This year’s edition of the Krakow Photomonth provides an area for experimenting and a platform for cooperation, just as it used to do in previous years. New presentation forms and topics analysed successfully inspire fruitful discussions. The organisers of the festival decided to reflect on the reality of the pandemic times and selected a matching central theme, namely, the focus on the local. The presented exhibitions run in parallel with local events involving the residents of Krakow.
Just like last year, the festival has a hybrid nature, but this year, much stronger emphasis is put on live events. Face to face meetings are the most important for the festival organisers.
Participants of this extraordinary event, which celebrates the art of photography, noticed that certain artists focused on the relationships between humans and animals in the works they presented. They reflected on the differences and similarities between various species and studied interdependencies between humans and animals.
Animals Which Look at Us
The discussion on this extensive topic starts with the exhibition entitled “Shifters” presented in the ASP Gallery. It includes materials collected by Marta Bogdańska and shares her reflections. The use of archival materials that document animals working for armies or for spies allowed the artist to present her vision of a non-anthropocentric world. History retold from the perspective of animals and placing them in the very centre as those who actually create the narration is what makes the audience look at animals from a different angle. It gives humans the possibility to learn something more about the capabilities of animals, which have been ignored so far.
Krakow Photo Fringe is a section which presents works by students of the most prominent Polish institutions of higher education in the field of art as well as groups of photographers and activists who use photography and videos as a means of expression. The section includes two exhibitions which are particularly worth noting, namely “Zwierzęcenie,” presented in the ASP Promocyjna Gallery and “Stwora,” presented in ASP Bronowice Gallery. These exhibitions are characterized by many creative interconnections. Let’s have a closer look at them.
Let Us Be Tamed
ASP Promocyjna Gallery presents works by young artists who approach the topics of dependencies, familiarity and imperfections in relationships between humans and animals in very different ways. The text which accompanies the exhibition, written by Andrzej Plichowski-Ragno –one of the artists whose works are displayed there – refers to Gregor Samsa, a character in “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. One day, Gregor’s body is transformed into a huge, ghastly insect. The story of his life may be considered a depiction of inability for adaptation to the changing world or a herald of forming a category of redundant creatures. Andrzej Plichowski wrote about Gregor maturing and accepting the changes which occurred. However, at the same time, the author emphasises the need for reflection and redefinition of the basic notions and ideas related to human existence. The projects by young artists presented in this exhibition propose a new perspective of looking at humans in the context of animals.
Animal Nature Denied
Works presented in ASP Bronowice Gallery were created during outdoor photography workshops led by Szymon Nowak, an assistant in the photography studio at the Faculty of Graphic Arts of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. These unique workshops, organised in the Błędów Desert and in Tenczynek Landscape Park, gave an opportunity to the invited group of students to provide their creative interpretation of two opposing topics – acceptance and denial of the animal nature.
Students had a chance to engage in a conversation with their inner animal and made attempts to present it in a material form. As a result, Creatures (Stwory) were created, which took new forms and impersonated new qualities. No matter if the forms of expressing the denied animal nature were complicated or simple, as proposed by pure imagination, all of them are posthuman and take the primordial elements into the future.
Young artists whose works we can see at the “Zwierzęcenie” and “Stwora” exhibitions took a closer look at the selected topics.
Back to Nature
Karolina Tutaj – the artist focuses on how a fresh look at common patterns and ideas can make our experience with them different. In her works, she documents the process of medical treatment that uses natural methods. Selected procedures are presented from a unique perspective, which highlights their extraordinary character. The rituals may even resemble natural forms, which may then look slightly surreal.
The Lack Makes a Form
Matylda Awdziejczyk – Inaction 2019 focuses on inactivity which may be a form of escapism. She wonders whether things which do not matter, do not take action either. The presented suspension makes a human body closer to an animal body.
Looking for a Place for Humans in the Natural World
Izabela Makocka/Ewelina Zając – with their photographs, the artists want to raise awareness by presenting unnatural close-ups of animal bodies and inability to return to the mythic communion between man and nature. At the same time, they ask the audience which other ways of coexistence of humans and animals are possible. They also emphasise the unsuccessful attempts of reconstructing what humans lost due to their own fault.Hungry for more?
