No 4 (60) 2004
October - December

On the Verge of (In)Visibility

The Warsaw Contemporary Art Center presented two projects – “The Transparency” video installation by Anna Konik and “The Somnambule” photographic series by Monika Wiechowska – joint by a common title “The Territories of (No) Presence”.
Ewa Witkowska

B. in 1977, she has graduated from the Warsaw University Art History and Gender Studies department. She lives in Warsaw.

Ewa Witkowska
Both these works could have functioned as separate units, though when put together, they have complemented one another, adding to a moving story about loneliness, nostalgia and passing. Anna Konik has depicted old people who live more in the past than in the present, closed in their flats, accompanied only by memories of old times and gone friends. Mija from Berlin hardly ever leaves her apartment. Most of the time she is looking through her kitchen window and missing her deceased husband. “Every morning I am by myself. All the time by myself. The loneliness is killing me. I cannot get used to it.” – Mija says, wiping the tears. Nearly 90 years old Mr. Brozy, whom Anna Konik met in Stuttgart, tells about the war when he was taken prisoner in Marseille. “I even dream occasionally but one cannot bring the time back, anyway one is confronted with the past. …” – Mr. Brozy says. Taduesz from Warsaw has a hobby of collecting various things, books and newspapers. His apartment is so full of them that there is hardly any place left for himself. He confesses: “At some point I have lost control over it, excessive collection started to push out an inhabitant himself.” He believes that he is an artist because he knows how to reuse what others put in a dustbin and he can create a sort of specific “still life” out of what is seemingly not needed. “I could make these compositions all the time” – Tadeusz says - I have been making them to get some kind of an aesthetic impression.” Doris Wichmann, an old lady from Stuttgart, born in 1911, is still missing her fiancé who was a soldier killed during the war. “I am too old to be happy that I am still alive. I have been practically always alone.” This is how Doris Wichmann starts her story. These four lonely people confided their memories to Anna Konik. The artist has entered their world gently, as though she were “transparent”. She filmed the stories they had told, and then through applying such film techniques as picture mirror doubling, she made each of her characters acquire a twin, a double. These characters listen to one another, interrupt one another, complement one another’s stories. Thanks to the artist, for a passing moment, they do not feel so lonely. At the same time, a trick of doubling words and images underlines the characters’ loneliness. One is aware that they can talk only to themselves. Anna Konik has shown the people – in her own words – belonging to the “caste of the transparent”. They live by our side, not noticed, not needed, pushed to the social life margin. The space developed by the artist has been an extremely important element of “The Transparency” installation. Individual projections take place in an architectural passage which structure has intensified a sense of the journey in time and space. “The Somnambule” photographic series by Monika Wiechowska has been perfectly orchestrated with the project by Anna Konik. Thirty photographs – the most recent taken during the artist’s trip to Georgia – show various deserted locations, decaying buildings of unusual architectural style, with traces of their former splendor. Wiechowska has also taken photographs of decrepit rooms without windows or doors, and peeling walls. On one of the snapshots there is an interior inhabited only by a larger than life plant. Wiechowska has peeped into the corners that one overlooks daily, for instance a chink underneath the sofa. She has taken photos of a lamp on the ceiling, empty benches in the park … In “The Somnambule” photographic series, the places and objects that one tends to overlook everyday, acquire a magic aura and carry multiple meanings. A birds house on the tree photographed by Wiechowska, brings to one’s mind a deserted house on a rock cliff. The weird light and unusual colors applied by Monika Wiechowska underline the beauty of decay and sensuality of the processes of entropy. Passing time is the matter of “The Transparency” by Anna Konik and “The Somnambule” by Monika Wiechowska. The artists speak about absence, missing what had bbeen gone and about catching the trails of the past. What the characters presented by Anna Konik and the places photographed by Monika Wiechowska have in common, is the state of being suspended between the past and the future, the existence on the verge of (in)visibility. “The Territories of (No)Presence”: Anna Konik, “The Transparency” (a video installation); Monika Wiechowska, “The Somnambule” (photographs), The Contemporary Art Center, Warsaw, June – August 2004, the curator: Ewa Gorządek.