Polish Performance Archive

Description by Filmoteka Muzeum

In January 1989, Teresa Murak carried out the performance Bulrush in Chełm. The artist diligently removed slime and grass from the River Uherka, which she later transferred to Gallery 72 at the Museum of the Chełm Region in Chełm. On the walls and floor of the gallery Murak spread an abundance of organic matter, which later died.
Slime was sourced from rivers flowing through the city where the exhibition space was located, for example in Warsaw it was taken from a small river Bach in the area of Ursynów. For the artist, the use of the slimy substance amounted to manifesting the properties of the natural ecosystem, where the forces of life and death clash in microscale: decomposition of dead plants and animals, transformation of grubs, clastic rock production, etc. Swamp is a natural living environment for various micro-organisms, but also a side product of great many natural processes. Teresa Murak’s activities with slime provide a liaison between actions beyond the galery or museum space and organic (therefore subject to metamorphosis) installations exhibited at art institutions. Consequently, they can be classified in Smithson’s terms as: site (real site, particular location on the map, inaccessible for the viewer – world undisturbed by humans), and non-site (“artificial site”, sterile, e. g. gallery or museum hall – “edited” world). The site can be represented in the non-site by means of samples of material (rock, earth, slime, etc.), as well as photographic and film documentation, notes or maps. Another important term introduced by Robert Smithson, which comes in handy upon interpreting Teresa Murak’s works is displacement, which stands for
the journey from the site to the non-site, in this case of slime sourced from the river to the gallery, where stands for the journey from the site to non-site, in this case of slime sourced from the river to the gallery, where it was dispersed on the walls and in the corners of halls. Slime became a conveyor for primitive energy – drying and flaking, the slime paintings “pursued labour”, an ongoing imminent metamorphosis of the organic components of the work. To refer to Smithson’s linguistic metaphors, the slime on the wall is a synecdoche that evokes the real world beyond the
gallery walls.

S. Cichocki, Earthworks. Teresa Murak and the Spiritualisation of Silt, in: Teresa Murak. Who Are You Going To, Galeria Labirynt, Lublin 2012.