‘Object – memory – history. Marta Bosowska’s performance.’ by Paulina Kempisty

Object – memory – history. Marta Bosowska’s performance.

Marta Bosowska creates in the field defined by such categories as place – memory – body – gesture – object.

Place – is always well studied by the artist. She selects it very carefully; sometimes it is the main inspiration for her actions.

Memory – is the key topic. The artist analyses it. We may view memory in the context of her art in many ways.

Body – is used with an awareness of its possibilities and limits as well as with an intuition for a form it creates.

Gesture – is usually very firm. It orders the space and puts in a position the audience.

Object – is elementary and incredibly intriguing. In my opinion, it is a building block for every performance. The materials are carefully selected. They particularise the scope of the topic in artist’s interest. Bosowska uses such objects as a Soviet helmet, an artillery shell, a metal bell, a dilapidated swing or a merry-go-round. The structure of the objects is authentic, marked with time. They bespeak about the past; they bring memories, they relate to individual and group memory. The objects carry a clear message, which gains, even more, power when they become exposed in an art gallery. They change from private objects to art objects. Some of them, like the helmet and artillery shell, were examined by specialists only to learn their history better. Bosowska used them in several performances. Each time she explored their propensities in a different way. She would bring them to destruction (the helmet and the merry-go-round). We may speak here about a series of actions related to a given object, which finished its life at the moment of exhaustion and the consumption of matter.

What links the performances in one series are not only the same objects and the process of their degradation, but also multi-threaded private histories. They bind the object, memory and history in one consistent wholeness. It is worth noting here that they are not (consciously) revealed by the artist.

So the question appears of what they have in common. For example, an intriguing is a link between the artist and war relics.

The artillery shell gave, according to the artist, a beginning for different thinking about the object, which became part of a process, not a single action. Bosowska got it as a gift from a friend from Belfast. According to specialists, the shell came from I World War. First, Bosowska cleaned it very carefully. Next, she exerted a lot of physical energy to destroy it – for example in Kiev at Gogolfest Festival, which took place at a former ammunition factory. The last performance where the artist used the shell happened in Israel at ZAZ Festival. The artist left it there.

The helmet, to be precise two Soviet helmets, had a visible swastika sign made with paint. One of them had a hole. Bosowska found it in a shed somewhere on private property in Kielce region. During II World War there was a temporary German captive camp for prisoners, most of the prisoners were Soviet soldiers. The examination of the helmet confirmed its originality. The second helmet, almost like the first one, Bosowska found by chance in Poznan at a flea market. She smashed the first helmet during her performance in Nova Gallery in Poznań in 2015. She used a bell to do it. The artist came into possession of the bell by chance. It was found in a destroyed synagogue on a Greek island Zakynthos. There is an amazing story linked with the island. It is a story of a local Jewish community, which was saved from extermination thanks to an unbending attitude of a bishop, major and the inhabitants of the island who hid the Jews and with evident solidarity refused to reveal their hiding place. What is significant, the bell was used in the public presentation of her PhD work at Gallery AT. The gallery is located in a building with history. It used to serve as a General SS station. One of the objects included in the PhD exhibition was an old merry-go-round. It was disproportionally large in relation to the size of the gallery. The object almost filled the space. You had an impression that it was over-scaled. Similar mechanism accompanies the process of remembering scenes from childhood. It is also a feature of an illusive memory. Bosowska in childhood often played with the merry-go-round. The artist, through a combination of various coincidences, found it many years later in a rather unconventional place for a merry-go-round. It was standing on top of a shed.

We neither need to know a history of those objects nor connect them with the artist. Bosowska avoids both. The described objects testify with the degree of their use about the past. We all may find our associations with childhood, family history, or history in general. The artist in her works puts forward questions about individual and collective memory. She is interested in the processes of its disappearance; she investigates what the truth is and what is only an imagination. Bosowska brings the memory in. She deconstructs it, and she selects from it threads, which are interesting for her to build new narration. The story, which grew from private histories, becomes through an art action a universal one.

On second thoughts, memory, especially collective one, is a miry topic, which may become a dangerous tool for any authority and political manipulation.