THREE ELEMENTS IN JOANNA HOFFMANN'S ARTISTIC LANGUAGE

By Grzegorz Borkowski*

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W.Einthoven's invention of 1903 of a device recording human heart activity under the guise of electrocardiogram enabled to visualise one of the most meaningful processes occurring inside the body. Keeping in mind research-oriented and diagnostic importance of this method, we should not forget that it also introduced new, easily recognisable factor to the domain of visual language. For many persons it is just a sign of life that is typical for heart-powered creatures. Those who perceive electrocardiogram as entirely unique signature, characteristic for a given being, and a sort of a recorded life-moment of this being, belong to minority. Correct recognition of these two overlaid elements is possible for insightful observer. It is only possible if one juxtaposes various recordings gathered in various moments of a given person's life. Similar state of affairs is to be found in the field of arts, where comparing of several works by one author allows grasping interrelations between general creative stance and detailed qualities of works. Motive and notion of cardiogram appears in Joanna Hoffmann's work throughout several years' creative period. For the first time, they could have been used in installation shown in Potocka Gallery in 1996. Walls of two gallery rooms have been lined with black rubber strip, which reproduced the cardiogram recording. The strip was burdened with little stones in one room, and weights in the other room. Simplified image of individual blood pulse through employment of gravitational forces has been encoded into a given space, typically used for art. presentations. Cardiogram as a form used by medicine - delineated onto minute scale on paper - was not present directly, but as a kind of visual matrix rooted in collective memory. It is important to note that a small book which consisted of only two pages (pages were simultaneously the cover of the book) accompanied this individual exhibition. Elastic band, which limited the angle of possible opening of the book, has been mounted onto the opposite inner pages. This line was also a segment of the copy of authentic cardiogram inserted inside the book. In last several years, some of Joanna Hoffmann's artist's books were closely related to her spatial works that, as Jerzy Ludwiński noted, they constitute a kind of installation resume for this artist. Admittedly, they often serve as a condensation, shortened transposition of the idea of an installation instead of its description. Hoffmann's installations, ephemeral out of necessity, could be also treated as momentary appearances of books scored for gallery space. We can enter this score, or version, not only mentally but also physically. It is noteworthy to recall one of "One-sided Thoughts", noted by Joanna: Book is a piece of space which is filled with individual time. Therefore, I think that artist's books belong to a category of source reality in Hoffmann's works. The individually created source reality is much more basic than artist's spatial realisations. The contents of each book reflect one specific idea, one mental experience presented with rigorous precision, like in a deduction of a mathematical formula. The sensations connected with opening books, leafing through them and touching them are counterparts of the acts of entering and moving in the installation space. With delicate premeditation, Hoffmann's books register these facts until the near annihilation of the recording contained therein. "Music for inert repetitions" is a book of undeveloped photographs which are gradually being developed during their examination. Readers' fingerprints are easily discernible on the pages of this book. They document the act of reading and involuntary interference of the watcher into the contents of the tale that gradually vanishes but is deposited in the memory. It is memorised that the pages contained uniformly spaced musical pentagrams, each with one short recording of an electrocardiogram of a single heartbeat. Two recognitory codes of individuality are being juxtaposed here: fingerprints and pules lines.

Joanna Hoffmann's artistic language, apart from cardiograms and undeveloped photographic paper includes one typical element, which hasn't been mentioned yet. It is the sound of heart beating, which is being transformed in a multitude of ways. Its semantic message is certainly similar to cardiogram lines, but sound is present in space in a different way than the graphic sign. it makes its appearance in installations as an integral element, simultaneously modifying the situation of presentation of artist's books and stimulating viewers to ponder the surrounding space. It was the case of work "Music of Spheres", shown in Ujazdowski Castle in an exhibition on conceptual reflection. Processed sounds of heart beating were associated with the work of Johannes Kepler, who tried to find the acoustic equivalents of the Solar System planets. Each of the planets was depicted by a separate book placed on a special pedestal equipped with sound-emitting loudspeaker concealed inside. Acoustic sphere was permanently present, while contents of the books made themselves familiar only after the viewer decided to look inside. Two orders of perception could have distinguished. Sound and the totality of spatial arrangement were creating environment for "reading". It was also a model depicting the situation of reading person, always immersed in a certain set of individual and external contexts. In this case, the author tried to partially determine these contexts, connecting the act of reading book with the reading of the complex surroundings. In Joanna Hoffmann's work entitled "here and now", spatial object for reading and turning in one's hands, the distinguished position of "and" is really curious. We won't find it between "here" and "now", but at the top of two connected bases, on the staircase pyramid created by the remaining words. This conjunction mark-out resembles statement attributed to Heidegger. He was alleged to say that in the title of "Sein und Zeit", it is the "small" word in the middle that is the most important"


