In the spirit of curiosity that enlivens Nature and Social Studies: Spiral Trip, Hristina Ivanoska and Yane Calovski use the movement of the spiral to transform independent memories of cultivated knowledge "the order of all we’ve accepted and now doubt" into an active network of shared consciousness. Taking its title from a subject they studied in primary school Spiral Trip can be interpreted as a fantastic exercise they assigned to themselves and completed as adults. Harnessing the forward drive stored in this powerful form to animate a journey through a country in a post-war political and social "flux", the team performed the spiral as a drawing, creating a work that is both humble in its material essence but monumental in its scope. Executed in seven days in the spring of 2002--after months of continual research--their performative action is also a form of personal and cultural research documented in two exhibitions and this publication.
For one of the exhibitions they decided to represent the territory over which they traveled with a material and topographical surrogate of itself. Overwhelming in its scale, the cardboard sculpture nevertheless remains modest in the way it resembles a project from their Nature and Social Studies course. In an effort to impart practical lessons about taking accurate measurements, for example, such exercises might propose drawing a detailed map of "your neighborhood" or studying the relative "heights of various mountains". Made of "steps" that visitors can climb and descend to recreate their own version of the artists' trip, it becomes a platform that encourages conscious spectatorship and unhurried daydreaming. There is no way, in fact, to study the six drawings mounted on the surrounding walls without standing or sitting on this structure. Like soil, the cardboard terraces are surprisingly resilient and impressionable, receiving and recording the weight of every visitor.
The artists knew that any extensive journey across Macedonia would require passing through regions where they would be at risk, particularly in those restricted areas in the southwest where the armed conflict between government forces and the Albanian formation so-called National Liberation Army surfaced in 2001 and remained unresolved. Six months before the artists embarked, with the crisis still evolving, they began a series of drawings that would serve not only as emotional and preparatory studies for their trip but as a possible surrogate for the journey itself. The six large-scale works that resulted can thus be read as an attempt to choreograph a fictional passage through perilous territory. Precisely outlined in pencil and accented with the spare application of color, the style suggests techniques found in schoolbooks of the 1970s. Remaining clearly identifiable as themselves, the artists are also careful to allow their characters, frequently masked or seen from behind, to read as neutral, anonymous figures onto which viewers might project their own fears and longings in a climate of mounting political confusion.
Uncaptioned, unframed, and affixed to the wall with the same hardware used for the drawings, the photographs documenting the trip suggest dorm room decor. They also allude to those posters hung in tourist bureaus that attempt to reduce entire countries to single images. Captured from vantage points along the route, "each of the photographs," remark the artists," is a trace. But they are insignificant to markings. There is no marking, there is only our registered presence". In the end, the viewer's underlying knowledge of the path from which they were taken becomes the "text" that identifies photographs that range widely in subject matter, tone, and style.
One of the portraits (taken with a timer) shows the two artists running together in a field toward the camera. This and other photographs of nature's persistent allure are complicated by evidence of the lost hopes of industry and failed socio-political regimes.
One image depicts a graffiti painting of two "anime" style superheroes cropped so tightly as to remove any trace of context, the photograph reads like a painting mounted on the wall.
Designed and constructed in the 1970s when it was popular to commission ambitious structures to honor regional soldiers killed in World War II, this particular monument, like so many others, never lived up to its promise. The eccentric building suggests both landscape and animal--a limestone cliff and a large, beached whale come easily to mind. Calovski and Ivanoska photographed each other lying on its skin-like roof, gazing up at the sun. The space in which they are portrayed is as virtual as it is actual. They could not be in a more specific location, practically speaking, and yet they appear to be nowhere at all. Together they occupy a place between earth and the cosmos, order and entropy, one and the other.
In the end, Ivanoska and Calovski not only traveled north, south, east and west but from center to center. Their process suggests a new paradigm not only for "activity in space" but also for recognizing every moment along the way as critical. Analogous to the activity of stirring a large pot filled with radically diverse ingredients, the project reconstitutes their prior knowledge and current experience into an unprecedented unity that confirms, "who we are makes a lot of sense and how we perceive the world makes us who we are."
(from the text "Journey to the Center of the Earthroom" by Richard Torchia for the publication Nature and Social Studies: Spiral Trip, 2003)