No 3 (95) 2013
July - September

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Exhibitions, mounted at the Zona Current Art Gallery in Szczecin, each time have been attractive and fascinating. They have been internally coherent and cleverly arranged in a small gallery space, usually with a touch of irony, though never escaping reflective and contemplative overtones.

Aleksandra Łukaszewicz Alcaraz

PhD, she works for the Szczecin Art Academy.

Aleksandra Łukaszewicz Alcaraz

ARTIST COOPERATING WITH THE ZONA do not belong to any defined group, nevertheless their works, when watched together, as a rule have been quite moving. By the gallery entrance one spots a crooked, wooden sandbox put on the flooring, with no sand inside, a cigarette butt placed in the middle (Sandpit by Agata Michowska). One senses that something got wrong, it was supposed to be pleasant and nice, we were supposed to be "happy" - and actually we are confronted with a cigarette butt in a crooked sandbox.

Further, one sees a wall with the photographs of the Machines by Łukasz Skąpski. These are tractors home made by farmers from Podhale region (Under the Mountain meadows). The constructors present results of their effort with pride.

The Machines by Skąpski have been exhibited close to the Cheese by Knaflewski. Amateurish tractors and a snapshot of Elvis Presley with a brush horsehair stylized to resemble a curl falling on his face, offer an obvious contrast. However, after a moment of reflection one realizes that both pieces refer to the issue of identity. Next to Elvis photo, there is an inscription on a plank of wood reading "cheese", also made with horsehair, a slight ridicule of an American obligatory, artificial smile.

Further, the irony level grows to border on sarcasm. The Catch F video by Leszek Knaflewski illustrates a character dressed in an oversized, yellow overall with fragments of fabric fixed so as to cover his face. The figure is constantly jumping. This is the kind of hyper activity developed, when one is repeatedly forced to show constant euphoria, like "Have fun" encouragements typical of entertainment programs and shows for children.

"Nothing strange that afterwards one needs medical treatment..." seems to be the message of the piece by Małgorzata Szymankiewicz entitled Clinic Happy, composed of the piles of books on the shelves; each of them a manual; on emotional health, happy family life, on professional success and self-improvement.

It is worth to mention the concept of photography by Aleksandra Ska from the That series. These are photos of silicone cumulus like forms arranged on penises. According to the artist's assumption these abstract shapes refer to an infinite number of potential associations with this essential tool and symbol. As much as when looking at the clouds one can see numerous changing shapes that escape a lasting definition, a penis is a symbol of power and domination, masculine fertility not explicitly defined, simultaneously remaining a taboo.

The works by the lady artists, presented at the Zona Gallery, undoubtedly show intellectual and emotional sensitivity. The Remember about the Promise of Beautiful Tomorrow by Agata Zbylut has been both subtle, and expressive, well illustrating a general approach and climate. Further, it has perfectly fitted the exhibition topic, relating to the dreams that came true, however the highest price had to paid.

The work shows a stuffed dog - Laika - looking at the gallery wall with the inscription reading Remember about the Promise of Beautiful Tomorrow. Laika was a mixed breed she dog hoping for a better life. Caught in the streets of Moscow, she was taken to the Aviation Medicine Institute. It was for her an opportunity for a better tomorrow that was never to come. She died after a couple of hours flight. The promise is tempting and shining, but these are merely fake, cheap beads. Laika's death has been planned from the very beginning. Though the piece deals with a painful topic, it is quite subtle. The melancholic Laika staring at a false promise....

The I hate You by Aleksandra Ska offers a completely different dimension of experience. A distinctly feminine piece depicting a beautiful, young girl in briefs and stilettos, lying on a turning table among decoratively arranged piles of fruits. Every few turns, she was repeating: "Ska, I hate you". Regardless of the fact whether an artistic inspiration has been a result of a real event, or not, the message carried by the video is that stereotype patriarchal women are hostile to independent feminists.

Strolling around the exhibition one gets a sense of nostalgia, sick excitement, depression and death, only to return to balance and sensual carnality well aware of its rights.

The final message of the exhibition, in spite critical and melancholic elements, has been optimistic.

"Don't Worry Be Happy", the Zona Current Art Gallery, Szczecin, May - June 2013.