Transcending Clichés with Julita Wojcik
“I will paint every rule I or others have invisibly placed. Oh how they penetrate though and all over.” – Eva Hesse(Entry in diary from 28 October 1960, quoted in Eva Hesse, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.)
“Help me to peel this mountain of potatoes! Help me to swipe the floors! Knit with me! Help me to paint this landscape! Help me to be myself…and help yourself to be yourself too!” – Julita Wojcik
The essence here is trans-individual, made up of bonds that link individuals together in social forms which are historical and cultural, friendly ‘networks’ where the viewer encounters the artist. Already defined by Althusser, this particular form of encounter envisaged as a materialism of encounter or a form of materialism, takes as a point of departure the world contingency, which has no pre-existing origins or sense nor reason.(See Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, 2002, p. 18 and p. 45.)
Julita Wojcik, a Gdynia-based artist, is simultaneously working and relating, through linking a home/work divide and relating symbolic strategies attached to both private and professional roles. In the Zacheta gallery, Warsaw, in February 2001, Wojcik dressed in her home-made apron and sat on the wooden trunk, she was Peeling potatoes. She was peeling for hours, the monotonous, repetitive, trans-like activity of this event “encouraged” the viewers to help the artist in peeling action, to pay homage and to respect home-making in the gallery space.
“I am an average girl and do not feel the need to pose or aspire to be somebody else. Doing my art, I engage in quotidian activities, the same each of us engages in everyday. Naturally, simply, this is the way I am, this is my way,”(The artist retrospectively in Activist publication, February 2001.) Indeed, Wojcik juggles with the clichés of the “traditional” female, that is, a housewife or a house keeper (she sometimes transforms into a cleaner or enacts a maid role), and the professional female, that is, the female artist.
In her works, social utopias materialize into micro-utopias of imitative strategies of the work and home divide; utopias which are lived and perpetuated on everyday basis, in the real time of concrete and in the intentionally fragmentary temporary experiments(Ibid.). Her artistic interventions are a play-comment on the feminine spaces in the world, an arena dominated and driven by the masculine.
During the woman artists’ exhibition in Lodz (2003), Wojcik, in her apron and the orange headscarf, offered to wipe the floor in the old Gayer factory, after female weaver workers, commenting on the capitalistic exploitation and marginalisation of working women.(<http://www.artbiznes.pl/jsp/artbiznes/obrazy.jsp>) This work resembles Mary Kelly’s collaborative project, Women and Work (1973), which endeavours to expose the injustices of the gender divisions of labour practiced at a factory in South London. Stripping the work of art of all visual excess, the artists resist the conventional ideology of visibility representing feminine identity in or as the female body only.
Wojcik’s work evolves around questioning of inequality in a very broad sense through the socio-economic positioning of her works in visual representations of what is Eastern European landscape and not necessarily in the global cultural entrepreneurial milieu. She juxtapositions dominant with the provincial issues. The attention is given to confronting localness with provincial culture, yet culture which repeats itself everywhere and isunderstood in the international context, as tension of home-work divide.
Drawn to rich visual culture of the Central and Eastern Europe, Wojcik’s projects are attempts to attend to the local particularities and peculiarities. In her recent video View Maker (2004) she becomes Canaletto of Gdansk tenement flats, the must-experience of soc-realism for every Pole, the most common inhabited local urban zones. With grandeur, the movements of her brush transform the greyness and uncared-state of the building into the yellow-infused utopian happiness. The artist hints at the changing cultural landscape of transitional economy.
In this work, she simultaneously counteracts Western photographic voyeurism of the block of flats in the council housing estates with her particular sensitivity towards familiar hometown aesthetics. Another time, Wojcik arranged the watercolour therapy in Olsztyn (2001), when visitors were invited to paint with pigments on the water surface, merging and playing again with the role of the artist and of the viewer.
Conscious of dominant aesthetics, Wojcik works with forgotten and discarded aesthetics, those of provincialism. The group project Dream of a Provincial Girl (2000), a series of exhibitions in the flat apartment in Sopot, featured the works of the young artists, among them was Glasgow-based,Lucy McKenzie, Warsaw-based,Paulina O?owska, and Gdynia-girl Julita Wojcik. As knitting can be seen as a typical activity for a provincial girl, Wojcik showed in the Sopot flat-based exhibition her homemade knitted works, a teddy bears series. Again, she represents and stays on the side of the “peripherised” other, situated within the frameworks of local milieus, in the contexts straining under the pressure of globalisation.
The examples of relational micro-territories: peeling potatoes, swiping the floors, painting together, all display the contemporary critique that Julita Wojcik consciously engages. Her interventions are purposefully situated in the provincial socius,(Bourriaud, 2002, pp. 31-32.) where experiences are publicised by the surface-objects (symbolism of the dress code and assigned roles) and given over to immediate experiences (knitting, watercolour painting, cleaning). In these works, art becomes the place that produces a specific sociability, space where I as the viewer see and perceive, where I comment and I evolve; art envisaged as a form of living.