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Aneta Grzeszykowska

Domestic Animals

October 29,2022 - December 10,2022
Aneta Grzeszykowska, 'Domestic Animals'

October 29, 2022 December 10, 2022

Aneta Grzeszykowska who for nearly two decades has explored the concept of identity – and the porous borders of her own subjectivity – in her newest work, Domestic Animals, 2022, crosses the species barrier.

An artist working with a woman’s image of the self, Grzeszykowska often employs masks (which makes her a relative of Birgit Jürgenssen and Gillian Wearing) and effigies, but also goes as far as to propose the erasure of the self. In one of her best-known works, she probed the proof of one’s existence by painstakingly removing her own image from 201 family photographs (Album, 2005). In the following years, she made various attempts at “taking off” her skin (self) in order to look at it with an outsider’s gaze. In the 2011 film Holes, she photographed the isolated openings of her body; in the 2014 Selfie, she created a pigskin likeness of her face and interacted with it in a series of photographs. She had her little daughter Franciszka play with the artist’s veracious bust made of silicone in the 2018 series Mama (shown at Lyles and King in 2018, and in the 2022 Venice Biennial exhibition). Exploring the image as a signifier of a person’s identity, existence, or as a projection of the viewer, in Domestic Animals, Grzeszykowska “recycles” the pigskin masks of her face and puts them on her dogs. It is not them that she is focused on but, rather, the boundaries of the self and the confirmation of her own existence. While lending them human faces and following the dogs’ quasi-human presence in the sequence of photographs, Grzeszykowska undermines the seeming simplicity of her gesture – the new dogs’ faces are pig’s skin, not human.

Rather than seeing dogs as humans, the artist is interested in looking at herself through the animals’ eyes. The pigskin becomes a membrane of contact, the layer of negotiation, but also the representation of her energy. In several projects, Grzeszykowska not only took casts of her face and body, but also created dolls representing herself and her daughter (Small Doll, 2009; Girl with a Chewing Gum, 2009; Franciszka, 2015-2016). All these fetishes with magical potential became carriers of their energy; acting as stand-ins. Grzeszykowska trusts hers only to the closest members of her “family albums” – her daughter and now dogs – doubting her own singularity, the boundaries of her own self, and ultimately – her existence – and hoping to see herself with their eyes and through their relationship with her. By enabling animals’ testimony to her own existence, she eliminates human superiority.

The artist’s daughter, Franciszka, returns in the second work presented in this exhibition – Album, 2022. In it, Grzeszykowska continues the family album, now going backwards from 2022 all the way to 2010 when Franciszka was born, and this time, erasing her daughter’s presence from the photographs. The elimination of a daughter can be seen as questioning and partial erasure of the mother’s self – Grzeszykowska’s art is a subtle, feminist recognition of the life’s endless cycle. Seen together in this exhibition, and from the perspective of Grzeszykowska’s entire oeuvre, these artworks, directly connected with works past and future, show her dramatic efforts to pierce the shell of selfhood and discover one’s self through relationships with others.

—Monika Fabijanska, 2022

Aneta Grzeszykowska’s (b. 1974, Warsaw, PL) photographs and video use dark, probing humor to explore sexuality, feminism, and the construction (and violent erasure) of the self. Over the past two decades, Grzeszykowska has used performance, photography, sculpture, and video to investigate the multiplicities of the self, the history of feminism and the phenomenology of her respective mediums. Grzeszykowska’s art draws her into the arena of Donna Harraway’s woman-cyborg. In breaking with the old, outdated schema, faded frames and post-romantic, patriarchal phantasms, she retains an unpredictability and hybridity that lies beyond the confines of the dual-channel possibilities of identity, connecting that which is human with what is technical, the organic with the synthetic, male and female, alluring and repugnant, and, particularly in the case of her latest works, the artistic and the non-artistic.

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