• Natalia Romik
    Hand and Trapdoor

    2 June - 21 July
    Private View: Friday 2 June (6-8PM)
  • Ben Hunter is delighted to present Natalia Romik’s first solo exhibition in the UK. The exhibition will comprise two sculptures: Trapdoor (Zhovkva), a work from Romik’s formative exhibition, Hideouts. The Architecture of Survival, presented at Zachęta, Warsaw and TRAFO, Szczecin in Poland in 2022, and Jad, a nomadic sculpture created as a vehicle for urban protest.


    Trapdoor (Zhovkva), is an artistic tribute to survival architecture, a hiding place built and used by Jews during the Holocaust. It is a cast sculpture of the entry point to a hideout lifted from panels in a parquet floor in Zhovkva, present day Ukraine. The sculptural form is presented alongside results of interdisciplinary research carried out by Romik alongside a team of anthropologists, historians, archaeologists and urban explorers with the aim to uncover, map and archive examples of Jewish survival architecture. The project pays tribute to the daily toil of those in hiding and those who provided hiding places, their creativity, solidarity, and will to live, often overlooked in the tradition of heroic commemorations. It reflects on fundamental problems of architecture and social coexistence, such as the relationship between form and function or the design and use of space.


    The second monumental sculpture, Jad, is a nomadic machine, shaped as a big hand with a pointing finger, clad in mirrors, evoking an ambiance of architectural protest and urban memory. The form of this sculpture is inspired by the Jewish liturgical tool Yad, a hand-shaped pointer used to read Torah. In 2012, Romik transported the sculpture to places of architectural erosion in Silesian Metropolis, condemning thoughtless and compulsive urban management which sees derelict and historically Jewish architecture destroyed or forgotten. Jad was deployed to invigorate erased architectural memory.


    The exhibition foregrounds on the idea of visibility; Jad is clad in reflective material which aims to mirror and therefore magnify the urban erosion it is calling attention to, whilst also creating an illusion of disappearing. Trapdoor (Zhovkva) plays with visibility as an essential property of its architectural form; it must remain invisible to the unauthorised eye. Romik takes the tragic history of the Holocaust as a starting point for a universal reflection on methods of survival in situations of existential threat. Her sculptures elegantly open a dialogue about commemoration, memory, migration, loss and architectural creativity. They ruminate more broadly on the cognitive potential of architecture and art, reflecting upon the way in which community is established in situations of threat.





    Special thanks are due to: Kuba Szreder, Stanisław Ruksza, Andrzej Witczak (TRAFO Trafostacja Sztuki), Michał Kubiak and Anna Muszyńska (Zachęta), Aleksandra Janus, CCA Kronika in Bytom, Murray Fraser, François Guesnet, Jonathan Hill, Piotr Jakoweńko and Sebastian Kucharuk (Senna Kolektyw), (Monument Conservation Studio — Piotr Pelc), Agnieszka Szreder, Rafał Żwirek, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Przemysław Kluźniak and Karolina Łątka (ArchiTube), Krystian Banik, Shana Penn, Hanna Wróblewska, Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Jan Jagielski, Karolina Jakoweńko (Cukerman’s Gate Foundation), Marek Jeżowski, Clementine Keith-Roach, Christopher Page, as well as the people who supported the research of hiding place in Zhovkva: Oleksii Konoshenko, Sofia Dyak, Taras Nazaruk and Maryana Mazurak (Centre for Urban History of East-Central Europe in Lviv), Liana Blicharska, Larissa Chulovskaya, Iryna Dobrokhodska and Serhii Dobrokhodskyi.  



    The exhibition Hideouts. The Architecture of Survival was s summary of Natalia Romik’s research project supported by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.