Body

In the Art of Polish Contemporary Artists

By Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Agnieszka Mazoń - Specjalista ds. Kolekcji Galerii Sztuki Współczesnej Bunkier Sztuki

Body determines a personal, intimate sphere of a given individual, while for the artist it is one of basic means of expression, which is available literally “at hand”. Therefore it is only natural that it functions in art as one of the most important themes as well as the matter of creative activities.

In the Bunkier Sztuki Collection you can find numerous works in which body functions as an independent theme, but also a pretext to convey content that transcends interpretation in purely aesthetic terms. Human body – including one that is crippled, old or other – offers a possibility to tell countless stories, enter into dispute with the fixed canons of beauty, a sense of good taste and finally adress difficult and thorny, but socially significant issues.

., .., ... (1995) by Mikołaj SmoczyńskiBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Secret Performance

Artists often treat their own bodies as the matter of art. One of the most obvious examples are self-portraits. For Mikołaj Smoczyński, author of experimental photographs, the aim was not simply to record his own image, but to register the states of space changing in time.

The distinctive series among these is the one whose hero is the artist himself. In an empty studio he arranged a secret performance, whose only witness was the camera and only evidence an image on photographic film. The successive frames show the artist lying on a dusty floor. Long exposure allowed the artist to capture the ephemeral nature of the activity. As a result, the figure immersed in a dark background is blurred, hardly visible for the viewer, anonymous.

., .., ..., Mikołaj Smoczyński, 1995, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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., .., ... ., .., ..., Mikołaj Smoczyński, 1995, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Fragility Has a Singular Beauty (2006) by Małgorzata MarkiewiczBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Fragility Has a Singular Beauty

Małgorzata Markiewicz's works address the subject of gender identity and characteristics that are culturally attached to it as well as the subject of woman's social status.

The photo series Fragility Has a Singular Beauty is part of a project alluding to the theory of Five Phases of Transformation, which ascribes stages in human life to the cycle of five seasons. In the photos Małgorzata Markiewicz poses dressed successively in five old dresses. According to the artist, clothing provides a curtain for the body, a specific mask we are forced to put on.

Fragility Has a Singular Beauty, Małgorzata Markiewicz, 2006, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Fragility Has a Singular Beauty, Małgorzata Markiewicz, 2006, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Double Portrait Double Portrait (2001) by Katarzyna GórnaBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Double Portrait

In her art Katarzyna Górna analyses images of women in culture on the basis of stereotypes and existing iconographic patterns. She raises taboo subjects.

Double Portrait is a reflection on passing and the sense of existence in the form of a photograhic triptych. An important aspect of the compositions is foregrounding cross-generational relations.

Double Portrait Double Portrait, Katarzyna Górna, 2001, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Double Portrait Double Portrait, Katarzyna Górna, 2001, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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When The Other Becomes One's Own (1999) by Alicja ŻebrowskaBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

When The Other Becomes One's Own

One of the main areas of Alicja Żebrowska's artistic interest is the taboo sphere, including the problems of gender and sexual identity. The photograph When The Other Becomes One's Own is part of a project dedicated to the issue of sex change.

Alicja Żebrowska views the subject in the light of a story of a specific person who ran the risk of taking a radical decision about their identity in spite of biological determinant. The artist depicted her heroine in a classic, lying posture among glossy drapery. The key element of the composition is the mirror, in which the sitter is looking at her body and facing what, as the title says, has become “one's own”.

Alicja Żebrowska clearly refers to the motif of nudity often recurrent in painting and deals with the stereotypical idea of beauty and the problem of self-acceptance by transsexual people.

Genderqueer: M. (2007) by Lidia Krawczyk, Wojciech KubiakBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Genderqueer: M.

In their art Lidia Krawczyk and Wojciech Kubiak attempt to break cultural stereotypes concerning the perception of man and to go beyond the definitions of gender and sexuality. The large-scale, realistic portrait titled Genderqueer: M. shows a non-binary person.

The facial features, clothes and accessories that oscillate between the masculine and feminine encourage the viewer to revise the culturally fixed patterns and gender distinctions. Thus the artists pose the question whether it is possible to resign from classifications, final decisions and statements.

Study for The Wounded Insurgent Study for The Wounded Insurgent” (2010) by Karol RadziszewskiBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Study of an Injured Rebel

The nature of Karol Radziszewski's art is contextual. The artist often alludes to his own experiences; he raises problems connected with homesexualism, social exclusion, as well as nationalism and history. Study of an Injured Rebel comprises six photographs and a drawing.

They were created with a mural in mind, which was to be placed in the Warsaw Rising Museum, but which eventually wasn't realised. The depiction of a wounded rebel proposed by Karol Radziszewski differs from the popular images of man – a soldier and a hero. The undisguised, erotic interest in the beauty of male body corresponds to the provocative gesture of licking a finger. By questioning the hegemony of sterotypical masculinity the artist argues with the historic iconography of male heroes.

Study for The Wounded Insurgent Study for The Wounded Insurgent”, Karol Radziszewski, 2010, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Study for The Wounded Insurgent Study for The Wounded Insurgent”, Karol Radziszewski, 2010, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Study for The Wounded Insurgent Study for The Wounded Insurgent”, Karol Radziszewski, 2010, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Belly (2003) by Jadwiga SawickaBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Belly

A frequent motif of Jawiga Sawicka's works – alongside words taken out of context and garments – is the human body. The artist explores both its symbolic potential and physical dimension.

Belly belongs to a series of photographs by Jadwiga Sawicka showing parts of human body against the background of claret-coloured faux fur. The centrally placed male belly of considerable size and deprived of its owner because of its autonomy evokes emotions oscillating between surprise and disgust.

Fake Leg (2009) by Joanna PawlikBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Fake Leg

Joanna Pawlik's art touches upon issues related to disability. The artist probes the limits of her own body at the same time analysing the concept of a “social norm”.

In the series of three photographs against neutral white background the artist arranged a scene in which she replaces the missing leg with the eponymous fake leg. Starting from her personal experience the artist talks about disability with a pinch of humour, in a way that is subtle and far from dramatising.

no title (Magda) (2010) by Joanna PawlikBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Joanna Pawlik invited other women who were born limbless or have undergone amputation to participate in the project. 

In videos and photographs their disability recedes into the background: they are presented as strong, independent, self-reliant persons, whose bodies constitute an integral whole. Their disability reveals itself only in other people's eyes despite the fact that the women themselves perfectly overcome various physical, architectural or social barriers.

no title [Ewa], Joanna Pawlik, 2010, From the collection of: Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Fake Leg (2009) by Joanna PawlikBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Body, both as the theme and the medium of the message, seems to have inexhaustible potential for artists. It offers a multitude of means of expression, gestures and possibilities to tell countless stories of one's own life and that of others. 

Fragility Has a Singular Beauty (2006) by Małgorzata MarkiewiczBunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Even though body is subject to limitations that follow from our physicality, man enduringly and continously transcends them. A special role in challenging the legitimacy of the existence of limitations is performed by artists.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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