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Tablecloth [Obrus]: A Series of Works

Tablecloths [Obrusy] have been embroidered. Employing the iconography of sign language, symbolism of prison tattoos, Morse code, the Braille alphabet, road, evacuation and warning signs, notice boards, iconographies of political systems, corporate logos, graphics representing social movements, the V sign, Georgian, Arabic and Afrikaans alphabets, line drawings of constellations. Each piece in the series deals with a different subject matter. Each tablecloth is a multicomponent essay, in which I am constructing a community of communication and experience. Originally, the Polish word 'obrus' referred to any cloth. The verb and gerund 'brusić/bruszenie' was the Old Polish 'wiping'; the 'obrus' came to be used to cover the table only in the late Middle Ages. In the tablecloth, texts, signs, images and communities clash.

The tablecloth is a meeting platform. It connects the cup, the plate, the guest's and the host's hands, bodies and thoughts. We're all living under the constellation, detached, and proximity is a threat. Language is tangled, sky-blue, with a knot tied on it. Letters are ornaments. Gestures are words. Logic, reason and proportions haven't made the grade. The tea is sour, the soup – salty, the cake – bitter. Hands on the tablecloth are joint and safe.

"The hungry become refugees."1
Needs cause migration. A physical hunger, hunger as an impulse to satisfy the need for fulfilment, for a better life, forces people to take to the road. To walk, drive, displace.
At the centre of the textile are bowels. The final section of the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the second-brain. Ninety percent of signals travel from the gut to the brain. A person experiencing depressive states, anxiety or symptoms of severe stress may suspect they arise not from the head, but rather from the intestines.2 The quality of consumed food directly influences types of signals transmitted to the brain and, consequently, the quality of life. The process of peristalsis, a movement propelling food through the digestive tract towards the rectum, occurs in the intestines; the process is analogous to migration.3

In the bowels, I put down the phrase 'chleb/hlep/help'. The phrase refers to de Saussure's theory of langue and parole.4 Words in the phrase follow form one to the next. Chleb [bread] was embroidered in grammatically correct Polish, hlep is its phonetic notation, and help is the word in its phonetic version with a typographical error as well as a word in English. Between the three words, a signifying – geographical space emerges; a relationship between Poland and the UK, between Polish economic migrants and natives.
In the textile, I quote the story of 91-year-old Hanna Basaraba, one of the last remaining witnesses to the Holomodor (Great Famine) in Ukraine. In 1933, five million people, at the least, were starved to death by Stalin. Every seven seconds in an Ukrainian village, somebody died of hunger. Her story was listened to and recorded by Witold Szabłowski. "... I was six and remember that all the time, absolutely all of the time, I was hungry... ."5

Hunger/Exit is one of the series of tablecloth works.
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1. Martín Caparrós, Hunger, trans. Katherine Silver, Melville House, 2020.
2. , accessed: 22 May 2020; see also: “The Second Brain: Is the Gut Microbiota a Link Between Obesity and Central Nervous System Disorders?”, , accessed 26 June 2020.