No 1 (69) 2007
January - March

Beyond Time

Time and space have been the foundations for “In the Middle of the Way” video installation by Anna Konik. The work can be interpreted in a number of ways, though the title suggests being constantly on the road, traveling between two destinations.

Andrea Domesle

Art critic, independent curator of European exhibitions.

Andrea Domesle

This trip has been strictly defined by the time and distance measured in the space. The definition of the distance and travel duration depends on identifying the departure and arrival points. One has to keep in mind, however, that Anna Konik undermines the very existence of these points. At the first glance, one comes into a conclusion that homelessness is the topic of the work. The artist has accompanied for hours homeless people in different cities. As a result, she has made the following series: “Tadeusz”, Warsaw (2001), Hermann, Berlin (2002), “Svetlana”, Moscow (2005), “A Nameless Person”, Cleveland (2005), “Gerard”, Cork (2006) and “Hans Dieter”, Vienna (2006). The artist lets the homeless take her to the places of their choice, and talk to her on the way. This is about homelessness which has been shown through a human dialogue, as it truly is, with all its outcomes. The homeless are talking about their parents and children, presenting their general attitude to life. Thus, they manage to maintain their dignity. Anna Konik has been aware that she cannot violate the freedom of men and women she is talking to. They are free to go their own way. As a result, we witness some emotional moments. For example, thanks to meeting the artist, Cork, an old fisherman has a chance to make his dream of going into sea come true. Taduesz, a former architect, takes the artist to a well known Warsaw gallery. Their meeting is full of other touching events, since there has been mutual trust between them. He takes Anna to his squat, though they cannot get inside because of the papers piled around. Herman introduces himself in such a manner that one cannot guess the motivation behind his behavior during the recording. It remains unclear whether he lies or presents his true self. Invented stories and played games have been mixed here with reality. Svetlana is taking advantage of the situation with the hope that because of the camera she will be able to beg some money from a certain vendor. Hans Dieter, a Viennese street seller of the “Augustin” daily paper, tries to prove his difficult situation in spite of the hard work he is doing. The character from Cleveland is wasting the freedom he has been allowed. He gets aggressive, insults the artist and demands more money. At this point his episode has been interrupted. Individual frames of the movie exceed the topic of homelessness and touch upon other essential issues. “In the Middle of the Way” has combined the leading motive with the motive of traveling, being constantly on the road, not only in physical terms, but also in psychological and mental. Traveling that has always accompanied a human being. This has been reflected in the passage describing the artist’s travels between Warsaw, Berlin and her hometown of Dobrodzień (2005), an opportunity to think over her own life. “This has been my own story” – Anna Konik said in December 2006 in Vienna. She has not meant only “her” part. She has referred to this work of art as a whole. Konik has been inspired by “The Glass Beads Game”, an educational novel by Herman Hessy (written in the period 1931 – 1942), devoted to the people traveling East. “Each of us is only a human being, a trial, a stage”, a Master said to his disciple. After analyzing the time and space categories of “In the Middle of the Way” as a whole, one is to see them yet from a different point of view. The past events and locations overlap and get dissolved one into another, instead of – as one might expect – making a continuity and one, though composed of numerous elements, space. Meetings with the homeless have been recorded in a chronological order, with not much space in between on the tape, though they have been made at certain time intervals since 2001. Passing time has been reflected by the artist wearing different hairstyle in every part. Geographic parallels have been stressed by naming individual cities. Only the characters biographies seem to remain indifferent to the time categories, marked neither with the beginning, nor with the end. The plots are about two trains meeting at a certain, not clearly defined point on the road, beyond the time and space. This has been an individual and personal meeting. The viewer, breathing in this atmosphere, has an impression of drifting himself beyond the time and space. Anna Konik, “In the Middle of the Way”, video installation, the Austrian Culture Forum, Austrian Gallery, Warsaw, January – February 2007.