Grzegorz Borkowski
text from the catalogue "Book And WhatNext", issued by Gallery AT Poznan, 2000

(...)

The place of an object is nothing else than a point in its movement - just as the stability of an object is only a slowed down moment in its endless fluctuation.

In my space realisations I have been often using compasses to orientate a place I happened to be in. Directions set by magnetic needles used to abstract a place from the space. They appointed its centre or a viewer as the point of reference. Reliability of the outer pole were suspended. In this way these places became a metaphor of places which we carry in ourselves and which we look for. Two compasses inbuilt in my "Brick-case" influence each other suggesting the beginning and the end of this wondering. This object is also a kind of library containing two books: one with fragments of my hand printed in brick powder, the other with numbered pieces of ash.
This search for a point of reference found its reflection also in the exhibition "Place of permanent residence" in Elektraren Gallery, Slovakia, 1998. The old power station was "described" by the line made of electric cable, bricks and speakers. Its course repeated the line of cardiogram. The rhythm of heartbeat, coming from the speakers, was manipulated giving the impression of receding and approaching. Speakers put into the walls were accompanied by compasses which indicated the source of the sound.
This sound became an area of my artistic investigation. In works titled " Music of Spheres. Do it your-self" I join the ancient idea of Harmonia Mundi and its elaboration by Johannes Kepler with the melody revealed in my heart beat stretched by the mean of computer. The audience, using the provided notation and light, can make their own ephemeral compositions.
Then "Music for inert repetitions" is a series of music scores based on a record of one heart beat scanned into a stave. Each book composes one of many possible modules of narrative. The light- sensitive notation changes, vanishes, while particles of sweat on readers´ fingers leave permanent traces on photographic emulsion.
These books assume the form of a pocket edition or become a part of more compound situations.
In the majority of my books the very process of reading is implicit for understanding the whole object. "The destructive power of time" is not so much important here as looking at the process of charging some definite fragment of realm. Thus a book is understood as an active form of being. "Nothing is lost, nothing is left without consequences" wrote H.Bergson at the turn of the centuries, "Everything which exists carries imprints of events on itself".

Joanna Hoffmann

EXAMPLES OF WORKS

I "Brickcase"
brick with two compasses and a divided view-finder, provided with a glass -case with longitude and latitude of the place. Inside there are two books one with ordered pieces of ash, the other with fragments of the print of the artist's hand covered with brick powder.

II"A discrete point of suspension" Biala Gallery, Lublin, Poland, 97
Foucault's pendulum is moving to and fro along the same course. It seems however that it rotates slowly. This illusion is caused by the rotation of the Earth placed underneath it.
Skirting-boards, compasses, brass weight, mirror

III"Common Ground"
International Symposium, Spike Island Artspace, Bristol, England, 98
paving slabs compasses, painted lines, brass-weight, magnifying glass with mirror. Lines on the walls and the rubber string have been marked with 1 meter distances -in case of the rubber string they are influenced by weight/gravity. A broken slab is filled with plaster and contains a footprint.

IV "Place of Prermanent Residence"/"Dynamic system, variable", Tatranska Galeria - Elektraren, Poprad, Slovakia, 99'
The electric wire joining speakers and weighted with bricks repeats a line of cardiogram The speakers put into the walls are accompanied by compasses. Sound: the heartbeat which is getting slower, creating impression of getting farther, and returning.

