The Knotted Threads of Nesa Gschwend
By: Radhieka Peeri
In a materialistic world run on heartless super-sonic time that stops for no one, do you ever make the effort to notice and understand those little unspoken stories people try to tell you? A secret streamlet that tickles from beneath each and every one of us, waiting to burst open with a myriad of emotions - so much to tell, but no one to stop and listen to you. Time is a luxury nowadays. It is not that we do not see but, more a case of not wanting to. To accept realities that make up life as we know it is harsh. Living within a constant blur of denial, with blinkers on, unconsciously driving ourselves to near emotional destruction – do we ever stop to think how life is faring for the others?
Swiss born Nesa Gschwend is an artist who seems to have attempted the impossible – making the viewers of her exhibition held at Lionel Wendt from 15 to 19 February 2012 waft away into her world weaved of video and textile installations. She was raised in the Rhine valley in Switzerland; educated at the Art & Design University, Zurich in scenographical design, became the recipient of the 2010 Metron Art Prize.
A series of video installations depicts a woman in the centre of a busy town, wrapped in unusual clothing – literally mummified, voluntarily assuming the role of a standing human statue, motionless, watching, observing, and waiting while all of life passed her by.
She lived in a city on the banks of the River Ganges for six months - observing and studying people revelling in a vibrant culture endemic to the people of Varanasi. Collecting on her fifty Indian saris which she knotted together to make one long textile symbolizing the oneness of humanity, she wrapped it around herself, and approached congested city circles in three different towns of the world - Varanasi in India, Salvador Bahia in Brazil, and Zurich in Switzerland. Standing in emulation of a statue in each city for three hours she waited and watched. Three Continents, three contrasting cultures, but by the collective reactions of passersby, projected to us with the help of a hidden video camera, humanity proved to be one and the same all over the world. Nesa says “I wanted to showcase the reactions of people and how we are all the same. In other words there are many common threads we share merely by being human. Something we do not bother to notice in our life.”She documents the movement and reaction of people at best, injecting a performance work into something that talks about shared human emotions and value.
Working with bodily gestures, and facial expressions in her textile installations Nesa explains that “we do not have the time to see the little stories in life, something that could be read in a single gesture – I searched a medium by which I could show gestures as a language of movement and came up with these textile installations.”
A face has many unspoken layers of feelings and emotions waiting to be read. But the sad truth we must face is that, when we finally ready ourselves to heed the pounding desire to reach out, accepting the want of that human touch – it might be too late. A textile installation consisting of various human faces was explained as depicting these unseen layers, which conjured different feelings and emotions to different people.
The ones who were lucky enough to experience and attune to Nesa’s special language of art may have felt a breathless urging an almost imperative contact with reality. It felt almost as if the unbearably heavy eyelids of inertia were gently massaged open to the reality of pseudo-events – characterized somewhat like an awakening into a deranged world revolving around all things material.
One leaves the exhibition with the feeling of hope that someday this decadent feeling of inertia amongst us - humans will break. The lid may no longer hold, and will crack open slowly and gently - one hopes.