Julita Wójcik, Teddy Bears, 2000, photo by Jacek Niegoda
Performance artist, author of happenings, diver. Lives and works in Gdańsk. Born June 1, 1971 in Gdańsk. Winner of the Polityka Passport Award for Visual Arts in 2012 for her installation piece Rainbow, which was presented in front the EU Parliament in Brussels over the course of the Polish EU Presidency in 2011 and today stands in the centre of one of Warsaw's busiest roundabouts.
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 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)
She completed her art studies in the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in 1997. 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, Wojcik called attention to the situation of many women in Poland - the role of housewife they are reduced to.
Julita Wójcik, Peeling Potatoes, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, 2001, photo by Jacek Niegoda
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 Poznanski Palace in Łódź (100% Bawełny / 100% Cotton, 2004). In a similar manner, though requiring a much greater amount of labour, Falowiec (Waver, 2005-2006) was made, a model of the longest apartment building in Poland, standing in Gdansk's Przymorze district.
Some of Julita Wojcik's performances take on a clearly socio-political character. In 2003, she swept in 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 Gdansk, 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' purpose was to restore order in this corner of the city, long forgotten by the local authorities. On Gradowa Mountain in Gdansk 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. Not without irony was her performance Z ziemi wloskiej do Polski... i z powrotem / From Italian Soil to Poland... and back 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 cooperated 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 2011 Julita Wójcik conceived of a project to pay tribute to the virtues of tolerance, openness and optimism within the European Union as part of the extended cultural programme of the Polish EU Presidency that year. Together with hundreds of volunteers and with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, she built a huge arch adorned with 3,000 fake flowers arranged in the pattern of a rainbow. Initially constructed in Poland, the installation traveled to Brussels, where it stood in front of the European Parliament for several months. In 2012 the Rainbow was brought back to Poland, where it was refurbished with fresh flowers and installed in the middle of the popular Savoiur Square Roundabout (Plac Zabwiciela) in the centre of the capital.
The installation in Warsaw coincided with several unrelated events that nonetheless drew some inspiration from the Rainbow's message: the Pride Parade / Parada Równości on June 2nd, the Corpus Christi / Boże Ciało festvisties and the opening of the Euro 2012 footbal championship. As the artist explained, "The Rainbow fits all occasions and therefore communicates my main message: that it doesn't stand for anything political or social, that it be completely free from any assigned meanings. Simply - that it be beautiful". Most Warsaw residents and tourists welcomed the rainbow with open arms, however, there have been some instances of vandalism or accidental damage. On the evening of Friday, 12th of February 2012 a group of masked men set fire to the Rainbow and caused extensive damage before firemen were able to put the blaze out. The Adam Mickiewicz Institute released a vehement statement following the incident condemning the acts of such vandals and the rainbow was repared. It was damaged during a fireworks display on New Year's Day 2013 and several days later the rainbow was once again set alight by another group of vandals. There were no plans announced to repair the installation.
On the 15th of January 2013 Wójcik was awarded the prestigious Polityka Passport Award in the Visual Arts category, a prize given annually by the Polityka weekly to the most active and promising names of today's generation of artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, performers and cultural activists in Polish culture. This year the competition was voted on not by a jury of experts, but by the greater public. At the awards gala, the artists was honoured for her "creativity, nestled in equal measure within simple acts and interpersonal contact". She beat out fellow nominees Katarzyna Krakowiak and Radek (Radosław) Szlaga.
Selected individual projects and exhibitions:
- 2000 - "Pranie mózgu / Brainwashing" - Mózg, Bydgoszcz;
- 2000/2001 - "Mój ogród / My Garden" - Wladyslaw IV Street, Gdynia;
- 2001 - "Obieranie ziemniaków / Peeling Potatoes" - Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; "Oczko wodne" - BWA, Zielona Gora; "Akwarele / Watercolours" - lake Ukiel, Olsztyn;
- 2002 - "Rewitalizacja Parku Schopenhauera / Revitalisation of the Schopenhauer Park" - Gdynia Orunia; "Piaskownica z widokiem / Sandbox with a View" - Gradowa Mountain, Gdańsk;
- 2003 - "Tit's Bathouse" - Konstakuten Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden; Cacka / Bijous/Gems/Knickknacks - Platán Gallery, Budapest, Hungary;
- 2005 - "Komplety / Sets" - Arsenal Gallery, Białystok; "Dokarmiaj niebieskie ptaki / Feed the Heavenly Birds" - garden of the Ministry of Art and Culture, Warsaw; "Z ziemi wloskiej do Polski... i z powrotem / From Italian Soil to Poland... and Back" - Polish Institute, Rome, Italy; "Ćwiczenia w różach / Excercises in Roses" - garden at Sobotka Street, Gdansk;
- 2006 - "Z nadzieją i niecierpliwością / With Hope and Impatiency" - Kordegarda Gallery, Warsaw; Uwaga: akcja! / Ready, set, Action! - as a part of the project "At the very Centre of Attention", Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw.
