Barbara Gryka (b. 1992, in Puławy) From 2013 to 2019 she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw at the Faculty of New Media. In her practice she works with performance, video and photography. She is interested in social reality. She lives in Lublin, Końskowola and Warsaw. In her artistic work, she tries to encourage people to act together, to unite, to be together. She works with the local context, finding elements characteristic for a given place. She is interested in issues of identity and memory. However, she does not search for them in what is political and public – history, monuments and grand narratives – but in smaller things, closer to the body. For her, identity consists of small things: what she sees through the window, what she eats and who her neighbours are.
She has participated in many exhibitions in Poland and abroad. She has held residencies at MACBA Barcelona (2020-21), Residency Unlimited, New York (2019). Among her solo exhibitions she has held ie: There are no more valuable things than broken things, Miejski Ośrodek Sztuki, Gorzów Wielkopolski (2021), Dancing Motorcycles, BWA Zielona Góra, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin (2021), Tiff Festival, Procesy, Wrocław (2020), Identity consists of small things, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin (2019). In 2021 she opened the exhibition Dolls together with Katarzyna Krakowiak at the Szara Kamienica Gallery in Krakow. This was her first exhibition based on working with the community and translating it into the sounds of music.
Nothing is more precious than Damaged Goods
The exhibition talks about my experience of the covid pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, immediately after returning from abroad, I was left with no choice but to spend 14 days, at the governmental quarantine center in Stara Dąbrowa. During the stay, I documented the way people behaved in joint confinement – This reminded me of Dr. Zimbardo’s experiment or a scout camp.
Another theme that appears in the photographs, is a reflection into the current situation of women in Poland, who live and work around the tension caused by the restrictions of abortion rights. As part of my process, I invited women living in the countryside to participate in a workshop. During the meeting, we spoke about issues of womanhood and motherhood. As the conversations took place, each woman was asked to construct a rag doll. Each rag doll represented the way the women sees herself.
My practice refers to the works of Władysław Hasior and Józef Gielniak.
I was interested in “Notatnik foto” and “Fallen Angels”. The way Hasior unleashed conversations about every day, and his experience of working in an isolated tuberculosis sanctuary, became particularly important reference points to my research. The work refers to “male art history” to tell about women’s affairs, which were dictated by male political decisions.
Cowgirls (in cooperation with Nadia Markiewicz, Julia Dorobińska)
Classical music usually makes me more productive. When I hear it, I give more milk. But sometimes, I fantasize. At night, I dream that instead of giving milk, my body surrenders to the sounds and I move to their rhythm without any particular purpose.
One, two, three, two, two, three…
A dreamy vision of freedom unfolds over two hours in a looped sequence, choreographed by Filip Kijowski, consisting of references to the classical Waltz dance as well as to movements observed in cows. The space, under the arcades of a socrealist building in Warsaw, decorated with reliefs depicting physical laborers at work, is scattered with ceramics that are hybrids of cow feces and whipped cream. The Polish cow-women dance around them, to a hypnotic soundtrack composed by Tymek Bryndal, based on a nostalgic 90s jingle from an ice cream truck, fused with the tune of Shostakovich’s Waltz nr 2. The custom of playing classical music to cows to boost their milk production becomes a base for a feminist fantasy, in which dance becomes a form of resistance to the hegemony of productivity and fertility. An hour in advance of the performance, the sound of the ice cream truck jingle was spread around the central neighborhoods of Warsaw from a car, serving as an introduction to the performative installation.
Architecture from Within
The project was carried out on Juliusz Słowacki housing estate (Osiedle im. JuliuszaSłowackiego) in Lublin, designed in the 1960s by Zofia and Oskar Hansen. The inspiration as well as the basis of urban and architectural layout of this area was the Open Form Theory. As described by Hansen, ‘it was aimed to open eyes on versatile capabilities of people as well as on mutual relations between them. He emphasised the role of a creative individual as an inevitable part of the very space. The man was put as the subject of the project, the architecture, however, stated only a background for him. The second reference is monumental series of photography by Zofia Rydet entitled ‘Sociological Record’ (“Zapis socjologiczny”) covering over 7 000 portraits of inhabitants from various regions of Poland taken in their apartments. The shoot was always preceded by a conversation. Rydet treated her ‘models’ the same way Oskar
Hansen acted in relation to users of architecture. I settled a plan to move in to one of the flats situated on Juliusz Słowacki housing estate and to visit locals in their apartments. I have been discussing changes that were taking place on the estate throughout the years as well as residents’ experiences associated with their homes originally designed by the Hansens. At the end of each conversation, I have asked people I talked with to take a photo of me inside their apartment. Unlike the project of Zofia Rydet, I wanted the host to be the one who chooses the backdrop for my portrait as well as the one who takes a photo. Moreover, I also used previously chosen places to take photos of locals who agreed to be photographed. After each meeting I tried to keep all my thoughts and memories in a form of a video as well as a series of drawings and notes dedicated to each apartment. That is why, at the same time, a video-journal has been created. I launched the project in mid-August 2018 and I have visited 300 apartments so far. My work is still in progress.
What to take to the war
I am afraid of current politics and the anxiety prevailing in the world. Every day I read about new conflicts. For 4 years now, neighboring Ukraine is at war with Russia, a war that has already claimed over 10,000 lives. Putin’s aggressive policy increases the atmosphere of danger. Nobody can feel safe anymore. In the video “What to take to war” I play the role of a contemporary vlogger who is getting ready for war. She packs and presents the things she will need, exposing the naivety of a girl brought up in times of peace. The movie is an imitation of a clip dedicated to a YouTube channel.