Performance artist, author of happenings, diver. Wójcik was born on 1st June 1971 in Gdańsk, where she still lives and works.
In the years 1991-1997 Wójcik studied at Faculty of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Prof. Franciszek Duszeńsko was the academic supervisor of her diploma.
In 2013 Wójcik received the Polityka Passport Award for Visual Arts in 2012, the Royal Scottish Academy Award and Sztorm 2012 – an award given by the Tricity edition of Gazeta Wyborcza. In 2014 the artist was given the cultural prize Wdechy 2013 (granted by the magazine Co Jest Grane) for her installation piece Rainbow. She was also nominated for the 2013 Anna Laszuk Award granted by TOK FM Radio.
By incorporating everyday activities in her projects she questions the boundaries between the spheres of life and art. In her works, Julita Wójcik makes use for the most part of simple, everyday home activities, usually attributed to women, and transforms them into artistic activities. On the one hand, she underlines their unquestionable charm, on the other however, in the artist's works, one can find critical approach to the stereotypes connected with the so-called female roles. For the project Marzenie prowincjonalnej dziewczyny (Dream of a Provincial Girl) the artist presented Misie (Teddy Bears) - 64 knitted teddy bears hung on a wall like a wallpaper. This ironic commentary on the notions of needs and aspirations of women was shown in a private apartment in Sopot that served as a gallery, run by Wójcik together with Paulina Ołowska and Lucy McKenzie in February and March 2000. In the same year, on the lawn area between the carriageways of Władyslaw IV Street in Gdynia, she constructed Mój ogród (My Garden), a flower bed of a few square meters, which she neatly tended, and where she organised picnics. In 2001, in the centre of Zielona Góra Wójcik created a little water reservoir - Oczko wodne (Pond).
Her first major performance piece Obieranie ziemniaków (Peeling Potatoes) was presented in the Zachęta National Gallery in Warsaw in 2001, has been widely discussed. During the performance, dressed in an apron, the artist peeled potatoes while engaging in conversation with gallery visitors, and in interviews with journalists. Her actions were legitimised and sanctified by the institution, which hosted the performance. With her action, Wójcik called attention to the situation of many women in Poland - the role of housewife they are reduced to.
The meaning of the artists' actions is ambivalent. Their undeniably critical undertone mingles with definite respect for everyday activities and little hobbies. For her exhibition Komplety (Sets) in 2005, in the Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, she invited two embroideresses, who presented their craft together with the artist. The exhibition space was filled with fancywork and items that were bringing to mind the notion of province disappearing into oblivion. At the same exhibition, the artist presented an embroidered model of the Arsenal Gallery. A similar object appeared at the exhibition Palimpsest museum (Palimpsest museum, as a part of the Łódź Biennial 2004) – an embroidered miniature of the Poznański Palace in Łódź (100% Bawełny / 100% Cotton, 2004). In a similar manner, though requiring a much greater amount of labour, Falowiec (Wavy Building, 2005-2006) was made, a model of the longest apartment building in Poland, standing in Gdańsk’s Przymorze district.
Some of Julita Wojcik's performances take on a clearly socio-political character. In 2003, she was sweeping the floors of a former factory building in Łódź, pointing to the fate of many female textile workers after the closing down of the factories. The performance was documented on video and photographed as Pozamiatać po włókniarkach (Sweeping after Textile Workers). A year earlier, she tried to Revitalise the Schopenhauer Park (Rewitalizacja Parku Schopenhauera, 2002) in the notorious Orunia district in Gdańsk, where, for a certain time, she brought three goats from the Oliwa Zoo. Eating the weeds, shearing the grass, and being an attraction for the children, the goats' were supposed to restore order in this corner of the city, long forgotten by the local authorities. On Gradowa Mountain in Gdańsk in turn, the artist placed a blue sandbox with white clouds painted on it, as a contrast to the gigantic steel cross standing there (Piaskownica z widokiem / Sandbox with a View, 2002).
In 2003 in Berlin the artist, while standing next to a traffic light post, informed the drivers about the current colour of the traffic light, wilfully guarding the order Czerwony, zolty, zielony (Red, Yellow, Green). Another of her ironic performances, Z ziemi wloskiej do Polski... i z powrotem (From Italian Soil to Poland... and back) took place in Rome, in 2005, during which she washed a Fiat 126p, the popular Maluch (midget), produced in Poland on an Italian license since the 1970s.
Despite its frequently critical undertone, Julita Wójcik's art has always been of cheerful character. During the performance Dokarmiaj niebieskie ptaki (Feed the Heavenly Birds, 2003-2005) she built and distributed bird feeders, the shape of which resembled that of the institutions she currently co-operated with. The video documenting the performance Pust' Wsiegda budiet solnce (2004,) shows the artist flying a sun-shaped kite. In 2004, in Kostrzyn she reconstructed the local castle, currently in ruins, with the use of a few hundred accordingly placed balloons. However, it was an ephemeral structure - the castle flew away during the reconstruction Odbudowa zamku (Rebuilding the Castle).
In 2005 Julita Wójcik began putting on performances of her interpretaton of the figure represented by the pictograph on the door of women's toilets, named Gilala. Dressed in a black sponge costume, the artist, as Gilala, skated on Sopot's ice rink (Jazda Figurowa / Figure Skating, 2005), and in Prague, during the biennial, she tried to cover the figure of Saint Nepomucene on the Charles Bridge (Figura pomnikowa / Monument Figure, 2005).
