No 2 (94) 2013
April - June

Antinomy of Black and White

The concept of art by Aneta Grzeszykowska, based on self- presentation of her body, reveals the area of human intimacy, the existence that uncovers inner emotions, tensions and fears, the experience of loneliness, pain and self- destruction.

Malwina Domagała

Historian and art critic. PhD student at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Malwina Domagała

IN THE OEUVRE BY THIS ARTIST THE BODY HAS BEEN THE TERRITORY FOR EXPLORATION, tests leading to a gradual loss of one's identity, to physical absence, and finally, to nonexistence. Within this context the title of the exhibition in the capital "Zachęta", "Death and a Girl", refers to the song composed in 1817 by Francis Schubert to the text by Matthias Claudius, where the Girl is afraid of Death, concerned about her body, in spite of the fact that Death tries to delude her that all this will be but a dream.

The videos by the artist, presented on the exhibition, visually symbolize death with black - overpowering, ambiguous, overwhelming, disturbing. The "black series" Black (2007), Headache (2008) and Bolymorphy (2010) confront white with black. Black provides a contrasting background for the white naked body; this is an imaginary space where tangible elements are interwoven with nightmares.

The Black (2007) has been the video most deeply rooted in the world of psychic and physical experience. Here, a black vast space completely devours her white silhouette. Various motives and real life objects attack the artist's body to annihilate it.

The Bolymorphy (2010) offers a white figure of the naked artist moving with sensual expression and adopting dancing poses against a black monochromatic background. The body, practically reduced to the form of an artistic sign, has been multiplied to develop into new choreographic compositions, moving arrangements, structures. A sense of changeability has been intensified with tension building sounds, by means of simultaneous overlap of two music pieces, i.e., Polymorphy (1961) by Krzysztof Penderecki and Bolero (1928) by Maurice Ravel, thus disturbing their original rendition.

The Headache (2008) deals with struggle with the human body matter and the artist's corporeal identity. Following a dynamite explosion, a female body gets dismembered losing its autonomy. Elements separated from the torso: a head, hands, legs go through a self-identification process, recognizing their physical qualities through touch, frequently this is a brutal touch. In the course of search for a proper order, a cognitive error occurs. Thus, legs replace hands, making a human hybrid that is moving in various directions. Body parts get rearranged again, resulting in an anatomically correct human figure.

The subsequent video, At Land from 2011 applies a totally different artistic strategy. Grzeszykowska has appropriated the 1944 movie At Land by Mai Deren, an American artist. She interfered with the original picture providing a soundtrack for the silent black-and white movie. Both artists share a stylistic trend of black and white, and what is more important, both has searched for and attempted to preserve their identities. In a daydream Maya Deren goes on a surreal trip against the background of ever changing scenes, locations and landscapes.

Black-and-white photographs by Grzeszykowska from the Negative Book (2012/2013) series, made in negative technique, have marked a new direction in her body self-presentation. Before taking photographs the artist performed with her body. She painted it black, underlying with white merely her facial features. As a result on negative pictures her silhouette appears nearly realistic. Nevertheless, the trick has made the artist body look unreal, and sharpened her facial features into a grotesque expression, disturbing visual identification. This has been particularly striking, when contrasted with other figures on negative pictures. Each photograph offers the artist's silhouette in various takes and surroundings; marine landscapes, deserts, hotel and home interiors, ateliers, cars.

Aneta Grzeszykowska has developed a specific, quite unique archive of her body images, simultaneously offering an opportunity to deal with universal issues of the corporeal zone and its annihilation.

Aneta Grzeszykowska, "Death and a Girl", the Zachęta National Art Gallery, Warsaw, April - June 2013.