- 2009 - "Kąpielisko", Dom Pracy Twórczej, Wigry
- "Scottish Tides Polish Spring", Threshold artspace, Perth
- 2010 - "Tęcza / Rainbow", Dom Pracy Twórczej, Wigry
- 2012 - "Tęcza / Rainbow", Saviour Square, Warsaw
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2000 - "Principium" - Spiz 7 Gallery, Gdansk; "Scena 2000 / Scene 2000" - Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; "Warkocze / Braids" - Centre for Contemporary Art, Cracow;
- 2001 - "Maskarady / Mascarades" - Centre for Contemporary Art Inner Spaces, Poznan; "Relaks / Relax" - Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok; "Pop Elita / Pop Elite" - Bunkier Sztuki, Cracow; "Poza postmodernizm / Beyond Postmodernism" - Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw;
- 2002 - "Sposob na zycie / A Way of Life" - Centre for Contemporary Art Laznia, Gdansk; "Rzeczywiscie, młodzi sa realistami / The Young are Realists, Really" - Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; "Pomaluj swój plener / Paint Your Plein-air" - Ponton Gallery, Hamburg;
- 2003 - "Architectures of Gender" - Sculpture Center, New York, USA; "Stockholm Art Fair" - Stockholm, Sweden; "Öffentliche Rituale. Kunst / Videos aus Polen" - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria; "Balet zurawi / Crane Ballet" - Artists' Colony, Gdansk-Stocznia (shipyard); "Kobieta ma duszę / The Woman has a Soul" - Manhattan Gallery, Lodz; "Piętra Sztuki / Floors of Art" - Program Gallery, Warsaw; "Spojrzenia 2003 / Views 2003" - Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok (2004);
- 2004 - "Palimpsest muzeum / Palimpsest Museum" - Lodz Biennial, Museum of History of the City of Lodz; "Dialog Loci" - Kostrzyn nad Odrą; "Biały mazur / The White Mazurka" - Bunkier Sztuki, Cracow; "Nowa fabryka / New Factory" - Paris, France (Festival); "Meeting point 'Prawie nic' ('Almost Nothing')" - Bytom; "Krzątanina II / Hustle and Bustle II" - BWA Awangarda, Wroclaw; "Shake Gdansk" - Centre for Contemporary Art Laznia, Gdansk; "Far West, Near East" - Kunst & Architektur, Essen, Germany; "Breakthrough" - Grote Kerk, The Hague;
- 2005 - Prague Biennale 2 - Prague, Czech; "Beograd Naked i Sad" - Galerija Beograd, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro; "Egocentryczne, niemoralne, przestarzałe / Egocentric, Immoral, Outdated" - Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw;
- 2006 - "How to Do Things? - In the Middle of (No)where" - Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany; "Sense in Place" - Riga, Latvia; "Inhabitancy" - Motorenhalle, Dresden, Germany; "Powrót do ogrodu. Rośliny i zwierzeta / Return to the Garden. Plants and Animals" - Tielt, Belgium; "Policja / Police" - Bunkier Sztuki, Cracow; "Mentality - Łódź Biennial, Łódź Art Centre.
- 2007 - "Gra / Game", Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; - "Tu nie ma miejsca na sztukę / No Place for Art Over Here", Polish Institute, Vienna; - "Malarstwo polskie XXI wieku / Polish Painting of the 21st Century", Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; - "Muzeum jako świetlany przedmiot pożądania / Museum as a Luminous Object of Desire", Museum of Art, Łódź; - "Czarna dziura / Black Hole", Kronika Gallery, Bytom; - "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", ON Gallery, Poznań; - "Zamieszkanie / Inhabiting", BWA, Wrocław; - 7th Baltic Contemporary Art Biennale, Modern Art Galleries, branch of National Museum, Szczecin; - "Don't worry - Be curious!", 4th Ars Baltica Triennial of Photographic Art, Bergen, Norway; - "Betonowe dziedzictwo. Od LeCorbusiera do blokersów / Concrete Legacy. From Le Corbusier to the Homeboys", CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw
- 2008 - "Punkty odniesienia / Points of Reference", National Museum, Warsaw; - "Manual CC", CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw; - "Bifurkacje / Bifurcations", Centre of Polish Sculpture, Orońsko; Appendix2 Gallery, Warsaw; - "Efekt czerwonych oczu. Polska fotografia XXI wieku / The Red Eye Effect. Polish Photography in the 21st Century ", CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw; - "Artysta w rezygnacji / Artist in Resignation", Raster Gallery, Warsaw; - "W sprzecznym mieście. Dokumenty tożsamości / In the City Full of Contradictions", Manhattan Gallery, Łódź
- 2009 - "Na okrągło: 1989-2009 / Over and Over Again: 1989-2009", Hala Stulecia, Wrocław; - "Poszliśmy do Croatan / We Went to Croatan", CCA Znaki Czasu, Toruń; - "Energy Class B", Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; - "Gender Check", Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; - "Przebudzenie Miasto Świecie - nowe spojrzenie / The City of Świecie: Awakening-Reactivation - a New Look", Świecie; - "Kolekcja. 20 lat Galerii Starmach / A Collection. Twenty Years of Starmach Gallery", National Museum, Kraków
- 2010 - "Sala Neoplastyczna: kompozycja otwarta / Neoplastic Room: Open Composition", Museum of Art, Łódź; - "Das kleine Improvisation. Polnische Kunt heute", Stadtgalerie Kiel, Cologne, Germany; - "To nic ważnego, to tylko sztuka / It isn't important, it's only art..., Anaid Gallery, Bucarest; - "Minimal Differeces", White Box, New York; - "Alfabet polski_1 / Polish Alphabet 1", BWA Tarnów
- 2011 - "Spektrum", Kunsthalle Wien; - "Life: A User's Manual", Israel Museum, Jerusalem; - "The Power of Fantasy", Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR), Brussels
Photos are published courtesy of the artist.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006. Updated by Agnieszka Le Nart, January 2013.