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Jessica Ostrowicz

MA work


Dismember :: Remember- a text on Cleave 

‘In my beginning is my end.’

‘In my end is my beginning.’


-Four Quartets, Part II East Coker, by T.S. Eliot

These lines, variations of which feature heavily in Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, create a recursive space that folds back around on itself, it ensnares the reader in its double helix structure as the two lines wrap around each other. Time becomes fluid in these inversions, traveling both forwards and backwards, in the same manner as the recurrent experience of trauma, where time also doesn’t run linearly — events come back from the past as though they are more present than current reality. Again, entwining itself, the double helix comes to mind, but its shape is not just a vague delineation of the time-space geometry of trauma: it is also the shape of the DNA that some types of trauma cling to. These are afterimages of trauma that have been passed down, like a silent fable, from one generation to the next. The roots of such trauma can’t usually be traced — the equivalent of walking into a room and not remembering what you went in for.

Cleave by Jessica Ostrowicz is a liminal act of mourning for the unseen landscape of our collective wounds. The installation is in a twofold state; while it delineates the healing nature of ritual, the actual experience of the installation itself could be, with its kinetic wails and fleshy artificial appendages, traumatic. Trauma deconstructs bodies, but they still appear complete, and the installation captures how a person can be rewoven through ritual, whilst also being picked apart by it. But perhaps healing only happens at the rupture point of these two states anyway, at the threshold between remembering and dismembering. 

Walking into the concentric assemblage triggers the discordant and syncopated screams of water whistles. Seemingly designed as abstractions of the body, their spheres are cast from bone dust — from an unidentified source — and have been fitted with microphones and listening devices so that they can then hear and respond to one another. Their individualised wails have been designed to echo six of the artist’s family members. 

Other disembodied steal arms holding fabric torsos full of rocks, appear ready to rip under their weight. Ripping one’s clothes in Jewish mourning rituals physically symbolises inexpressible inner pain, while the stones — which in this case are asserting force on the fabric — are often used as place holders by graves and are the impenetrable marks of inconsolability. As the clothes continue to rip under the stones’ weight, their bodily identifiers become more warped and lifeless; they become weightless sacks and the stones they have shed become their memorial on the floor below. Numerous thin threads tied together like the knots on a Tzitzit string up some of these biomorphic-smeared bodies. Like the recurring tropes and rituals we bind ourselves with, the strings both support and strangle their load.

The passage of time causes ruptures in the reprocessing of memories: whilst identifiable through their constituent parts, the heaped bodies, flailing limbs and cut flowers that litter the installation’s circle are now fragmented detritus. Trauma is not entropic, it lingers in the recursive redoubled helixs of our DNA, but the warped appendages of memory that they travel through are.  

-Matthew Turner, writer


  • Jeff Wall‘s Room (detail)
  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA Contemporary Art Practice, 2018



  • The etiology of epigenetic scarring begins with trauma, however its transgenerational implications can breed an innate ‘schade’ which is far harder to trace. As global diasporas increase the intersectionality of cultures and countries— both crossing and raising borders in the minds of their hosts— and as accelerationism splits economic and subsequent social divides, and our online personalities and presences are stripped and used for parts, the scars that linger like genetic silt build subliminally into societal scarring, effecting entire social groupings, classes, races and religions. The cycles in which trauma is able to accumulate and build is never mourned. The present moment presses into future as the past drags into its next iteration, and we add our scars to the cycle, unaddressed, ready to hand down, a little heavier, to our children. 

    Ostrowicz’s practice explores repetition and ritual as an iteration of, and potential nostrum for, trauma; using faint, fragile motifs, cut, sewn, drawn, folded or recorded, and repeating them over time to build up fragile and often consumingly large installations. Through the process of making, the artist develops her belief that it is the scars that bind us, to a place where it is again possible for repetition to soothe trauma, as well as create it. 

    The cyclical nature of undoing as a means to mend the undone, is wrapped up in the title Cleave, a word defined by the paradoxically oxymoronic splitting and bringing together of something— in this case a rupturing and repiecing of an unspoken collective memory we never shared.

  • Degrees

  • Diplom, Fine Art Painting, Academy of Fine Art, Dresden, 2016
  • Exhibitions

  • The Dodo and the Seed, Siobhan Davies Dance, London, 2017; Intervention! Kunsthaus Dahlem, Berlin, 2016; Diplomausstellung, Oktogon, Dresden, 2016; Hat Stick Shoe, Associacao Cultural, Gois, 2016; I Woke Up Like This, Senate Hall, Academy of Fine Art, Dresden, 2016; Dear Viewer (solo), The Dome, Moscow, 2015; Postcards From The East, A.P.T. Gallery, London, 2014; Dada Ty, European Centre of Culture, Hellerau, 2014; Plural Projekt: Reality, Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2013