a defensive architectural strategy) are deeply embedded in European folk mythology as the places where princesses are imprisoned and misunderstood monsters hide from the world.

It is this ability to enfold apparently disparate aspirations, memories and ideas into a coherent image that attracts so many viewers to Magdalena Bors’ Homelands. Each picture weaves something new from the traditions of the past and the domesticity of the present to speak imaginatively about the inner experience of being. An experience that yearns for something beyond the here and now; something more than a world constrained to what we simply see and comprehend ‌ something glimpsed momentarily out the corner of the eye.


Surprisingly, no ants came to visit this sugar mountain scene which inhabited my kitchen for several days.

Š Magdalena Bors Peaks and Valley 2006 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



Many people contributed buttons to the creation of this image. I wonder how many memories were accidentally uncovered while looking through dusty attics and boxes of odds and ends?

Š Magdalena Bors Cavern 2007 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



The armadillo-like texture created by these thumbtacks is incredibly pleasing. I enjoy making images that appear tactile.

Š Magdalena Bors Mountain Vista 2007 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



It’s amazing how performing a mundane household chore can provide the perfect inspiration for escapism.

Š Magdalena Bors Gorge 2008 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



I have a vivid childhood memory of being in enchanted woodland. The woodland probably no longer exists, and the magic of that moment is long gone, but this memory fills me with a sense of warmth, wonder and hope.

Š Magdalena Bors Woodland Scene 2006 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



A fairy-tale scene conjured in a moment of distraction; sweet, whimsical, idealized.

Š Magdalena Bors Castle on the Hill 2007 pigment print (70 x 70cm)



The Seventh Day

time to set aside from work; for the religious to worship and for the less pious to play. While, from a severely Protestant perspective, play may seem both childish and wasteful, contemporary neuropsychology recognises it to be an essential part of learning. A time to expand comprehension with the elastic of imagination; to develop new skills and dexterity. A time for ‘what if…?’ and ‘could I…?’ The 18th-century philosopher Friedrich von Schiller suggested that play was a fundamental ‘drive’ that effectively formed a bridge between the rational and the sensual. But for the figures who now regard their handiwork with such perplexity, the process of compulsive play has not lead to the clarity of reason or even the positive affect of sensual release. I can’t help but think of Roy Neary constructing ever large models of Devil’s Tower in Stephen Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of

If Homelands engages our wish for something magical beyond the humdrum of daily life, Magdalena Bors’ second series, The Seventh Day, turns more squarely to explore the entanglement of creation and compulsion. In each, an iconic Australian landscape has been recreated in an unlikely form and location. Jigsaw puzzles coalesce into a vivid coral reef; stacks of old newspapers are sculpted into the likeness of a geological tourist attraction known at The Twelve Apostles;1 the Bungle Bungles have been crocheted into being.2 Yet for all their industry, the makers regard the results of their labour with a look of perplexity. What obsession drove them to create these scenes in the first place? Is the act of creation a form of madness? According to the Book of Genesis, God created the world in six days and on the seventh he rested. Abrahamic religious custom has subsequently defined every seventh day as a 18

simply struggling for a meaning that, as yet, remains beyond their grasp? And do we, like them, go about our daily lives with a sense of urgency that we barely comprehend; our personal aspirations smothered in the honeyed seductions of advertising and constrained by the invisible bonds of conformity. Were we to realise our deepest dreams, would we even recognise them?

the Third Kind: an idea or memory struggling into consciousness through the act of obsessive making. In Magdalena Bors’ images, the ‘play drive’ seems to have taken over each protagonist but, finally, left them struggling to understand the purpose of their labours. Perhaps, in time, meaning will become evident, just as Roy Neary only understood his obsession with a distinctively shaped mountain as he drew closer to the site of the anticipated close encounter. The inexplicable is always challenging. All too easily, the response to activities and ideas that sit outside of the normative comforts of the understood is to label them as deviant or pathologise them as psychologically aberrant. But, in the quest for self-discovery, the destination is not always apparent from the outset and, in the act of creation, the distinction between art and madness never clearly drawn. Are these driven figures haunted, possessed or

1. The Twelve Apostles is the name given to a group of limestone stacks formed by the uneven erosion of the cliff face. The group is located off the coast of Port Campbell National Park, on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria. Originally known as the Sow and Piglets the site was renamed The Apostles in 1922 to encourage tourism. The formation eventually became known as the Twelve Apostles, despite there only ever having been nine stacks, and now, due to continuing erosion by the sea, eight. 2. The Bungle Bungles is a rocky range made up of layers of sandstone and pebble conglomerates given its distinctive bee-hive shapes by the action of wind and rain over millions of years. The range is located in the Purnululu National Park in the Kimberly Region of Western Australia. Purnululu was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.


