“Half victim, half accomplice, like everyone else” –
This show allows us experience a new creative phase in Bozena’s artistic career. Adding to her use of expressive forms such as sculpture and painted glass, she introduces a new communication tool: an installation of recycled materials. It is a phase which allows her to move forward while drawing on past experiences. Various aspects of her cultural heritage fully reveal themselves in the installations, achieving a striking and mature synthesis. The resulting works unify strong three-dimensional qualities, typical of her smooth sculptural style in marble and stone, with two-dimensional aspects of graphic images: postmodern heirs of artisanal glass paintings, reproduced on backlit and transparent partitions.
Graphics and stencils go hand in hand, defining the interaction of an operating system whose hardware is derived from recycled technology, in particular discarded electronic equipment or material found in deposits or dumps– like TV and computer monitors.
From the beginning these works reveal the keys to understanding. The first and most obvious, reveals that the subject of her investigation is media communication. A communication that is both alive and real, as monitors do not represent a historicized and bygone past, rather, they reflect the contemporary in all its manifestations, iconography and symbolism. The monitors cannot become something other than themselves, they return to their essence, that of a vehicle for image and sound. For this reason they are illuminated using LED lights, and in some cases animated by unusual sounds. Modern fetishes of the ephemeral, symbols of consumerism which quickly devour their own instruments of pervasiveness, monitors are then employed in a new way and manipulated to the degree in which they express a new antagonistic and radical global narrative. What at first seems a simple narrative about recycling in an attempt to raise awareness about garbage, pollution and waste, gains a less banal sense as we observe it up close in the stories it tells.
The graphic works speak of the influence of daily media bombardment. They speak with a great sense of irony as “satire lightens the dramatic weight of events, rendering them more digestible, almost fairytale-like” explains Bozena. With a view to this, the author’s choice for the title of the show becomes evident: Media Fairytales. What makes fairytales “more palatable”? They captivate us by enabling us to dream. While the mind is busy in its continuous narrative loop, the subconscious mind is busy gathering messages, circumventing the rational mind. In this way all resistance is eventually bypassed and one is influenced without being aware of the shift that is taking place, responding instead to stimuli unrelated to personal experiences. Fairytales weave their way into the fabric of our memory shaping our critical sense, becoming potentially dangerous in the process. It is this concept which Bozena wishes to emphasize. She changes and caricatures the fairytales imposed by the media, the ones which address the public imagination with a homologated voice, the ones which – representing one of the privileged instruments of authority – destroy and manipulate people’s creative capacity. Bozena’s media fantasies are simplified and ‘sterile’, lacking in contradiction but with sharp tonal contrasts and accentuations. In their simplicity they denounce the simplicity with which people, in our age of information, document themselves superficially, fostering impersonal, radical, foolish and impulsive positions.
Bozena’s fantasies are imbued with didactic spontaneity and immediacy. They look like cartoons for newspapers and in this way they effectively deliver their message. A deceptively simple concept, for her work is not naïve. Among various cultural references (cited in one of her works), is the street artist Bansky, champion of a mass appeal not one reserved solely for the aristocratic ranks of art critics or art dealers. In an age in which even the most basic communication is rendered unclear with ambiguity or worse, mechanically altered, the messages here are direct. “Reality is often hidden or distorted. My responsibility is not to reveal the truth but rather to expose the paradoxes, those muddled areas between the lines, the ambiguities”. The best way to illuminate these gray areas without falling into the trap of moral declarations is through the language of fairytales. As it happens fairytales are not always moral tales. For this reason the first part of the show bears the title Flash. This suggests precarious illuminations, flashes of light and brief revelations. The flashed images are journalistic, chaotic, lacking critical interpretation or moral judgment. They are quickly-digested raw images, through which she means to criticize the medium but not the resulting contents.
As Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message.” In a world where all is a stage, things are swallowed up and spit out in equal measure. In a compulsive and chaotic way, the exhibitionism of Pussy Riot and Femen resonate with Bozena’s work. Images of prostitutes are juxtaposed with those of lustful and corrupt politicians, and then the desperate who have flung themselves out of windows in response to the crisis, shipwrecked immigrants ignored by tourists, black blockers which ruin the city. What is the common thread? Contemporary icons described in a tragically banal or ironic way, lacking any manner of depth or complexity. Modern day totalitarianism is much more sly because it hides itself behind a veil of democracy and unbridled, open access. Take the internet, for example. Google and Facebook control you. They know everything about you. They are the real Big Brother. In Italy, this fairy tale of online democracy has given us the likes of cinquestelle in which a few thousand people have arrogantly decided they represent the entire population because “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This communication revolution has turned us into the “Animal Farm.” For this endless media fairytale fanfare there is a dedicated section: The Farm”.
Forming the screens are sheets of Plexiglass made from recycled portable devices. Embedded on the screens are the indelible electronic images of man reduced to animals. The animals of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” blindly believe all propaganda, which not only manipulates the information concerning present or future projects, but corrects the historical interpretation of the past, altering it completely. Exactly because of this they are unable to filter the information which comes from the regime. The titles, in Latin, on one hand refer to a continuously falsified history, on the other to the literary nature of these modern myths, which, like the fables of Aesop and Fedro, have animals as protagonists. Hidden behind a screen of satire are uncensored dramas and tragedies offering alternate perspectives. Facts are translated through a special distorted lens. Art and imagination serve to this end, to provide new points of view. Because if we are unable to see things in a different way we lack the capacity to step in and affect change. Therefore, we remain half victim, half complicit. Just like everyone else.
Mauro Papa – CEDAV