WERONIKA WYSOCKA / WHERE ALL PROBLEMS END / WITCHES’ TOWER
where all problems end
15.11.2019 / 5 pm
Witches’ Tower / al. F. Nullo 8 w Słupsku
15.11 – 15.12.2019
The diaristic installation created by the artist intertwines and captures stories of a collective body that in the era of industrial development mirrored the binary division of power and work: the foreman and his female subordinates. The work made of overlapping layers of material purchased in Warsaw and Słupsk second-hand clothing stores, presented from the entrance to the top floor of the gallery, finally materializes in the form of a video. The aftermath of overproduction in fashion, or, more generally, in the textile industry, has been discussed for many years. The increasing desire to own things affects the environment, and requires a huge amount of labour. At the same time, it hides the inequalities that these processes entail. Exploitation in this area is a mass phenomenon − starvation wages for often uninsured workers are compensated for by low quality products that are sent to distributors and capitalized on. All that remains is a surplus, produced at the lowest cost, which is to satisfy consumerism for a moment, by allowing a purchase of a new item in an outlet. where all problems end is a series of shots started in 2018 that shows unwanted garment gathered in a huge hall. It is here that their origin will be anonymized once again. Used clothing thrown into special containers is subject to selection. Foundations and aid organisations collect undesirable items and sell them to the sorting plant. Contrary to the intentions of the people who give their belongings in a gesture of help, their donation will be transformed into a new capital − through secondary sales, mainly to the countries of the Global South. The video, which is part of the cycle, presents various stages of this process, including sorting of clothes, during which some of them, intended for sale, are pressed into cubes, prepared for transport and delivered to a second-hand store. The rest, considered unsuitable for recycling, goes into big drums where they will be destroyed. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the address. This is how Weronika Wysocka answers my question about the location of the company that agreed to the documentation. The artist utilises what she finds in her surroundings. This was also the case with the installation created during the workshop with Paweł Althamer, where he arranged a cooperation of students with members of the Nowolipie collective in a joint sculptural project. Wysocka wove an object made of resin and phloem left by other participants. In the latest installation, she focuses on industrial fabric as a medium, and collects both material and stories. The fabric becomes, on the one hand, a universal reference to the phenomenon of affective work and collectivity, and, on the other, to automation. The artist’s work: hanging at the entrance, watched closely, slightly shabby, tense, purified, but also covered with dust, emphasizing the symbolic temporal distance, resembles a kind of a flag made of sewn together three piece suits. Słupsk, where much of the material used in the artist’s work comes from, used to be an important industrial production centre of upholstered furniture, leather products, haberdashery and footwear, but also of textiles, which is recalled by one of the interviewees. The changes started in 1989 − most of the production plants were gradually reducing the number of employees, some were privatized and finally shut down, forcing the residents to face the new reality. The buildings of the former production plants now house digital embroidery and laser printing companies. Containers for unwanted clothing can be seen on the other side of the street. The object we are looking at is a kind of a meta-assemblage. It evokes associations with tradition and local production, which has been displaced by mass production – carried out far away, destroying other local traditions, replaced by new fashions.
Wysocka reaches back to oral history and storytelling, finding there universal references. The clothing closest to our skin, which protects and shields it, has become just a kind of conventional identification, a foreign product, whose carbon footprint and origin are difficult to identify. The interest in the subject of clothes production, circulation, and finally, in the question where the surplus goes, was sparked, among others, by Nadira Husain, an artist, at whose Berlin-based studio Wysocka worked for a few months. Husain reported on how her grandmother set up small sari factories all over India. Traditional Indian craftsmanship was lost, as the British capitalised the local market and later exploited the textile industry. In her works, Weronika Wysocka often moves between image and text. Her inquiry and the objects she creates refer to particular stories, but they are also often narratives created by the artist herself. For the performance shown in her diploma work, she included the text from a Polish billionaire, Dominika Kulczyk’s cliché-ridden speech, in which, while informing that she would donate funds to charity, she appealed: Let us begin a noble rivalry. Wysocka has recently created a performative micro-series regularly released in the Instagram stories. She takes the position of an observer, scrolls down and laconically comments on the images she sees. Her statements, like a dialogue list, appear on the screen through which she looks at reality. We can not see the narrator. We hear a voice over while looking at the images she sees instead. Her voice suggests the feeling of remoteness and disillusion. In the new video with a commentary in the form of subtitles, featured in the last part of the exhibition, the protagonist-user tries to escape the world of interface and, as Wysocka suggests, tells her story through sweat. The text recounts the story of dusty ashes, of a dormant element, which threatens to erupt and flares deep underneath. It was created in cooperation with a literary critic and women’s rights activist, Katarzyna Bratkowska, who appears in the video – her story is intertwined with the story of a seamstress created by Wysocka. The artist had this character in mind, while she was collecting the stories of her interlocutrices, in particular the one which was to be the reflection of the artist’s grandmother’s account. She started creating the installation with this protagonist, although she put off her work on the film for the time just before the opening of the exhibition.
Weronika Wysocka (born 1994) works with video, performance, installation and object making. She graduated from the Studio of Spatial Activities at the Faculty of Media Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2013-2018). She participated in a student exchange at the Universität der Künste in Berlin (2015) and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem (2018). Her works have been presented in Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2019), lokal_30 (2018) and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, as part of Hestia Artistic Journey contest (2017).
Text: Romuald Demidenko
cooperation on the installation: Paulina Szczepańska
cooperation on the video: Katarzyna Bratkowska
camerawork consultations: Krzysztof Grajper, Mikołaj Syguda