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Body and Borders. Part 1. Marriage as Performance.

Long-term marriage-as-performance
as an experiment, act of solidarity, sisterhood manifesto by Kulikovska-Shabo group. Kyiv–Malmo, Ukraine–Sweden, from 11 January 2014.

«Body and Borders» is a long-term project by Crimean-Ukrainian artist Maria Kulikovska and Syrian-Swedish artist Jacqueline Shabo. The artists met in the summer of 2013 and decided to create a common project, which officially began on January 11, 2014, at the moment of registration of their marriage, and which culminated in March 8, 2017. As part of their collaboration, Kulikovska and Shabo held a marriage-as-performance, organized several exhibitions, and were also involved in volunteer activities in the border area in Kharkiv.

«Body and Borders» is a project about the body, perception of it on the different social, political and cultural levels, opportunities of the body in these complicated hierarchical structures. This project is about borders of the body, about destroying established rules and boundaries, about discussion on its gender, religious, sociocultural, and politically-economical roles.

«Body and Borders» is an open dialogue-manifestation of the woman's body, its status and place in the third-world countries, in zones of conflict, in military territories and in the internal territories - own - also conflict, because was a result of the external devastating cataclysms. This project is about the body of a woman, closed in the standards and harmed under pressure of stereotypes. This project is about non-negotiable questions, their consequences and addressing them.
All that we strive for in everything we do, is to answer some very basic questions. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we? Where do we go? And WHAT is THAT?????? And these questions get broken down into other questions, philosophical constructions of thought, language(s), categories, definitions. And when we no longer can think – We conceive. We create – Yes, I agree, there has to go some thinking into that, but the result goes beyond words. Other ways it's not art.

And so finally the three of us sit in my kitchen in Östraby. There had been some confusion about road-descriptions. So I've had to wait several hours for these two unknown young women, referred to me by one of my "old" artists from the galley-time. I am in recovery after my first knee-implant operation. I have restricted amounts of energy. I'm slightly annoyed. I thought they wanted to do a lesbian wedding ceremony and that we were to discuss that and my paticipation as a priest. It turned out to be something completely different.

It had to do with politics, freedom, movement, our bodies, our spaces, where do we really enter or penetrate the (female) body? Why is the act of penetration so contaminated with aggressivity and violence. If you violate the spirit what happens to the body? And what is the role of language compared to art? And I suddenly feel lifted. Electric. Full of energy. Thoughts that I didn't even know I had, were coming out as perfectly constructed sentences making sense. And I could see the sparkle in their eyes, the glances they shared with each other. And we had gone into "the zone". Ahhhh, that MAGIC! Eyes, hearts, hands, voices, explanations, hesitations, recapitulations. Laughter!

We agree to agree. No, we were not having a same-sex wedding ceremony.... especially not with the metal grid "triumphant arch" with attached photos of Masha's squirrel-red-furry pussy hanging over us! Giggles! The pussy is a wonderful gift to the world of creation! But it's NOT enough as an artistic statement at least not in that form. We can't pussify that spiritual experience of love. Love goes beyond! There must be some element of mystery to allow us to get into interaction with what we perceive. The pussy – however cute – is quite frankly too blunt! There must be other ways to describe the female experience of getting our integrity exploited, even questioned.

We agree that it's an ongoing project. It had a beginning in Kyiv, but it has no ending that we can see. We turn our backs to the future, unseeing, while we analyze the past. Everything we create consists of known elements of our personal history. Only through our perception do we live in the present (and in our projections we live in the future) and even then something is "lost in translation". Our senses are evasive, not to be completely trusted! There will always be a gap between us and creation. Always that fraction of time that lapses between perception and interpretation. That is our grief and sadness. That is our endless longing for the unmediated union between our bodies and our minds and the physical world that defines our "otherness".

Our construction of language – the boundaries of our ability to describe the world that surrounds us and the sensations of our senses – is both possibility and imprisonment. To break down these prison walls we first have to agree that they are there - a shared obstacle. So we have to claim some territory as OURS. Then, like prisoners on either side of that wall we start digging in the hope of meeting somewhere in the middle. The paradox being, that the more well defined our tools of communication become, the further away from each other we seem to slip. So when words end and art begins... we are so far away, so isolated from one another, that our only hope rises to that place in our beings that works like a spiritual "Checkpoint Charlie"; Our hearts. And heart reaching out to heart, we say to one another:

"Please, forgive me, for I know not what I'm doing"

And the artist takes on the role of high priest/shaman/leader of cult and rite, creating bridges between the perceived reality and the soul, bringing a "perfect offering" before our very eyes and inviting us all to lose our minds. Beyond words we start on a journey without a known destination. It's the ultimate blasphemy! It's the ultimate act of love! And so love becomes both the question and the answer. The beginning and the end. Road, Truth and Life. I love you Maria-Jaqueline!!!!!! Body, soul, mind and heart. And I thank the benevolent Universe that brought us together".


Written for us on Östraby, 16 March, 2014, by Christina Meehan Lång, Ordained minister of Church of Sweden. Former gallerist (Galleri Lång, Malmö, Sweden).