Beauty and Enclosures

Halo Kultura, 2021

Beauty and Enclosures was created during a two month residency in Gdynia (Poland), where Alban Karsten worked with three Polish blacksmiths and a metalworker to construct a participatory fence together, resulting into a film and a sculpture.

The blacksmith — an almost extinct profession as the work is increasingly taken over by industrial machinery — in Poland is mainly engaged in building fences for his livelihood. The wrought-iron fence is purchased not so much to keep out uninvited guests, but mainly to demarcate property and to show the neighbours that one is doing well. A hand-forged fence is expensive, as it is extremely labour-intensive and made of solid steel.

Alban invited the metal charmers to tell him what beauty is, and whether they could summarise this in a handmade ornament. He would then weld their ornaments onto a fence, bringing together all these different ideas of beauty into a single object. Historically, the fence is a very coded and paradoxical object. The origin of the word lies in the 14th century word fens, a short term for defence. Although fences are structures that serve as barrier, border or enclosure, they are nevertheless often richly decorated and ornamented.

The manufacture of a wrought iron piece is a very labour-intensive, mediaeval choreography of constant heating, hammering and bending, back into the fire, waiting for it to turn yellow, orange, red, all those colours representing different stages of malleability, and again hammering, bending, until the object has acquired the desired shape. A technically very demanding, but through repetition and intensity also ritualistic act.

Made possible with the kind support of Mondriaan Fonds, AFK and Halo Kultura (Gdynia, PL).

Many thanks to the collaborators:
Leszek Supiński (blacksmith in Gdańsk), Zakhar Beznisko (blacksmith in Gdańsk), Jerzy Lasek (metalworker in Gdynia) and Remigiusz Bystrek (blacksmith in Gdańsk)

Curated, produced and interpreted by: Alicja Nowicz
Camera: Kitty Maria