Known for creating crocheted masterpieces that turn the kitschy handicraft on its head, Agata Oleksiak, the Polish artist more commonly known as Olek, never ceases to amaze her audience with her works, from a fully-functional crocheted carousel to intricately hand-crocheted artworks covering live human models installed in a Williamsburg bank. In the Blink of an Eye, one of the artist’s most recent installations, feels like the antithesis of every work she’s ever made, revolving around the raw destruction of a large crocheted artwork rather than the painstaking weaving of one.
Displayed from May to September 2016 at Avesta Art/Verket in Sweden, the piece will be shown again starting in May 2017, due to an overwhelmingly positive response. In the Blink of an Eye consists of a 19th-century Swedish home crocheted by Olek and a team of assistants that was literally blown to pieces before it was shown to the public. No one but Olek and her team witnessed what the pre-destroyed building looked like, although the artist produced a video of the building while it was still intact and filled with crocheted furniture, decorations, and light fixtures, leading up to the moment of pure explosive destruction.
Olek isn’t a nihilist or looking to make a statement of artistic disownment by burning her own works, a la John Baldessari’s The Cremating Project. In fact, the artist didn’t originally intend to blow-up the work at all. “I had originally intended to just recreate a traditional Swedish home. It was the summer of 2015 and the refugee crisis had started to explode,” Olek explains to The Creators Project. “Since I always work with assistants, I asked the museum to help me get connected with refugees who might need work.”
This proved to be a turning point in the artist’s project: “After a couple days of crocheting, sewing, and listening to music from various countries and audiobooks, me and the refugee assistants broke ice and a conversation started that changed me forever. It is one thing to read about the events in those parts of the world, but it is something totally different to actually look in the eyes of those women who lost everything while running from the war,” the artist reveals.
“Lama, one of my assistants who had escaped war in Syria, showed me pictures of her hometown before and after the bomb attack. I felt anger and frustration that I couldn’t do anything to stop it. One day, I saw Lama crying. She explained it was her wedding anniversary but she couldn’t spend it with her family as her mother and brother ended up in Germany.”
“These women not only lost their physical home due to the war conflict, but also lost the feeling of home as their families got separated. The idea of exploding the house became clearer and clearer to me,” Olek adds. “Lama’s husband, who had been helping us quite often, brought me a folder with many photographs from their hometown, including their own house and other homes before and after explosions, which served as a source of inspiration for me.”
Avesta Art/Verket closes each winter between October and May, due to harsh weather conditions. You can see the explosive results of In The Blink of an Eye when the museum re-opens in May 2017. For more of Olek’s stitched works, click here.