HOMO BULLA – HUMAN AS SOAP BUBBLE. sculptures. august 2012 – jun 2014


August 20, 2012

Homo Bulla by Maria Kulikovska

A Latin metaphorical expression homo bulla, man is a bubble, was coined by an ancient Roman writer Marcus Terentius Varro who in his “Rerum Rusticarum Libri Tres” compared human life to a thin iridescent soap bubble that shimmers with rainbow colors for only a brief moment of time then rapidly exploding with the slightest puff of wind. By the 16th century Erasmus of Rotterdam further popularized homo bulla which has firmly entered an arsenal of vanitas – pictorial motives in still lifes and genre scenes allegorically speaking of the transience and futility of human existence.

Many canvases of the European art tradition feature various depictions of children or putti blowing soap bubbles. This motive intermingles with other emblems of the ephemeral nature of earthly pleasures and the inevitability of death: faded flowers and rotten fruit – symbols of decay; skulls which unambiguously point out to death; sea shells – remnants of a once living creature; playing cards or chess which symbolize the unpredictability and even absurdity of life as a game; extinguished candles, broken mirrors, cracked pottery or simply empty drinking vessels whose thin glass walls hint at the fragility of a human body.

Maria kulikovska’s soap sculptures continue the century-long tradition of vanitas, however altering a scale and a degree of metaphorical proximity of her work in comparison with classical depictions. The artist creates a sculptural form using her own body. Thus kulikovska refocuses a conversation about the transience of human life from the sphere of philosophical iterations to the highly personal dimensions of an autobiographical project.

Three soap sculptures of kulikovska turn out to be more than just an allegorical expression of the ephemeral nature of earthly existence. The sculptures are purposefully scattered under the open sky around the territory of IZOLYATSIA thus literally undergoing the process of aging and decay. Under the rain, sun or other weather conditions soap will gradually melt exposing metal vertebrae of the three sculptures which will dissolve into nature the same way the human body does after death. Thus the artist offers a contemporary interpretation of the motive of homo bulla creating a presentation where the dynamics of the aging process comes to the fore rather than a typical representation whose pictorial dimensions serve as an arbitrary aesthetic sign.

The birth of the soap sculptures in one of IZOLYATSIA’s warehouses marks the beginning of the project. From now on we will coexist with the sculptures observing their fleeting life and documenting the process of their gradual vanishing and inevitable disappearance into oblivion. In the end we will only have photographs – our IZOLYATSIA’s family album of those whose presence we were once honored to contemplate.

Curator Olena Chervonik
IZOLYATSIA.Platform for Cultural Initiatives, 2012 Donetsk, Ukraine


Sculptures of “Homo Bulla” and “Army of Clones” projects were used for target practice by the DPR terrorists after they seized the property of Izolyatsia at gunpoint (biggest cultural centre in all east Ukraine, in Donetsk, 9th of June 2014) and turned it into a military base.