During her nine-month residency at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers Katinka Bock developed a project exploring the question of gift- and counter-gift giving. Always committed to inscribing her research in the site she is occupying, Zarba Lonsa* grew out of a project developed in the very particular context of the Quatre-Chemins area in Aubervilliers (France). Zarba Lonsa is an exhibition intertwining visual work and exchanges with storekeepers, inviting spectators and local residents to experience an intimate and poetic exploration which will in turn make them protagonists of these narratives based on gift-giving.


Katinka Bock envisions the production of artworks in terms of their relation to the context in which they emerge. Attentive to the fact that an art space generates extra-ordinary uses and experiences, she endeavours to render the elements that make for the specificity of such spaces visible by closely relating them to their surrounding context. She taps into minute elements and characteristics of the sites she engages with, which might include architectural, urban, social, climatic, temporal and spatial characteristics, thus building her project from the tiniest details that tend to go unnoticed.

The artwork is never an end in itself for Katinka Bock but rather a vehicle through which we can experience time and space and begin to create fictions in which we are the discreet, sometimes unintentional protagonists. The relationship she establishes through her work is always light, never intrusive. In this way, from the informed spectator who goes to see the artist’s work to an individual who happens to find one of her works disseminated in public space and people who work in the exhibition venue, everyone experiences a personal, poetic shift in terms of their usual experience of a site.

Katinka Bock began to explore the Quatre-Chemins area surrounding Les Laboratoires in February 2015 and was immediately struck by the number of shops located around the crossroads and surrounding streets. Shops selling a heterogeneous range of products, from meat to wedding dresses, sewing machines, colourful pastries and mobile phone products, etc., but also ghost-like shopfronts that seem to have been long forgotten. The diversity of commercial activity, the incessant flux of residents who come to buy products or to chat with the shopkeepers led Katinka Bock to work on setting up an object-exchange process with the shopkeepers as a way of investigating the value, meaning and status of object exchange, especially with regards to art objects. In this project the artwork becomes the subject of a relationship that is freely developed, outside the rules and regulations of the art institution. In this way, several shopkeepers accepted to take part in the project and give a product from their shop in exchange for one of her sculptures, a block of fired clay made specifically for the project.

Once the exchange had taken place, the object will then be displayed in the shop, amid the jumble of bric-a-brac shops, on the shelves or as part of the window displays of clothes stores, hair salons or butcher shops. The sheer incongruity of the sculpture in these sites makes it compelling, a ‘queer’ element prompting contemplation, questioning and conversation.

The project is thus grounded in the idea of exchange, of gift and counter-gift giving, as well as on a desire to establish a mode of circulation or trail of artworks in the window displays and sites directly located on the street. Above all Katinka Bock hopes this exchange will be the fruit of a real encounter and dialogue between the artist and the shopkeepers, and the starting point of the exhibition process. This simple gesture, exchanging an artwork for a commodity, is grounded in the narrative of an experience Katinka Bock wishes to share, the desire to invite others to take part in an artistic experiment that the protagonists — the artist, the shopkeepers, the customers and a wider public —build on in order to construct a common narrative. As with all of Katinka Bock’s work, the narrative is minimal and is entirely contained in the micro-shifts she creates and the dialogue she establishes with others who then have complete freedom to interpret and appropriate the project as they wish.

The fired clay sculptures scattered about the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers space pursue this first exchange phase. Each of these sculptures are the containers of the objects given by the shopkeepers. They encapsulate the objects that were given, and some of the objects were burned when the container — the clay sculpture — was fired in the ceramicist’s oven. These new sculptures, in all their various formats, are also the ‘protagonists’ of a Super 8 film; they will be handled by people, only sections of their bodies will be visible, thus creating a kind of confrontation, a grapple between the body of the sculpture and that of the handler: bodies in constant transformation, following a play of interactions between various possible forms and angles, between container, contained and handler. Sculptures, movements and bodies resonate with one another as if to better demonstrate the porousness of the inner-outer divide.

A bronze circle looms in one of the Laboratoires spaces. A quiet, fragile figure that allows us to s gauge the space and define the contours of a geography at once self-contained and open onto the outside. This fine circular line made with twigs gathered over the winter in the streets around Aubervilliers articulated the public space of the Aubervilliers streets and the private space of the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers art centre, at the intersection of the different geographic experiences Zarba Lonsa gives rise to.

Two public readings performed by Katinka Bock and Clara Schulmann (an art historian and author of a text tied to the project and commissioned by Katinka Bock) are scheduled while Zarba Lonsa will be running at Les  Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers.

Alexandra Baudelot


The exhibition Zarba Lonsa will be presented at Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers until 19th December 2015, Tuesday to Friday, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday from 1:00 to 6:00 pm.

It will be accompagnying by two public readings Thursday 15th October at 7:30 pm and Saturday 12th December, 2015 at 4:30 pm.


The project and the exhibition Zarba Lonsa by Katinka Bock were produced by Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers with the support of the Department de la Seine-Saint-Denis and the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'Ile-de-France - Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.