V "Music for inert repetition"
a series of music scores based on a record of one heart beat scanned into a stave. Each book composes one of many possible modules of narrative. Photographic paper,, light-sensitive paper

VI "Music for inert repetitions" State Museum, Bydgoszcz, (as a part of "Construction in Process), 2000
Black lecton, chairs painted white, joined by speakers. Sound: one heartbeat repeated in a loop.

VI "Music for inert repetitions" Galerie Artists Unlimited, Bielefeld, Germany, 2000
Black lecton joined with a chair, loudspeaker
Sound: one heartbeat being repeated in a loop, activated by opening the book

VIII "Music of Spheres. Do it yourself"
Galerie Artists Unlimited, Bielefeld, 2000
7 speakers + "DO IT YOURSELF" unit.
box provided with sound-proof sponge, contains rythmic unit (sound of cardiograph) and set of music scores, based on notes written by Johannes Kepler, light-sensitive paper

IX "here and now", 2000
The cover of the book is made by computer-printed word "and" . Inside: two spirals composed by words here - now, hand-written and transformed onto light sensitive paper. Centres contain small mirrors.

X "Passport"
passport in which personal data were replaced by light-sensitive record of cardiogram


Joanna Hoffmann
address: ul.Chelminska 11/6,
60-645 Poznan, Poland

tel/fax: ++ 48 61 8485 754
e-mail: [email protected]
website: http://free.art.pl/hoffmann

born: 1968 in Poznan, Poland
art education: 1987-92 Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan (M.A)
adjunct at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan

SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
1992 - "Small reflexions of time", Gallery ON, Poznan, Poland
- "From the diary of labirynth", Gallery 104, Gent, Belgium
1993 - "In-between sides", Gallery ON, Poznan
- "Travels around un-measurable Time", International Centre of Art, Poznań
- "Silence of small e-motions", Gallery AT, Poznan
- "Books-Objects", Galeria Dzialan/Gallery of Action, Warsaw, Poland
1994 - " Around un-sure circulations", Gallery Wejscie, Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw
- " throughOut", Teraz Gallery, Szczecin, Poland
1995 - "a few steps above, a few degrees aside", Kingsgate Gallery, Londyn
- " :21. It is important to distinguish", Galeria 2124 , Oslo
1996 - "Stable behaviour" Gallery Potocka, Cracow, Poland
1997 - "Up and Down", The Commercial Gallery, London, England
- "A discrete point of suspension", Biala Gallery, Lublin, Poland
1999 - " Episode ", Labyrinth Gallery, State Gallery, Lublin
- "Repetitions", ON Gallery, Poznan
2000 - "re: positioning", Artists Unlimited Gallery, Bielefeld, Germany
2001 - "music for individual performances", Gedok Atelierhaus, Lubeck, Germany

GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
1992 - "Work from Poland"
Concourse Gallery, Byam Shaw School of Art, London, England
- "Books and Pages - Polish Avant-garde Artists' Books"
Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland
1993 - "Different Book"Gallery ON, Poznan
1994 - "The Best Diplomas 92/93",Gallery of Polish Artists Union, Warsaw
- "Collection II", Centre For Contemporary Art in Warsaw
- "Winners of M.Dokowicz Award",The State Gallery Arsenal, Poznan
- "Wielkapolska Studio", Wielkapolska Studio, Poznan
1995 - "Natural Setting", The Chelsea Physic Garden, London, England
- "On the edge", Camley Street Natural Park, London, England
1996 - "Fictions", Centre of Culture "Zamek", Poznan
- "Polimetrie", the State Gallery Arsenal, Wroclaw, Poland
- "Polish Art Critics' Recommendations", The State Gallery Arsenal, Poznan
1997 - "The Book and the Body", The Operating Theatre Museum, London, England
- "20/20", Kingsgate Gallery, London, England
- "International Joint Art Exhibition", Shin Gallery, Hiroshima, Japan
- " In Orbit Round the Drifting Book", Gesamthochschul Bibliothek, Kassel, Germany
- "43rd Hiroshima Peace Exhibition", Hiroshima Prefecture Art Museum, Japan
- "Propositions" (with D.Allsop and J.Riddy) Cairn Gallery, Gloucestershire, UK
1998 - "A Few Private Impulses", The State Gallery Arsenal, Bialystok, Poland
- International Symposium, Spike Island Artspace, Bristol, England
- "20/20", Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, England
- "In Orbit Round the Drifting Book II", Polish Culture Institute, Budapest, Hungary
- "O.N. presents", Wyspa Gallery, Gdansk, Poland
- " Fort Sztuki 98. Letter-Word-Sentence", Goethe Institute, Cracow, Poland
- "Photographie", Kunst-und Atelierhaus Horn, Austria
1999 - "Polish Artists's books" Stadt Bibliothek, Stockholm, Sweden
- "Passion", Gasworks, London, England
- "The Notation of Silence", Book Art Museum, Lodz, Poland
- "Moveable Horizons of Notions. Conceptual reflection in Polish Art"
Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw
- "Oikos", State Museum in Bydgoszcz, Poland
- "Meanders of Presence", Centre of Polish Sculpture, Orońsko
- "Place of Permament Residence", Tatranska Gallery, Poprad, Slovakia
- "Place of Permanent Residence II", State Museum in Bydgoszcz, Poland
- "The Idea of a Book", State Musuem in Torun, Poland
2000- "Volumes of Vulnerability", Standpoint Gallery, London, U.K.
The Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax, U.K.
The Book Art. Museum, Lodz, Poland
San Francisko Center for the Book , USA
- "Artists' Books Exhibition", King Stephen Museum, Szekesfeher, Hungary
- "The book and what next", AT Gallery, Poznan
- "Construction in Process", The State Museum in Bydgoszcz
- "Contemporary Original Books, Palais des Congres, Marseille, France
2001 - "Single Currency Exhibition". Cortona International Symposium: A Print Odyssey, Italy
- "NONA", At Jesuits' Gallery, Poznan

Selected Artists Books:
"Here and Now", "dhe ent", "To be", "Record", "In searching for lost time", "The common lightness of life", "fly", "Visor", "Intimacy of Thousand and One Nights"" "Photo-Express", "Hi-story", "Ego-logical Tree", "Handy Map of..." "Time-like dimension (series)", "Imagine", "Self Control", "Music for inert repetitions (series)", "Self-Portait", "The Matter of a Fact", "Music of Spheres", "Cardiocord"

Works in collections:
- Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland
- London Institute, Chelsea College of Art and Design, England
- The Bristol Art Library, England
- Matt's Gallery, London
- Book Art Museum, Lodz, Poland
- Shin Gallery Collection, Hiroshima, Japan
- King Stephen Museum, Szekesfeher, Hungary
- International Collection of Contemporary Creative Artists' Books, Marseille, France
- Private Collections

Awards and Scholarships
1992 - The Polish Minister of Culture Scholarship
1993 - The Award of M.Dokowicz
1994 - The Poznań City Award for Young Artists
1998 - residency at the Spike Island Artspace, Bristol, England
1998 - KulturKontakt scholarship, Kunst-und Atelierhaus Horn, Austria
2000 - Artists Unlimited Residency, Bielefeld, Germany
2001 - Gedok Schleswig-Holstein residency, Lubeck, Germany
- Assocation for Polish Science, conference stipend


Other Art Related Activities:
curator at the ON Gallery, author of theoretical texts on art. and participant of international conferences i.e. Impact Confertence at UWE, Bristol,U.K (1999)., Impact II Conference at UIAH, Helsinki, Finland (2001), "Art Spaces in gender perspective", conference at the University in Bielefeld (2001)

teaching experience:
since 1997 llecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań
as a visiting artists: Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo, Norway, Camberwell College of Arts, London, Winchester School of Art., U.K, De Monftfort University, Lincoln, U.K., Universidad de Castilla - La Mancha, Cuenca, Spain