No 1 (97) 2014
January - March

The Art of Nausea

What is it to feel nauseous? Is this only an unpleasant body condition, or a form of tension between one's senses and one's ego? To answer this question, I can merely describe my own experience.

Sebastian Dudzik

B. in 1972. Historian and art critic. Assistant Professor at the Nicolas Copernicus University Art History Faculty in Toruń; a lecturer at the Art University in Poznań.

Sebastian Dudzik

BODY REACTION FOLLOWING A KILLING RUN TRAINING in the mountains has been one of the strongest experiences of this type. Rebelling organism wished to get rid of all that engaged its remaining energy, while the brain - driven by endorphins of triumph caused a sense of strange euphoria. Another strong experience was a reflex reaction to a characteristic smell of post flood deposits - sweet and captivating, and at the same time repulsive and insipid. Undoubtedly, both of these have been a result of tension between the body and ego, making one aware of a thin line dividing the accepted from the rejected, the marvelous from the disgusting, but first of all, the internal from the external. The nausea is - as Sartre described it in his first novel - one of the most important factors of development of the existence awareness. The new, since it has been liberated from the limitations of schematic thinking and stereotypes, by the sane token, true and authentic.

These have been my reflections while watching the "Nausea" exhibition, presented at the Toruń Coach House. Marta Smolińska, the exhibition curator "borrowed" the title of the novel by Sartre. Thus she has distinctly pointed out subject matter oriented foundations of her concept, nevertheless, she has not unquestioningly followed the vision developed in the notes of Antoine Roquentin. Inspired with the "insipid" taste of sensual communication, Smolińska has attempted to break the problem into independent motives while maintaining rigorous requirements of the narrative unity. Obviously, this story has been dominated with the body issue, however it does not lack the accents of "Kristeva like" perforation border crossing between the internal and external, and polemics on mutual dependence of the concepts: the beautiful and the carnal. Considering this conceptual context, it has been a daring move to invite young artists to take part in the exhibition; half of them being still in the course of their artistic education. The works - by such artists, as Urszula Kluz-Konopek, Katarzyna Giełżyńska, Minika Mausolf, Justyna Olszewska, Martyna Pająk, Damian Reniszyn, Beata Szczepaniak and Marcin Zawicki - put together prove that age and experience have been here of second importance when compared with the power and specific maturity of expression.

Young artists' courage to explore the topic so sensitive for our society should not be interpreted as a wish to exceed the borders without a reflection, rather as a valuable cognitive process; for them, as well as for us. As it has been the case of Sartre's Antoine Roquentin writing his diary, senses have been engaged here to shape the self awareness. The mental and emotional exhibitionism - that has accompanied this process - turns into a natural element of the artistic language. "Fleshy" photographic creations by Kluz-Konopek have been an example of the above. The "natural elements" seemingly introduce an aesthetic and semantic dissonance when contrasted with the artist's unmasking attitude towards physical aspects and culture related carnality. Paradoxically, these ugly pieces are extremely aesthetics oriented, discreetly referring to the world of iconographic values. Similarly discursive nature can be seen in the pieces by Zawicki, Szczepaniak, Pająk and Mausolf. In all of them an association and symbolic element has been a conceptual key to develop a next level of "feeling" the pieces. In this context, a good dialogue has been developed between the paintings from the Before - After series by Zawicki and the Mass Ratio sculpture by Pająk. In both cases the starting point has been the culture canon of carnal beauty that leads to the reality distortion that cannot be accepted by artists. The confrontation - full of symbolic references - of the culture approved canon of beauty with aspects of shameful or unacceptable carnality has been present in the works by Szczepaniak. Vagina forms written into apple slices have been aimed at combining senses of eyesight and taste to free the consumption association. Further, this has related to the symbol of the sinful fruit and female nature.

Undoubtedly, the proper space provided for a dialogue between individual works has been an asset of the Toruń exhibition; so as the interaction multiplies their magnetic impact. Much stronger than a feeling of nausea.


"Nausea", curator: Marta Smolińska, the Coach House Gallery, Toruń, January - February 2014; the Armory of Art, the Academy of Fine Arts, Gdańsk, March - April 2014.