exhibition

Olga Micińska
"The Shaving Horse & Co."

Polana Institute

April 5–16, 2019

The works of Olga Micińska, exhibited in a private apartment, refer to intimate space (bed, bedclothes, underwear) or to craft and physical work (shaving horse, wedges, tools). The installation functions as a vast still life – a system of everyday objects with symbolic meanings. The ecosystem proposed by the artist is based on craftsmanship as a method and philosophy, postulating resistance towards the neoliberal logic of the market. This method favours direct contact with the material, attention to detail, and slow working process.

What is important in the artist's work is the delicate shift in the meaning of domestic tools when they become abstract artistic objects. They appear to be fully functional, but in fact they only perform such capacity. Deprived of their original functions, they take on a surrealistic, speculative character, which contrasts with their grounded, sculptural form.

The shaving horse is a traditional woodworking tool used since the medieval times and produced by carpenters in their own workshops. It functions here as a symbol of sustainability and creative work in domestic environment. It is made of simple, cheap materials – scrap wood and offcuts. A pedal-operated vice mechanism allows to clamp small-sized, longitudinal wooden elements which are difficult to process otherwise. The fastened piece of wood is then carved with a drawknife, a special blade with two handles, by the worker seating on the the shaving horse astride and pressing the pedal with their feet. Shaving horses are still used by carpenters who utilise traditional techniques. They can be used in making pegs, tiles, or bows.

Working on a shaving horse requires high level of attention, since the user directs the blade towards their own body. Planing itself is a repetitive, rhythmic activity, which makes it almost meditative. The shaving horse present in the exhibition room resembles a strange creature. It is not difficult to imagine it as the living tenant of this apartment.

Exhibition view