Comprising over 40,000 individual puzzle pieces, this was an incredibly time-consuming and challenging scene to construct and my most ambitious image to date. I am fascinated by this most complex and fragile of ecosystems.

Š Magdalena Bors Reef 2010 pigment print (110 x 165cm)



I’ve been intrigued by the curvaceous, maternal forms of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia since I saw them in a National Geographic magazine as a child. They make me think of a group of women, huddled together whispering secrets about the past.

Š Magdalena Bors Bungle Bungles 2010 pigment print (110 x 165cm)



A self-portrait. Exhausted, overwhelmed, lost in the strangest of jungles.

Š Magdalena Bors Jungle 2010 pigment print (110 x 165cm)



Rising majestically from the turbulent sea along Australia's spectacular Great Ocean Road, eight of The Twelve Apostles remain. The demise of the towering limestone stacks reminds us just how transient everything is.

Š Magdalena Bors Apostles 2011 pigment print (110 x 165cm)



There is something very nostalgic about the colours and light at this time of year.

Š Magdalena Bors Autumn 2011 pigment print (110 x 165cm)



Galleri Image


Galleri Image is a non-commercial exhibition space which aims to promote high quality photo-based art by showing Danish and international photography and video. Founded in 1977, the gallery is the longest-running nonprofit exhibition space for photographic art in Scandinavia and, for many years, was the only photo-art gallery in Denmark. Over the past 38 years, Galleri Image has achieved an international reputation for its exhibitions and has contributed considerably to the recognition and understanding of photography as an important and independent medium in the world of visual art. Based in Aarhus, Denmark and with free entry to all its shows, the gallery regularly hosts talks, discussions, seminars, workshops and guided exhibition tours.

Cultural Development Consulting (CDC) is founded on the firm belief that art is the territory of the many and not the province of the few. CDC works to extend visual ‘conversations’ locally, nationally and internationally. Its founder, Alasdair Foster, has extensive experience in creating innovative, engaging and at times challenging exhibitions that win both critical and popular acclaim. With 20 years’ experience heading national arts institutions and a further 10 years as a successful independent, he has presented curatorial projects in many parts of the world and has worked with artists from over 50 countries globally.


Magdalena Bors Born in Belgium in 1976 to Polish parents, Magdalena Bors migrated to Australia with her family in the early 1980s, settling in Brisbane. Bors began her formal education in the field of Architecture, studying at the University of Queensland from 1995–97. Following a period of work and travel in Europe, she moved to Melbourne, where she undertook a Bachelor of Arts (Photography) at RMIT University, graduating in 2006. Her work has featured in various solo and group shows, including Phantasia, an exhibition curated by Alasdair Foster that toured in Australia and was presented at the Photoquai festival in Paris in 2009. Her images have won a number of awards, including Best Staged or Directorial Photomedia Work in the 2007 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize.

Bors has also been a finalist in the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize and the Albury Regional Art Gallery National Photography Prize, and in 2009 she was the recipient of a new work grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. In 2011, Simon Gregg featured her work in his book New Romantics: Darkness and Light in Australian Art (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2011) which maps “a return to passion in art, and a return to atmosphere and awe”.


The Art of Domestic Compulsion by Magdalena Bors A Galleri Image Touring Exhibition

Vestergade 29 8000 Aarhus C Denmark +45 8620 2429

All images © Magdalena Bors Text: Alasdair Foster

The exhibition is generously supported by:

The Spanish tour is presented in partnership with Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía, Almería

electronic catalogue published by Cultural Development Consulting Sydney