Non-fantastic Zoology – Images of Animals – Atlas of Oddities
The artist focuses on hybrids, plastic replicas, stuffed animal corpses, i.e. images of animals, scattered in different countries, presented in museums and display cabinets, standing in parks and in the streets. He makes us aware that these are not animals anymore, but they live in an anthropomorphised world in which they serve as ambiguous decorations. The animals make up a modern bestiary. They replace centaurs, leviathans, hydras and unicorns, and serve as their cheaper and easier replacements. Hydras taken out of context, which we run into by chance, are being observed and are actively observing. Presented in pictures, they are part of the private atlas of oddities.
Natalia Wiernik – the artist discusses the community of eccentrism, which manifests itself in her interest in animal motives, which are present in the spaces inhabited by the figures shown in her photographs.
As tolerance is increasing and more broad-ranging, the notion of “family” cannot be described using a single and simple definition. Much more often established relationships are not based on kinship, but rather on similarities. These similarities may consist of the same experiences from the past, the same values , or similar emotions. Paradoxically, it can also equal otherness and oddity. In this case, the eccentrism of separate beings becomes a keystone based on which a community or family is formed.
Animals as Trophies
Joanna Musiał – the artist presents death in an understandable, but not literal manner. She shows the relationship between humans and nature where humans eventually gain control over nature and treat it like a trophy.
Striving for the Animal Nature Being Accepted
Michał Maliński – the artist emphasises the fact that anthropomorphic features are attributed to nature. This is a way of accepting the animal nature. The artist explores forms which may deceptively resemble something that is already familiar to humans.
Ewelina Zając – the artist looks for manifestations of the animal nature by analysing natural forms and patiently waiting to get to know them better. She tracks animal trails in order to get familiar with her inner animal and to accept it. By exploring nature and the forms it creates, she learns about the inseparable links between the world of plants, animals and humans. At the same time, she indicates that probably only animals are able to see the sheer beauty of nature.
What Defines Us as Human Beings?
Julia Piwowarczyk – looking at natural forms, the artist tries to define the borderline between humans and the environment. The decisive indicator is supposed to be the ability to feel and express emotions. Julia Piwowarczyk tries to express emotions which have not been previously familiar to us, feelings of nature, hidden or expressed, but failed to be decoded.
The listed works by young artists make us look at the surrounding reality while taking a broader perspective and put us outside of the usual ways humans think. The “Shifters” exhibition is a powerful introduction which encourages us to ask ourselves a question of what we are like from the point of view of animals. The question makes us go outside of the anthropomorphic world and realise that animals have capabilities which are usually unnoticeable to humans. The projects presented at the “Zwierzęcenie” and “Stwora” exhibitions revolve around the individual relationship that each artist has with the animal world. On the one hand, this relationship can be a friendship based on mutual benefits and acceptance. On the other, it can be marred by an overwhelming dominance of a human and his complete lack of willingness to give up this dominant role. The trophies, parts of animals’ bodies taken out of context and presented in photographs may inflict pain, just as the reality portrayed in the film entitled “Safari” by Ulrich Seidl. Apparently, what we all need is a loud wake-up call. All presented works make us aware of how much people have to do andhow much work is ahead of us before we manage to redefine the basic notions related to the identity of humans.
ASP Promocyjna Gallery (ground floor + first floor)
Pl. J. Matejki 13 / ul. Basztowa 18
curator: Agata Pankiewicz and Margaryta Vladimirova
Artists: Matylda Awdziejczyk, Ola Droszcz, Daniella Keulemans, Paulina Kędzior, Jędrzej Krzyszkowski, Iza Makocka, Michał Maliński, Joanna Musiał, Agata Pankiewicz & Marcin Przybyłko, Andrzej Pilichowski Ragno, Karolina Tutaj, Ewelina Węgiel, Natalia Wiernik, Ewelina Zając
ASP Bronowice Gallery
ul. Stawowa 61 (level +1)
curator: Emilia Kutrzeba, Szymon Nowak
Artists: Maja Waśniowska, Izabela Makocka, Ania Uliasz, Michał Maliński, Adrianna Omylak, Ewelina Zając, Paulina Kędzior, Anna Kubik, Gabriela Chrabąszcz, Julia Piwowarczyk
“Stwora” exhibition, ASP Bronowice Gallery
“Stwora” exhibition, ASP Bronowice Gallery
“Zwierzęcenie” – exhibition, ASP Promocyjna Gallery
“Zwierzęcenie” – exhibition, ASP Promocyjna Gallery