Małgorzata Zwolicka

Passion the Praise of Masculinity

Very few contemporary women artists would admit that they are inspired by masculinity in their art. If a women expresses a critical opinion in the gender discourse, she will almost always been qualified as a feminist activist who confuses feminist art with women's art. Feminist art was distinguished as a separate phenomenon in 1960s and was by definition committed to the issues of women's discrimination as interior creatures, naturally determined to perform a defined role in the socjety. The emphasis on the elements of dominance and objectification of women by, inter alia, imposing on them the model of perfection coined by men, has in time evolved into a greater interest in their own sexual identity, supported by transformation of morality. This approach enjoyed its specially strong manifestation in the 1990s.

However, Dorota Nieznalska;s creative work, often labelled as feminist, is, in fact, an antynomy of the tradition of this movement. An objective analysis which the artist has undertaken since the end of 1990s, first pertains to the authority imposed by the use of violence, as well as the relationship betwen different sexes. Her first installations, when she was a student at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts, showed specific objects fetishes. They have transposed and, even today, powerfully mark a strong moments of the human initiation: Insemination, 1997; The Principle of Pleasure, 1998; Absolution 1999. Yet, their oppressive character is manifested from counter-balanced positions of the perpetrator and the victim.This was made evident in her work entitled Modus Operandi; 1998, shown at Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw. The work directly tackled the issue of one's provoking violence, along with the ways of encoding its results by rape victims. Nieznalska made a victimological interpretation of the evidence of raped women to build memory-portraits of their tormentors. In her characteristically distant way, the artist refrained from making any assessment of the issure, leaving the final word to the harmed women.

The artist challenged the issue of power and dependence in a greater detail in her Untitled work from 1999, first pretend at the Łaźnia Centre of Contemporary Art. It was a photographic triptych, finding a complement in a leather object. A traditional image of dominance of a naked man over an obedient bitch had its cilmax in the indication of how such a potency can only be tamed by limitations ... offered by muzzle. This work foresh-adowed a series of realizations on various aspects of the specific violence of the contemporary masculinity, founded on physical strength, on the one hand, and psyhological torment, on the other. The installation Omnipotence II Masculine:gender, 2000, alluding to an interior of an underground body-bulding centre evoked associations with an infernal sado-masochist salon. Phallic traning elements were sepsrated by surfaces of mirror, everything sinking in red light. The suffocating atmosphere of this forbidden place was complemented by omnipresent real voices groans and swearning of exercising men. This work discusses the issue which has recently become popular, namely an exaggerated interest in one's body. The pursuit for a rigidly defined ideal which determines the life-styles of both genders.

The Omnipotent men torture their unnaturally large bodies by long hours of traning and hazardous pharmacology to ensure a good position for themselves and become attractive to the opposite sex. Using their inborn potential of strength, they appear to be both tormentors and victims in this work.

The work Nieznalska presented in Galeria Bielska in 2001 The Feminine Gender, lead the artist into stage of pondering on men's expectations and needs. A metal bar, used as support in physical exercises, topped by phallic handles produced heat, thus becoming a kind of the personification of the femine nature. Here, the artist analyses the question of investing one's body at any price in the femine sphere where the pursuit for an ideal look has became something like a duty today. In the ascetic installation The Femine Gender, 2001, shows a polished metal pole used by go-go dancers; however, here it is tied with a thick rope ended with a whistle looking like men's genitals. The rhythmical sound of the whistle and the audible female coach commands refuse to sustain the associations with a night-club, introducing those of animal taming dictated by a woman's will to meet the requirements of her times.

If photographed gestures in Potency, 2001, coldly reveal the artist's fascination with masculinity, the controversial Passion, 2001, is the explicit tribute paid to the masculine. The work is composed of a cross-shaped object, marked by masculinity.

The cross-like object is juxtaposed the a projection of a striving man. The Passion makes direct reference to one's toil and suffering, undergone of one's own accord. Yet, it is history which has appointed a man make such a choice, so the man's ability to meet the challenge is, according to the artist, an advantage. Nieznalska closely scrutinises men, yet despite her critical eye, often supported by her own experience, she does not assess their decisions. She analyses the masculine as the drivind force of progress and the motive of many actions.

Although, one could rather not speak about any cherishing of the idea. She definitley finds the man's constitution a creative challenge.What is important, however, is that she utters her opinions as an equal partner who neither discriminates nor demands a "femino-centric" approach in the gender discourse, as many feminists do. Her art seems so close to the ying-yang elements where the presence of the opposite element makes the joint structure inseparable. Similar to all violent emotions which reveal the traces of antonyms; ecstasy and suffering, hate and love, and fear and excitement, Nieznalska's works praise masculinity and also constitute their pastiche.

This seems a right way towards mutual understanding and change. One may follow here Andrea Dworkin'view that what men hate in women's intelligence..