In “The Rumble of a Tireless Land” (on view through January 29, 2023), Polish artist Iza Tarasewicz draws on her agricultural heritage to create a series of stark installations that occupy the Tramway’s cavernous space in a curious fashion. Fragments of defunct agricultural machinery combined with raw materials such as wheat and clay are grouped together in expressive clusters, planting spiky feet on the floor and hanging precariously from the ceiling.
Two singular structures—Momentum and The Union that Has Evolved Into the Wing (both 2022)—are central to the show. Suspended in the center of the gallery, Momentum’s stretched-out coil of oxidized steel bristles with twisted V-shaped spikes, which protrude at regular intervals around its length, reaching almost to the floor. The spring-like coil, despite its inanimate nature, suggests a suppressed energy that might burst free at any moment. The Union that Has Evolved Into the Wing, which is mounted on an end wall and aligned with Momentum as if in a celestial configuration, requires close inspection to appreciate the thousands of individual brass components that make up its vast circular form. Appearing at once delicately benign and sharply barbaric, these elements bring to mind the harvesting of food for sustenance while also suggesting a shredding of the earth and the ecological disaster posed by large-scale industrial farming across the planet.
The clustered sculptures installed around the space also act in dual ways, appearing as communities in crisis and points of refuge. In this sense, Tarasewicz’s work resonates deeply with Tramway and Glasgow’s past. There is a difference, of course, between her dying agricultural aesthetic (what she calls “traumatized objects”) and Tramway’s industrial heritage, but both have resulted in communities that struggle while still managing to support themselves and others. That sensibility of support is palpable in the gallery because the sculptures sit among the remnants of Tramway’s original purpose as a tram shed, terminus, depot, and factory that once served the city in a different way than it does today.
Tarasewicz’s hanging assemblages were inspired by the circular and repetitive rhythms of the mazurka, which traces its roots back to the 16th century, when Polish agricultural workers threshed grain to a collective beat. This is reminiscent of Scottish waulking songs, sung in Gaelic by women as they finished (waulked) tweed cloth through a rhythmical process of beating and softening. Tarasewicz’s constructions of brass, steel, wheat, and wire gesture to such rhythms and movements, creating a presence that we respond to bodily as well as psychologically and intellectually. Their gestural forms invite us to circle around them, looking for alternative viewpoints, and to reconsider the world around us, questioning its value and validity, as we are reminded of the significance of raw materials such as wheat, yellow ochre, and clay for the past, present, and future of humankind.