HYSLOM – ITTE KAETE: BACK AND FORTH at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw

The art of building lasting relations is mixture of sincerity and repetitive encounter. For eight years, the hylsom collective have been returning to an artefact lookalike stone found in Coppenhagen, documenting its journey from Europe to Japan. Itte Kaete: Back and Forth relates the physical experience of transporting a 200 kilogram mass and its effects on the environment. 

Itte Kaete looks into the relation of masses at play- how people relate to people, to objects, to nature. In the courtyard of Ujazdowski Castle, suspended to a thick white rope, the stone sits at the bottom of a well linked to the Vistula River. Joint by a thin blue rope, the vehicles used to transport the stone (boat, bicycle, truck) lay static in the corner, stripped of their former function. The stone alone remains static and constant. 

In the second room, two-dozen clay sculptures raised on a wooden platform capture the temporality of human creation. “Here, we sit thinking about the stone, and with every hour, the experience of the stone leaves our bodies,” says one. Supported by small bags of sand placed around an inclined platform, each describes a distinct moment in the journey, reduced to recollection and memory. 

The video projection in the following room attests to this elusive feeling. Some segments are straightforward, like the desire to dislodge a massive object. Others require further meditation- a knot of arms moving about, applying force with no underlying intention.

A pointless exercise, the thought pervades. Yet, hyslom’s reference to the absurd is also what highlights the gap between our instinctive approach to nature and our conditioned responses. 

Hyslom describes their approach as Field Play. Field Play is a series of actions performed to locate the point of contact between land and body. It reduces calculated intent to a series of intuitive movements akin to play, and offers an alternative outlook on the environment, beyond object to be appropriated.  

In subsequent rooms, the collective gathered objects from their encounters- pigeon feathers, two dozen tiny roofs, 10.8 tonnes of sand, portraits with the boulder, cardboard boxes (piled to the ceiling), brief journey montages- and yet, it is the stone that weighs on our minds.

By drawing attention to the physical weight of the boulder, Itte Kaete strips it from its metaphorical burden. Sisyphus’s fate is lightened, as the stone becomes an instrument of play. The segments that make a life are heavy, but they are also passing. It is for us to choose our attachments and the relations to which we will return over and over.  Elaine Zheng    29th January 2020

The exhibition continues until 8th March 2020