‘Past – Present – Past’ by Katarzyna Szulc

Past – Present – Past

Marta Bosowska is a performer and an author of video installations and art objects. She is also a curator of exhibitions and festivals. She took part in many symposiums, discussion panels and workshops. Together with Professor Janusz Bałydga, she has been running Performance Art Studio at Poznań University of Arts. The artist is active in the field of art in a variety of ways. While reviewing Bosowska’s art practice and while talking to her, I can see maturity in her vision of art. She is consistent with incorporating this vision in all areas of her activity. In this situation, as an art historian, curator and a critic I would like to give voice to the artist and listen. Thanks to that, I have a chance to become a reliable link between Bosowska and the viewer. It can help the latter in a better understanding of her thoughts and works.

Marta Bosowska always highlights that from the beginning of her artistic career, she has had an opportunity to meet distinguished people who shaped her as an artist, and who showed her what the role of art could be about. These people also taught her to perceive the viewer. She started in painting. But meetings with for example Jan Berdyszak allowed Bosowska to go beyond the boundaries of painting. She noticed that she could express her sensitivity better in performance. The artist has developed her definition of performance in years of her activity. If we want to understand it, we need to learn about her creative process. The performance acts form series, and we can notice that each action becomes an introduction to the next one. The artist underlines that performance for her is a three-phase process, which consists of what is before, between and after.

The artist first analyses the place. She selects the topic, object and gesture carefully. As the artist notes, the performer should pay particular attention to those aspects. Following the analysis, the performance takes place. We stand in front of the artist who usually wears a classic black dress, she has smart shoes, and her dark hair is freely falling onto her shoulders. Around the artist or somewhere near her body, there will be one, or several objects. They are part of the performance. The selection of an object is not random. All objects have their history, Bosowska in the process of her performative action tries to reveal those records. It may turn out that we saw a given object in her previous performances. She re-uses things. They appear in various configurations with other ones, for example, human hair, ash, chlorine, artillery shell, a tube full of confetti, helmet, bell, glass balls or pontoon. Marta Bosowska knows that body is the most important medium of expression in performance. For that reason, she often puts it to test. She tests her bounties of endurance. Consequences of her actions are quickly noticed after the performance (i.e. bruises, body poisoning). Her performances often may last for several hours. The artist claims that the most challenging and the most exhausting was eating lemons, walking and ringing a bell, inflating a pontoon, walking on a floor flooded with chlorine, blowing air into a dish full of ash, drawing in the air two crossing lines, standing in one place with arms outstretched, pointing with her finger to a point in space. Every performance by Bosowska consists of several gestures. They usually follow one after another, they may be linked, or not. As an example, I would like to recall here a performance, which belonged to her PhD work. It was done on 16 January 2016 in Gallery AT in Poznań. The first gesture, which she made, was waiting for the viewers outside the main entrance of the gallery building. Next, the artist energetically started to move large bell (it did not give any sound because it was filled with grey mass), she was also saying words: out-side; in-side. Next, she started to interact with the viewers by selecting people – those selected could enter the gallery. After that, the performer concentrated on taking the grey mass out of the bell. She was kneading it. Finally, she got inside the gallery through the window. Once inside, she concentrated on a merry-go-round in the centre of the room. Her main action was to break away one of the seats. It required from the artist a great force, and it resulted with damaging a gallery wall. The performance finished with placing the seat in grey mass taken out of the bell. Each multithreaded performance by Bosowska is different from the previous one she did, but they all are continuations. We can find fixed points which appear in almost every action. One of them is a contact with the viewers. We must be prepared for Bosowska to interact with us. Usually, she uses a word, gesture or eye contact. In this way, the artist examines relations born during the performance between the artist, the work and viewer. Moreover, while standing in front of the artist, we may expect that the action we are witnessing has got an aim to pose certain questions and to try finding answers to them. In a case of Bosowska’s these questions about memory and everydayness always result from her personal experiences. As the artist says, memory and acts of bringing it back are the most important topics to work on in art. For that reason, since 2009 she has named her actions mnemotechniques. Her performances attempt to bring back the memory of events, things, problems which were omitted and hidden. Marta Bosowska understands the role of the artist. The artist should take into consideration the attention of viewers. The artist should try to capture it to share with the viewers his or her experience, history. The artist should draw in his or her way to what has been unspoken. Performance for Marta Bosowska is a collection of artist’s experiences, for that reason while talking about her private experiences, she tries to tell stories in which viewers can find themselves and they can find traces of their way. The artist shows us that memory is unequivocal with our identity. It is integrally linked to our past, present and future. We cannot forget about it, and we cannot ignore it. In the same way, we cannot forget or ignore everydayness. Daily life for Bosowska, along with memory and conscious returns to childhood are the most important sources of inspiration in artistic work. All events, things, everyday activities – big and small – represent for the artist an array of possibilities. She chooses from it elements that require working on during a particular performance. Marta Bosowska tries to make us aware that everydayness is the biggest part of our day, week, month, and year. It dominates and determines our life, for that reason we should appreciate its influence on us, and we should look at it very carefully. However, this does not exhaust everything the performer wants to tell us. The last phase of a three-phase performance process is all about what is left after the performance. Usually, they are objects that are integrally linked to the performance. She calls them ‘residue’. A selection of an object is not random because it has got a particular history, which the artist recalls during her action. We can assume that ‘residue’ is an extension of performative act. It is its natural continuation and testimony. Marta Bosowska makes a conscious decision to stop a performance. We are left with ‘residue’. We need to wait for the continuation of the story…

What we have here is a mature artist, acutely aware of her role as a performer. She is aware of her consistent art vision, and she consistently realises it. While witnessing Marta Bosowska’s activities, we have a chance to enter into the world of our memories. We also have an opportunity to learn to perceive and appreciate the power of everydayness. I have embraced the opportunity.