Adam Ostolski

University of Warsaw / "Krytyka Polityczna" ["The Political Critique"]

Intimate summersaults

1. Whatever can go well, can also fail. Jaśmina Wójcik's works are not a complete form, they are an open evolving process. They require attention and involvement of the public, just as plants need watering. Each work is a certain summersault. Will it work this time? Will somebody answers the artist's ad: "video artist looking for women after mastectomy, willing to participate (anonymously) in a video project"? Will any women share their stories? Will the public come to a meeting about mastectomy? Will people participate in acoustic walks around Kazimierz Dolny or Ursus? Will the viewers of the exhibition on garden plots decide to adopt plants? So many aspects depend on other people. Yet it usually works. They do come.

2. It works because...? Because Jaśmina Wójcik's works touch, in a specific intimate way, the fragility of humans and things.

"Improvisation" (2005–2007, Samsung Art Master Award 2007) is a film triptych about two sisters, old women living in Kazimierz Dolny; it nearly allows us to touch the everyday routine of ageing, the rituals which organize the day and give a certain point of reference, the objects collected throughout a long life, the solitude getting denser and denser. One wishes to knock on their door, drop in for a cup of tea. In "Mastectomy" the artist confronts the viewer with four stories of elder women, who experienced breast cancer. They are half-naked, headless, and the place where the removed breast used to be is in the centre of the picture. They share not only their stories but also their fragility. They tell us about the choices they had to make, their determination, good and bad experiences with doctors, the support of their families, or the lack of it. The exhibition "Breading a human among other humans with no contact with nature leads to degeneration" (2012) is an art project but also a voice in the discussion around garden plots. The central part of the exhibition was a greenhouse with plants that could be adopted by the public – one could take care of them, visit them during the exhibition, water and finally take home. „Seven Maidens' Dowry” (…) pictures the relationship between people and Ursus tractors. The outcome of the project is a dozen stories and photos where the tractor seems to be a member of the family.

Acoustic walks create intimacy with space – this is a method which Jaśmina Wójcik has been developing for quite a while. In the summer of 2011, such a walk around Kazimierz Dolny became an opportunity for the citizens and tourists to look at the surrounding space in a new way. The artist made audio-guides with stories about former Jewish inhabitants of Kazimierz, she also placed her own illustrations to Hanna Krall's stories on several buildings. The audio-guide library operated as a tourist attraction in order to confront people with the neglected and often uncomfortable past. The acoustic walk around Ursus tractor factory allowed to learn about the not so distant past of the plant and to listen to voices of the former workers; it was also a reflection upon the dignity of work, nowadays often believed to be useless.

3. Jaśmina Wojcik's works subtly engage in public matters. The walk around Ursus and "Seven Maidens' Dowry" touch the question of deindustrialization, which results not only in the closing of factories and job reduction but also in forgetting about both, the recent past and the urgent questions concerning the future. The exhibition on garden plots raises the issue of rights of people owning such plots, people who suddenly are faced with a threat of losing their gardens cultivated for dozens of years – to developers. The video on mastectomy touches the complex issue of patriarchy: the relation of power between men and women, and the unequal positions of physician and patient. The walk-in Kazimierz is a confrontation with the long-lasting controversial issue of Polish-Jewish relations.

Jaśmina Wojcik's art has political value but it goes beyond the methods used by political art in Poland. In the 1990's "critical", transgressive works, aimed against taboos and crossing the limits proved most successful. Roughly beginning with the new millennium, artists began creating works which are not only "critical" but also openly "political", engaged, and the most interesting ones are made by those who take the role of "artist-citizen". Jaśmina Wojcik's art is both critical and engaged, but it also goes a step beyond that. Her works, just as those by Joanna Rajkowska or Krzysztof Wodiczko, open the horizon for ethical issues in Polish art. Contact with her art is not merely an aesthetic experience; it is also an opportunity to awaken sensitivity, empathy and responsibility for the world.

installation - 2013
installation - 2013
installation - 2013
installation - 2013