In 2007, Wójcik took up the poetic project If You See Something Say Something (2007) after she’s been invited to take part in an exhibition in Norway. She took the titular phrase from a propaganda action conducted in New York. It was supposed to increase the inhabitants’ attention to any suspicious persons, objects, and actions, at the same time increasing the anti-terrorist hysteria that broke out after 9/11 attacks. Wójcik took up the role of a propaganda medium and repeated the directions through a megaphone: ‘Be suspicious of anything unattended’. However, she was doing this on her very own, surrounded by the Norwegian fjords. As the artist explained:
So if this call, "if you see something say something" is impossible to respond to, it’s because the sights are so beautiful that you’re speechless and that’s it.
History of art is the context of many of Wójcik’s actions. She is particularly interested in the issues of secondary usage of artistic works, museification, and the relationship between art and reality. All of these have, of course, been taken up with a sense of humour that is typical of the artist. For the opening of the new edifice of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, called ms2, Wójcik organised Wyścig na 3600 ms2 (3600 ms2 race). After the last speech, a starting pistol was shot – it was a signal beginning a run through the 3600 square meters of the new exhibition space. The artist was running among the guests wearing a white sports outfit, slaloming through the exhibits.
In some of her realisations Wójcik made ironic and playful references to abstract art by juxtaposing it with everyday life. In Centrum Rzeźby Polskiej (Polish Sculpture Centre) in Orońsk Wójcik read the works of Władysław Strzemiński, the creator of unism movement, surrounded by cows pasturing on the nearby field. Their spots resembled the stains from the painter’s unist paintings or, to put it differently, ‘afterimages’ (Pejzaż unistyczny / Unist landscape, 2007). As the artist further elaborated on the matter:
I’m trying to show that everybody can take part in creating contemporary art, everyone can participate. This is why I work like an amateur. I thought I would be able to realise an action where the cows would be creating in the presence of viewers – and eat unist compositions in the grass. But all in all they themselves became the unist composition.
As part of the Przebudzenie (Awakening) project in Świeć, Wójcik organised a hurdles race. She covered the hurdles with a striped, black and white canvas, resembling the pattern frequently used by the French artist Daniel Buren (Dyscyplina abstrakcyjna / Abstract discipline, 2009). The hurdles have been replaced with abstractionist paintings. As Wójcik explained:
As a result we get a reversion of Buren’s artistic praxis, which transformed itself into theoretical activity.
The curator of the action, Karina Dzieweczyńska, wrote:
The abstract discipline is the attempt to make the fact that art emerges from every seemingly normal activity visible. Isn’t 100-metre hurdles race an abstract action?
In 2009 in Wigry, where Dom Pracy Twórczej (Home for Creative Work) has operated until recently in a former monastery, Wójcik organised Kąpielisko (Bathing site), once again applying the logic drawn from abstract art to everyday life. The opening of Kąpielisko DPT Wigry (DPT Wigry Bathing Site) took place on August 30th, the ribbon was cut by the director of Dom Pracy Twórczej, Agnieszka Tarasiuk, and the children and teenagers Wójcik cooperated with performed a number of abstractionist bathing compositions.
It was also in Wigry, in the following year, that Tęcza (The Rainbow, 2010) was created. The arch, covered with faux flowers, was brining together the wall of the monastery and the slope the edifice is located at. The artist used a universal symbol – of God’s presence, covenant, the bridge of love, peace, mercy, hope, but also emancipation of sexual minorities. In a series of artistic projects realised in the public space of Brussels and called Fossils and Gardens, which took place as part of the celebrations of the first year of the Polish EU Presidency, Wójcik created a similar rainbow in a square in front of the European Parliament. From 2012 to 2015, from the initiative of Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Tęcza was located in the middle of the busy Plac Zbawiciela (Saviour Square). It was put on fire several times by identified and unidentified perpetrators, becoming one of the symbols of Warsaw and a part of national discourse.
As Wójcik said in an interview for Culture.pl:
It made it visible in public light that there is a part in Polish society which is open for discussion, for otherness, and another part which is conservative, traditionalist, and which has a problem with accepting the presence of people who follow different values. The meaning of the Rainbow in Warsaw made it manifest that we can no longer pretend that we do not have a socially pertinent problem with otherness, with tolerating people that think differently than we do, that follow principles which are not the same as our own.
Another work dealing with the condition of Polish society, which also referred to the situation of artists and their freedom, was the installation piece Bunkier (Bunker, 2014). Wójcik presented it in a park in front of the Abbot’s Palace in the Oliwa district of Gdańsk, where the Department of Modern Art of National Museum is located. She designed a small fortification – a balloon on which pictures of real bunkers from Gdynia were printed. As the artist further explained:
One can hide in the Bunker to feel safe, but you can also use it to attack, as it has windows for shooting. It’s like the personal space of freedom of every human.
The object is inflatable, because it speaks of dangers and conflicts that contemporary creators and viewers face. These are frequently blown out of proportion in our heads.
Artist keep on getting attacked. Politicians, because it is mostly them who pose accusations, claim that artist offend religious feelings. … Scandal is never the intention of an artist.
The theme of oppression, this time economical, was also taken up in the project created for the Kraj Przeszły / Kraj Przyszły exhibition (Country of the Past / Country of the Future) in Ateliê Espai in Belo Horizonte, organised as part of the programme promoting Polish culture in Brazil in 2016. Together with Jacek Niegoda they realised project inspired by the 90-year-long history of the Lalka sweets factory, established by a Polish immigrant. Wróżby ekonomiczne (Economic fortune-telling) by Wójcik is a new product for Lalka’s assortment – chocolate hearts with economic auguries written for the Brazilians by the artist. As Wójcik further explained:
Just like most people on this Earth, they are not free from economic traps set up by banks and other financial organisations. As a result they struggle with, for instance, paying installments.
Written by Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006. Updates: June 2012, January 2013; Agnieszka Sural: November 2016. Updates translated by NS, December 2016.
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