No 4 (88) 2011
October - December

(Un)Awareness SKA-nning

Julia Kristeva, while describing a state of depression, observed that in spite of acute psychic trauma, it can be an extremely creative moment that offers hope for rebirth. Crisis means not only a breakdown, but also a specific space.

Marta Smolińska

Post-doctoral degree holder, Prof. at the University of Arts in Poznań, Art Theory and Philosophy Faculty.

Marta Smolińska

SPACE WITH A POTENTIALLY CREATIVE LOAD to stimulate self therapy through creation or "spitting out" inner worries. Careful use of this potential, effective scanning of one's own (un)awareness and transformation of the experience into visual art medium have been present in the "Unproductive" project by Aleksandra Ska. Motives of outside sourced hatred and inner negative attitude towards herself have been combined to offer one strong message.

Each of the three monitors shows a woman lying on the table among vegetables and fruits cut painstakingly into sophisticated shapes (one cannot avoid noticing phallic forms of vertically positioned carrots!). The table with a model is turning around; where her eyes meet the viewer's sight, one can hear an expressively uttered phrase: "SKA, I HATE YOU!". Voices of three women, representing different types, are overlapping in the gallery space, and developing a dense atmosphere of negative feelings addressed to a given person - the artist herself. The women displayed to be devoured with viewers' eyes, in their vegetable and fruit entourage offer a real feast for one's eyesight. Nevertheless, they are not passive as in traditional iconography, they are looking provocatively at the audience and "share" their hatred for Ska. The wallpaper pattern, featuring swallows with drastically picked out eyes, adds to the grim climate. A swallow - known as a symbol of spring, rebirth, joy, fertility, sun and satisfaction from life - has been deprived here of all positive connotations. By the same token, it has become shocking, as the concept of the "black sun" by Kristeva.

The "baroque" and haptic qualities, as well as abundantly rich palette of the world created on the three monitor screens, meet and simultaneously offer a contrast to the large size projection of "Unproductive" featuring the artist picking her tooth. The air is filled with a terrifying dentist's drill vibration and sounds of pedal being pushed to operate the equipment. Ska is working on her front teeth, from time to time checking the result, as though viewers in front of the screen were her mirror. One can see white dust scattered and bigger and bigger teeth cavities observed by the artist with obvious satisfaction. She is abusing herself with violence and calculated precision, and controls every stage of the "operation". She wears a navy blue dress with a white collar, becoming on a nice schoolgirl. However, this image is disturbed by a bright red lipstick she has on, and a shaved head, while one would rather expect two pigtails. A (bad) good girl is methodical in the act of self aggression. Finally, she takes a goblet with black liquid, drinks a sip, and smiles showing black teeth.

One cannot help saying that she has drained her "cup of bitterness" with a perverted pleasure and immensely enjoyed herself annihilation.

Ska has "caught herself in a crossfire" - initiated mechanisms of inner and outer hatred - thus cumulating a negative energy suggested by the title unproductiveness. One wonders in this context, however, whether the "unproductive" refers to the nature of hatred or to the artist's personality, thus being a form of self accusation. Paradoxically, in this case the hatred has been processed to turn productive - Ska has used the potential of violent creation, contained implicite in the depressive condition, and opened up onto it so as - by way of the self therapy - to forge this into highly condensed, universally oriented visual message.

Aleksandra Ska, "Unproductive", the Current Art Zone, Łódź, September - October 2011.