Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg
„...and his life is – the toil of all toils,
And his title is – the people of all peoples;
The offspring of a foregin mother, blood of a race of
And his name is: forty-four...”
Pavel Liska - Curator
At the center of Dorota Nieznalska's art lie the investigation and visualization of the mechanisms of male dominance and power. Nieznalska began producing works that addressed the fetish of masculinity and the corresponding female body at an early stage in her career, as a student at the Gdansk Academy of Art working in the studio of professor Grzegorz Klaman. As Małgorzata Zwolicka writes, Dorota Nieznalska's view of the male word is not influenced by a classical feminist presentation of a female alternative, but rather by a deep and empathetic interest in the human foundations and consequences of the relations betwen the sexes, which are so frequently fraught with conflict.
Her first works, made when she was still a student ( Insemination, 1997; The Pleasure Principle, 1998; Absolution, 1999).address the aesthetic dimension of fetish objects as highly symbolic materlizations of social power relations. On the one hand there is the holder of power and on the other the victim; both of these roles are frequently ascribed to the man.
In the installation Modus Operandi of 1998 Dorota Nieznalska constructs an „interrogation chamber” with sound and ilght effects. Five simple stools are placed in a row, lighted from above with a low-hanging bare light bulb. The seats of the stools are covered with ladie's stockings, whith pass through large holes in the stools to hang beneath them, where they are knotted together to hold small loudspeakers that emit the sounds of groaning. These seats and the holes in them allude to an anonymous female world, a world of victims who are interrogated or even tortured in harsh light. The face of the man appears on the wall as a tidily done drawing; this is a portrait from memory of one particular criminal, and stands as a realistic presence in contrast to the many anonymous women symbolized by the stools and the stockings.
The psychologically fascinating installation Untitled (1999) consists of five photos and a leather object. Embodied by the penis, the mysterious power of male sex takes charge of the world around it through its mere appearance. A pregnant dog is approaching a naked man and almost touching his penis, but draws away in fear when the man picks up a belt; finally the dog lies on its back in total submission.The penis muzzle that is hung adjacent to the photos is an explicit reference to the vulnerability of male power.
Another installation, The Omnipotent (2000),looks at the ambivalence of bodybuilding. On the one hand men strive for a muscular and perfect body that symbolizes their power over the other sex. But bodybuilding is also a kind of torture that places the man in the role of the suffering victim. The bracket construction is a reference to gym equipment, and the mirrors refer to the visual monitoring and observation of the body, while the back-ground sound is made up of the groaning of the bodybuilder in action.
In Passion (2002) Dorota Nieznalska provides a radical summary of her interpretations of the dual role of the male in all its contradictory dialectis. The installation consists of a photograph of the male sexual organ mounted on a cross, and a video film of a man on a muscle bench-on the one hand the man as the exemplary suffering human being, sacrificing himself for his ideals and ideals, and on the other the victim of his own gender and all its demands. Placing a photograph of a penis on a cross is also a reflection of the role of men in the Christian religion and the Catolic Church. The combination of the two fetishistic images of the cross and the penis is a logical consequence of male ideologies of power. This work led to the artist being charged and found guilty of „insulting the Christian faith”
From the very beginning, Dorota Nieznalska's artistic work has been based on an investigation of the dual role of the man as ruler and victim. Nieznalska does not simply reject masculinity, but instead presents an open and constructive approach to its existential conditions. Her works can be seen as a rejection of power and male dogmatism, but also as an expression of empathy with the roles that men find themselves forced to adpot as a result of a long tradition.
During her five-month stay as artist-in-residence at the Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie in Regensburg, Dorota Nieznalska has continued and developed her work on her major theme. Working by hand, meticulously and precisley, she made forty-four hard wax crowns of thorns, which then ewre cast in bronze. Each one is an orginal with its own unique design and dimensions. The crown of thorns represents the Passion of Christ, and stands for the aslvation of humankind through the sacrifice of a male individual.
Dorota Nieznalska took the number forty-four from Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), the great Polish Romantic poet, who linked the idea of a Polish national messiah with the mystical number forty-four in one of his poems. By using the Christian symbol of the crown of thorns and alluding to the concept of a national savior that is well-known in Poland, the artist opens up a spectrum of references that again offer an ambivalent interpretation of the male role with reference to the entire Christian world, and also with a concrete reference to the Polish nation.As in the installation
The Omnipotence, the question as to the ideological formation of male power again acquires double meaning. The man is represented by symbols that show him both as a tyrant and also as the victim of his own tyrany.