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Little Mermaid

Date & Location

Fall, 2017

Liverpool, UK


Soap pillar with epoxy resin cast of artist's body inside. The idea of the sculpture was born during the artist's residence at the Liverpool Biennial.


The sculpture installation «Little Mermaid» is a pillar from ballistic soap, inside which is a cast of Maria Kulikovska's body from epoxy resin. The initial idea arose when the Ukrainian artist was in residence of the Liverpool Biennial in the autumn of 2017. «Little Mermaid» was first presented in Kharkiv at YermilovCentre in 2018.

The project of this sculpture installation was created as a proposal to install it on the shore of the Seacombe of the town of Wallasey, England. This place was once the important centre of soap making and metallurgy, where a large number of migrants lived by the way.

On the Seacombe shore Maria Kulikovska wanted to place her performative sculpture «Little Mermaid», the soap shell of which would interact with the environment until it would escape with rain or rot under the rays of the burning sun. In any case, in a few years the soap shell of the sculpture would have disappeared completely, but the sculpture of Kulikovska's body would remain for longer. Therefore the materials, which were formerly providing a profit, disappeared, as the fragile shell of Maria's sculpture would disappear. And the capitalist dream and the greatness of the port city would remain as fragile and ephemeral as the sculpture-cast of the body would remain after.

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I had escaped from conflict in the distant southeast of our civilization. I found myself in Malmo, I hoped that in the West there would be no dictatorship, no wars, and no persecutions for being a woman. But I found that I could not cease my wanderings; so I fled even further towards the gates of western civilization - to Liverpool on the Mersey River in England. A great international port was built there, sending liners and ships on ocean voyages with people of all kinds, united in search of a better life. Frequently their destination was New York. Liverpool was known for its migrants, who came there for the "American Dream" and fuelled industrial capitalism. It held stories of railways, steamships, and works that set the course of modern civilization.

There, a century ago, Joseph Lever created from African palm oil a soap that entered every home. Its profits were a capitalist triumph; but with them, Lever also built an art gallery amid a unique new community, named after his soap: Port Sunlight. It was an idealized expression of life for working-class families. But with Lever's death, the ideal withered. Capitalism never commits to anything or any place. Although Lever's company still makes soap at Port Sunlight, during the 1920s it became Unilever and moved its headquarters away from Liverpool.

It was while I was in Liverpool, designing a project for a soap sculpture to stand by the Mersey river at Seacombe near Port Sunlight, that I discovered a terrible irony: It is the horrible use of that helpful and gentle material in the development of guns and weapons, from which I had sought escape.

I found that in Sweden, one of Europe's most civilized countries, in a factory that once produced the same 'Sunlight' soap, blocks of human-size soap are being shot at in testing new guns. For it seems that soap is a perfect simulacrum for human flesh, to display the violent damage done by bullets to bodies. Those guns and bullets are then sent to conflict zones, causing multitudes of people to leave their homes, to look for a new place for living, to run to where there are still ports, not just closed borders, in search of their fugitive dream.

Now I dream every day, looking for my own new home to recreate my lost native heaven at the edge of the Earth. I'm seeking a new paradise, a real New World, and so as to find out whether we are suited to each other, to test each potential place of a new life for myself, I should first install a soap column on an invisible border at that site - whether at the barbed-wire gate to the lost world of my old home in the Edge of the Earth, or on the shores of Malmo, across the Öresund from the sculpture of Andersen's Little Mermaid, or at Seacombe on the Mersey shore, where so many landed or left in search of some real and better new world.

My soap columns, which will slowly wash away to reveal hidden figures inside them, will be symbolic gestures, political metaphors for the histories of not only transient port cities but for the fragility and value of every person's fleeting life on our Earth...

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