The winner of this year’s edition of the Hestia Artistic Journey competition is Julia Woronowicz representing the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. I had a chance to talk to her about the competition and her expectations related to art residency in New York.
Małgorzata Marszałł: Why did you decide to take part in the Hestia Artistic Journey?
Julia Woronowicz: I wanted to verify the clarity of my project, a video performance entitled “Kwiatuszku” [“Hello Daisy”], which I submitted for the competition.
MM: Tell me more about the work. Why did you choose this one?
JW: I wanted to test an idea which did not gain recognition at the Academy. I couldn’t understand why. It seemed very comprehensible to me since the moment I came up with it. I was reading a lot about womanhood and social roles, in particular in the Polish context. I created the work thanks to the enormous support from my friends but without consulting my professors. We have this popular saying in Poland which we often repeat to children – “you cannot hit a girl even with a flower”. In my work, I hit a punching bag shaped like a daisy, myself looking as innocent as I possibly can, with my hair let down, wearing a white dress. The message was simple – to attack stereotypical gender constructs. I wanted the work to reach a wider audience, because I think this topic is important and we need to talk about it.
MM: In your opinion, what benefits can young artists draw from such a competition?
JW: It helps you stop feeling like you are still a student. You can become independent and enhance your artistic choices.
MM: You are the winner of the grand prize which is art residency in New York. Are you preparing for it in any way? Have you got any expectations as to your stay in that city?
JW: I had to submit an outline of a project, so I can say something about that. I am planning to continue a large project about Slavic beliefs. This time, my intention is to reach the Polish community in America. To hear their point of view, to personify Polish emigration, to mythicise the most interesting stories. You are welcome to take part, if you live in America and reading this interview or perhaps you have friends there. You can contact me at my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe that the project will not be complete without Pola Nuda – little daisy, my alter ego, a Polish singer. I really hope flying to NYC with my producer Maksymilian Rzontkowski and fulfill my dream about making a disco polo song in collaboration with a star of this incredible field of art there. I am very excited.Hungry for more?
MM: Is this going to be your first visit to New York?
JW: I’ve already been to New York. I have a family living in the USA – I am sending my greetings to them.
MM: Your works often refer to current social and political issues – why do you take up such topics?
JW: I think that these phenomena affect me greatly. It is hard not to comment on them. I’m trying not to use a solemn tone, since I don’t like preaching myself. After all, these are topics we discuss with our friends. It seems that the awareness of young people and their sense of empowerment is improving. And if not, I would like to help to raise this awareness. We have every right to interfere with the reality which excludes someone, fails to respect others – the reality where we don’t feel comfortable. Maybe it’s hard to believe but social education may be held via social media, such as Instagram. And that’s great. An example of a social project I am working on is tattooing a “kolędnik” symbol. This symbol comes from Slavic beliefs – it is a sign of warriors going to war and a symbol of warmth. It is currently used only by nationalist circles and Lechite myth followers. I want to take away the monopoly for the harmful use of Slavic iconography and make the visual side of the sign more attractive. I have proclaimed that it is a symbol of sisterhood and women warriors. Forty people, connected with me via internet platform and took part in the project so far. It’s possible that I will take it to New York with me. Sisterhood is international.
MM: You use a range of methods and techniques – video, painting, sculpture. Are there any that you consider to be your favourite? What does the technique of a given work depend on?
JW: I enjoy painting the most and I often do it without any reason. When it comes to more committed projects, I start with a concept – what is the meaning of the works, and at least what inspired it? Then I look for a tool which has the potential to deliver my message in the clearest way possible. Of course, I sometimes change the medium while the project is being delivered. I sometimes forget to use the word “maybe” with the spell “the work is finished”.
I am interested in the different receptions of sculpture and video, colour and monochromatic works. I like paying attention to that. I created my master’s diploma work at the Faculty of Sculpture with a special dedication to the teaching staff. Video is the main part of the work. It features my grandmother Jadwiga dressed as Queen Jadwiga of Poland. I sculpted all the insignias and a replica of the family pendant but these are only some of the elements which make up a living monument of a powerful woman – a woman who breathes, blinks, whose hands are shaking while holding a sceptre. I was asked why I did not sit my grandmother in front of the commission, since I did not make a bronze bust. Fortunately, one of the female professors spoke up that making older woman sit for few hours in front of bunch of strangers wouldn’t be worshiping for her, rather making her uncomfortable. The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw has a special place in my heart. I am constantly searching for new means of expression – I am using amber (sometimes called the polish gold), wood, and hot glue in my current projects.
MM: Have you got any plans after your return from the residency?
JW: After the residency I am planning to devote my time to painting and sung poetry. I would also like to show a large project about Poland I have been working on for the past year with Gosia Król, an excellent young curator and a friend of mine. It is an exhibition which takes place in 2410 and is an archaeological exhibition comprising everything which scholars managed to dig out, hear or collect after 2030 when the final Polish-Polish battle was held and our country disappeared from the map of the world. It is my favourite project and a display of the multitude of the media I used in the project. My grandmother Jadwiga as queen of Poland is also part of this exhibition, so I am glad that I have her on record. We still have not managed to find the perfect place for such a narrative but we are open to suggestions.