This spring, Uppsala Art Museum is featuring a major solo exhibition with the Polish artist Katarzyna Kozyra. Through gender-transgressing actions the artist researches the interplay between bodily experiences and the gender to which we are ascribed and the manner in which we manifest our identity. The exhibition draws a line from Kozyra’s early projects with the photo suite Olympia and the video installation Men’s Bathhouse to her latest piece, Looking for Jesus (the archive). The body as a place for transformation is shown here from another perspective – in the interplay between being a social creature and at the same time following one’s inner calling.
Katarzyna Kozyra (b.1963) belongs to an influential generation of Polish artists often listed under the heading “Critical Art”, that graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Art in 1993. Early on, Kozyra developed a demanding work method with a “Wallraffing” approach, resulting in truly unique and personal works. The projects can go on for years, and have often had a profound impact on the artist’s private life. The early video art classics of Kozyra’s such as Men´s Bathhouse, offer a look back on the development of the gender debate and media landscape for the past three decades, but also underlines that Kozyra was a pioneer in applying transfeminististic perspective in her art projects.
Kozyra conducts a certain method in involving the audience as participants in the ethical dramas of the video art installations. The projects also constitute a way for Kozyra to examine herself and to process her own inner fears. Men’s Bathhouse, awarded an honourable mention at Venice Biennale in 1999, was filmed at Budapest’s historical Gellért Bath House for nude bathing. The photo series Olympia that came about when Katarzyna Kozyra was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease, operates in a similar way. Kozyra wanted to investigate her own identity as a young woman in a sick body and question the ideals of beauty.
The exhibition also consists of a selection of videos from the project In Art Dreams Come True(2003-2008), where Kozyra sought inspiration from stage art such as opera and ballet together with the Berlin drag artist Gloria Viagra and Maestro Grzegorz Pitulej, opera singer and pedagogue. Il Castrato was filmed at the baroque theatre Teatro di Villa Mazzacorati. Associating with the castrati singers of old, Kozyra borrows the sensuality and scenic elements from the opera of the Baroque era as a means of examining femininity. Il Castrato was included in the programme for the gay festival Gender Bender in Bologna. The piece Cheerleader parodies the music video genre, but can also be a commentary to the competitive instinct within the art world, where the video’s dancing choir or judges are all directors of influential institutions in Poland.
Between 2012-2017, Kozyra regularly returned to Israel together with a film team, in order to track down and interview people who identify themselves with, and have strong ideas regarding the Messiah. Their ethnic and religious backgrounds vary. Some of them live as hermits in the desert, others close to the hordes of tourists. A common trait is that they make their own personal interpretations of belief systems and do not compromise with social norms. The body as a place for transformation is shown here from another perspective – in the interplay between being a social creature and at the same time following one’s inner calling. Looking for Jesus will premier as a video archive at the Uppsala Art Museum, but will also be screened in Uppsala Cathedral March 6th, where Professor Cecilia Wassén and Professor Lena Roos contributes to the following talk. In collaboration with Uppsala Cathedral.
Parallel to the exhibition Identity Bending the video art installation Faces (2006) will be shown in a window at the Uppsala City Theatre lobby. In a hyper-realistic and slightly twisted staging, we are granted access to the creative process and the energy and anguish of stage life.A camera placed close the dancers face captures the concentration and tension the wide-open eyes and droplets of sweat. Among the participating internationally accredited dancers one finds Magda Ciechowicz, Carla Fracci, Charles Jude, Karunakaran, Niels Robitzky ”Storm”, and Nelisiwe Xaba, from different Theatre scenes of Europe. The film will be screened daily 25 January – 25 February. In collaboration with Uppsala City Theatre. For information: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/uppsala-stadsteater
Katarzyna Kozyra will also participate in Revolve Performance Art Days 17-19 May, where a new performance piece will be conducted.