Made by hand. If you Google that statement, you will be met by a torrent of design products. We are ready to pay extra for something that has been made with care by human hands rather than having been produced by machines.
Eva Koch’s work Made by hand is shown on two closely juxtaposed screens that together form an almost abstract picture. On both screens we see a concrete wall divided by a piece of timber. It is clearly old and is overgrown with moss and algae. One screen focuses closely on the wall, the other follows the wall upwards in a slow and silently gliding movement. Along the way we see the shadow of whoever is filming. The camera is handheld; this is a video ”made by hand”, as is the concrete. The camera now focuses on its rustic beauty, so that we seem to be looking at an aesthetic, contemplative picture.
What we see is a close-up of a lock on the Kovzha, the river that links Lake Onega with the White Sea. The lock is part of the 227-km-long canal system that in November 1931 Stalin ordered thousands of forced labourers from the Gulag to build in just 20 months. It was all done by manual work as a proof of what the Soviet Union could achieve.
It is estimated that 50,000 people died during the process.