Entre Nous
Joanna Piotrowska

Coming face to face with the work of young Polish artist Joanna Piotrowska, presented for the first time in France, inevitably calls up an experience of constraint. From these photographs and videos there emanates an atmosphere of confinement and muted violence. We see tensed-up bodies in artificial postures set in domestic interiors, shaky shelters cobbled together by adults inside their own homes, gestures toward off invisible enemies, but also zoo cages deserted by their occupants. What words cannot express, Piotrowska’s deliberate, meticulously composed movements and poses turn into an unusual, body language, at once strange and disturbing.

Exhibition Entre Nous
Artists Joanna Piotrowska
Date 16.02.2023 - 21.05.2023
Curator Julie Héraut and Diane Dufour
Venue Le Bal, Paris
Text Julie Héraut and Diane Dufour
All images Courtesy by the artist and Le Bal. Photo: Marc Domage

“It is important for me to create such connections and move from animal to human, from human to house, from house to cage, from cage to shelter, safety, intimacy, touch. I circulate between these points of reference, trying to explore the relationships between them.”

“I asked my friends to work with me in creating situations in which they pose with their family members in arrangements partly taken from ‘therapy’ sessions and partly from their own photographs from the past. The result is completely fictitious situations photographed in the documentary convention.”

“I wanted to present these gestures in such a way that their obvious connotations are no longer obvious, to show their hidden meaning and to make them question their own status.”

– Joanna Piotrowska

Her reenactments of gestures in the family space function here as a mirror of society: potentially a locus of tenderness but also of contrai, of emancipation but also oppression.
A hast of systems of domination corne together to the point of shaping body movements and relationships. Her first series, Frowst, begun in 2014, recreates an odd family album inspired by group therapy practices. These images of weirdly intertwined bodies whose dividing line between embrace and constraint is no longer so clear, drive home the ambiguity that pervades all her work.
When her gaze falls on zoo animal cages and enclosures, emptied of their inhabitants, and in particular the toys and abjects used to ‘’enrich’’ their lives in, an obvious parallel is drawn with the human domestic space, only further underlining the dichotomy at work between protection and oppression. Just as everything in her work seems to hinge on context, Piotrowska’s latest series, premiering at LE BAL, takes a look at her own past, her own history.
Coming upon the negatives of images taken by her father a few years before she was born, she developed a protocol using a telephoto lens to sample details from the found photographie material. The enlargements of abjects seem to be the clues, the blurred markers, of her own failing memory.
ln this exploration of intimacy, the human and social determinants of an era corne together. Yet, while everything seems to be distancing us from a work of realism, is Joanna Piotrowska not creating what the philosopher and critic G. Lukacs termed a ‘’relative, incomplete image […] of life itself, in an enhanced, intensified form, more alive than in reality’’?

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