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"Travelling Images" exhibition

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas

Międzynarodowe Centrum Kultury
December 02,2022 - March 05,2023

December 2, 2022 March 5, 2023

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas is continually re-enchanting the world, doing so on her own  terms. “Travelling Images” is her first solo exhibition after the great success at this  year’s 59. Biennial of Art in Venice. 

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas is currently the major representative of contemporary Roma art. She  works with iconographic heritage of art history, creating Romani counter-histories and speak ing with her own voice. She draws on Renaissance painting as well as on everyday life, appro priating significant elements of European heritage and early modern art as well as researching  and incorporating photographs from her family archives. She works with textiles and clothing  to produce monumental pieces, tapestries and screens. Hypnotising, vibrant with colours, tex tures, and details, her collages, quilts, and installations tell stories that demand our emotional  investment. 

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas addresses the issues of complex Romani and Polish identity, decolo nisation of the Roma material cultural heritage, stereotypes about Roma men and women,  and the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti. She is inspired by Roma women, who are often cast as  protagonists of her works. They are family members, closest collaborators, fellow artists and  activists – significant figures for the Roma community. This specific minority feminism practiced  by the artist seeks to deconstruct the stereotypical image of Roma women, perpetuated over  the centuries in visual culture. – In my opinion, the art of Małgorzata Mirga-Tas offers an expe rience of elemental humanity, a sense of community and strength gained from overcoming  traumas and difficult life situations. I am convinced that an immersion in the Roma universe can  have a beneficial effect on the viewer in every way – argues Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, director  of the ICC. 

“Travelling Images” at the ICC Gallery showcases a large selection of the artist’s works,  including the series “Out of Egypt”, recognised by the international audience, and the series  of large-format tapestries titled “Herstories”. Supplemented with new works addressing the  history of the Roma community in Nowa Huta and the Roma memory, the exhibition endeav 

ours to disenchant established images and rewrite history, taking a form of personal and col lective self-presentation. The exhibition is also significant in the context of the entire oeuvre of  the artist who has strong ties with our region. Born and raised in a family that has been settled  in Lesser Poland for generations, educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, she contin ues to undertake numerous social and artistic projects in her native region.

The exhibition opens with a room dedicated to a collection of images of the Roma produced  over the course of five hundred years by non-Roma people. Titled the “atlas”, with its name  and method of display the collection refers to Aby Warburg’s “Mnemosyne Atlas”, famously  composed of sets of display boards. The images come from a variety of collections, they were  produced in various techniques, and represent different artistic levels. Among them are the  works by David Teniers the Younger, Albrecht Dürer, Jacques Callot, Wojciech Weiss, and  Aleksander Kotsis. However, they are all elements of one collection, the subject of which is the  history of petrifying and dressing the Roma in a stereotypical costume – a history consistently  deconstructed by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas. This practice shows affinity with one of the images  on display, titled “O Fotografis” (2015), which means a photographer in the Roma language.  The scene shows a non-Roma person taking a photo of a Roma person, while the work itself  is a critique of the long history of photography understood as the production of knowledge  and images stereotyping the Roma. The artist regularly uses photography in her practice. 

The exhibition features a series of works based on 1980s photographs from the archives of the  Mirga family. – The titular “travelling images” define the artist’s intimate dialogue with the history  of European – often harmful – representations of members of both historical and contemporary  Roma communities. Małgorzata Mirga-Tas does not stop at a critical revision of art and Western  visual culture. She appropriates selected images and ignores others, and by reaching for Roma  photographic counter-narratives, she recovers history and allows the past to happen anew –  explain the curators of the exhibition, Natalia Żak and Wojciech Szymański. 

In the exhibition section titled “Newo Rom – newo drom” (New human/new Roma man – new  way), the artist addresses the new image of the Roma community, constructed after 1945. With  the advent of socialism, itinerant communities were forced to settle down, and those already  settled to relocate to often remote regions of the country. This came with new representations  of the Roma as civilised citizens and work leaders employed on the construction sites of the  brave new world. A counterpoint to these images is a film produced by the artist together  with Krzysztof Skonieczny. It is a form of remake of Władysław Ślesicki’s short film titled “Jedzie  tabor”. The artist plays the role of the main character – a young Roma man called Jasza – who  has arrived in Krakow where he is to start a new life. 

Especially for the exhibition at the ICC, the artist produced a new series titled “Siukar Manusia”,  whose title in Romani means good, wonderful people. These are portraits of representatives  of the first generation of Roma residents of Krakow’s Nowa Huta and of the generation directly  affected by the Roma Holocaust, produced on the basis of photos from family archives. The artist  decided to show the portraits as a site-specific installation in a room with a Renaissance column,  which determined the structure and composition of the entire installation. The cycle is also  an afterimage of the artist’s most famous work – “Re-Enchanting the World” – presented at  the Polish Pavilion in Venice. The installation at the ICC refers to the middle strip of that work,  where drawing on the composition and the distinct blue colours of the backgrounds of the  15th-century frescoes in Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara, the artist presents portraits of people  important to her, the vast majority of whom are Romani women shown as guardians, patrons,  and angels of history.

The spacious patio of the ICC worked as an ideal space to display the monumental portraits  of women from the series “Herstories” (2019–2021). The portrayed women are – literally and  metaphorically – giantesses, including the acclaimed Roma-British artist Delaine Le Bas and the  Roma-Jewish-Macedonian composer and singer Esma Redjepova. The works are accompanied  by two collages featuring the artist’s self-portraits. “Romanija Siwen” (2021) shows the artist and  her mother, Grażyna Mirga, as well as her sister, the artist’s aunt and permanent collaborator –  Stanisława Mirga. The scene depicted in “Pećhar” (2022) takes place during one of the plein-air  meetings organised by Małgorzata Mirga-Tasfor Roma artists in Czarna Góra. She portrayed  herself in the company of the Roma-Slovak artist Milka Rigova, Roma-Slovak-Austrian artist  Robert Gabris, and Roma-Polish dancer and performer Bogumiła Delimata, La Bogusha.