Polish crochet artist and performer Olek lets us into the ambiguity of her space, where the artist and the art are so intertwined with each other that to delineate the two would mean unravelling the pattern itself. And Olek is quite okay with that too.Excerpts from the interview.
Olek on a crocheted elephant created to support Elephant Family, Convent Garden. Image courtesy of Elephant Family.
What does the act of crocheting mean to you? Is it a statement of your politics, or an expression of your creative synergy with that humble piece of thread?
It’s both. Crochet is my language; crochet is a metaphor for everything and the way in which I communicate my ideas to the audience. We crochet by unravelling, the action never ends; it actually repeats itself. So this is the way I communicate. That’s why I say, everything that becomes personal in my life, I hope it becomes universal. It’s true that everything that surrounds me is crocheted.
Crocheted table, Brooklyn Artists Ball, Brooklyn Museum, New York, 2014. Image Courtesy of Liz Ligon
So, then, how conscious is your thought process while you crochet?
You know what, it varies. Very often, when I’m making a piece, later, I realise why I’m making the piece and how I’m making the piece, that it’s something that has influenced me. This process, sometimes, is very hard to explain to myself. I believe that anything you eat, the air you breathe, the water you drink, the people around you, everything influences you and you put that into your work and you don’t even know it is there. Now, for example, I am creating an installation in a museum, and I’m working with women from not just Sweden but also Ukraine and Syria, and that really influences my pieces here. As an artist you just sometimes have a canvas and a brush. In a way, it’s very easy because you are working with your energy and your time, but working with twenty other people can be difficult; they are giving you so much more. They are giving you a lot of things that are irreplaceable, the energy, the thoughts, the ideas... all this by just being next to you and telling you their life stories.
Olek on top of her crocheted homeless shelter, India, 2015. Image Courtesy of Start Delhi Festival
Somehow, for me, using our hands to create a work of art or a piece of music has an almost meditative quality to it, and always inspires in the other a sense of awe. What does it inspire in you?
(Laughs) The hands are tired!
Actually, it’s interesting that when I’m crocheting, very often, I’m thinking about the next pieces. My head is spinning very quickly in different directions. To be very honest with you, after I finish work here at the museum, and go back to where I am staying, I’m still crocheting but I’m crocheting something very simple, I’m watching a documentary on the nature channel and I’m relaxing. And you come up with good ideas in a way; your mind goes through the whole day and the things you have to produce and the things you have to do. The mind, like crochet, never really stops.
A lot of your work happens in different parts of the world, which means different energies that you are constantly dealing with. How do you then distil all this information that is coming to you? How do you bridge the gap between the read and heard as against the seen and the felt? It’s important that I feel what I feel, you know. It’s crucial. That’s why the world is always changing and moving and I have to travel for my work. For instance, the only information that I read before coming to India, what really inspired me to come to India, was reading about the rapes, the marital rapes and all those horrible stories that you hear. But once I am there, I have my ears open for anything that influences my work. As an artist working in a public space, this is very important – to actually be aware of what is happening. That’s why the work is more powerful, I think.
Image Courtesy of Olek.
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