Drawing on her experience as an emigrant, Kinga Araya creates interdisciplinary video, sculptural, music, and performance works. She was born in 1966 in Tarnów, Poland.
Kinga Araya attended a music school in Puławy between 1974-80 (violin group). In 1986, she took up studies in History of Art at the Catholic University of Lublin, but dropped out after two years. In 1990, she emigrated to Canada, where she continued studying History of Art and entered the Fine Arts Department of the University of Ottawa. She graduated with distinction in 1996 and began postgraduate studies (Master of Fine Arts Programme) at the York University in Toronto in the same year. She completed them in 1998, also with a distinction. Araya creates interdisciplinary video, sculptural, music, and performance works.
Kinga Araya's artistic practice is largely inspired by the artist's personal experiences and incorporates themes related to the issues of migration, travel, and alienation; she also accentuates the communicative role of art. The artist analyses the specific situation of an emigrant-nomad and the hybridity of existing in between cultures, countries, and languages. A lot of her works investigate the process of forming an identity and self-identification, which become a function of a nomadic state, a lack of belonging to a place, constant change of location and efforts to adapt. Araya often bases her performances on the phenomenon of free movement and speech, which to her are synonyms of freedom. The artist creates prosthesis-like objects, which she adjusts to her body in such a way so as they become a significant part of it. For her, a prosthesis-augmented body is a metaphor of alienation. Majority of her works are about her and feature her body, as she walks or speaks.
In 1998, Araya created a video piece Peripatetic Exercise (Ćwiczenia perypatetyczne), in which she plays a violin while standing on two swaying steel hemispheres. She keeps trying to keep her balance, which evidently interferes with her playing.
In the same year, she made another video Orthoepic Exercises (Ćwiczenia wymowy). The artist stands almost still with an iron mask on her head – the mask covers a part of her face and forehead. A two-metre-long sharp rod, supported mid-length, grows out of the mask. The twenty-four kilogram rod is a (foreign) language, which disturbs communication, or, in fact, makes it impossible. The video installation Exercising with Princess Headgear (Adjustable) / Ćwiczenie z nakryciem głowy księżniczki (dopasowujące się) elaborates on the idea of walking and motion. The artist walks around the city in an awkward, impractical copper hat with long copper wires hanging from it, making loud noises as they touch the ground, thus isolating her from her surroundings.
Yet another difficulty with motion appears in her work Grounded / Uziemiona (1999), in which the artist moves around with a third prosthetic leg attached. All prostheses used by Kinga Araya's works in her works are authentic additions to her body which enhance it physically but also impede her ability to perform basic activities (her works Octopus / Ośmironica and Walking with Arms / Chodzenie z ramionami, both from 2002, could also be mentioned here).
In 2003, the artist realised the continually evolving and changing project Hybris (work in progress) in Poland and Canada. It comprised a series of art events, exhibitions, meetings, and lectures. The artist refers to Hybris as her artistic autobiography, which includes all motifs that make up the conceptual content of her previous works: the hybrid personality of the artist, who continues to change due to never-ending travel and constantly has to redefine herself.
In 2004, Kinga Araya defended her PhD as part of the Special Individualized Program at the Concordia University in Montréal. It comprises the theoretical part, titled Walking in the City: Motif of Exile in Performances by Krzysztof Wodiczko and Adrian Piper and the exhibition Prosthetic Self with a sculpture installation incorporating one hundred and five pairs of used wooden crutches and an audio recording.
An important role in Kinga Araya's works is also played by the notion of dualism – in cultures, nationalities, and languages. Her video Fifty-Five (2006) focuses on the phenomenon of multiculturalism as observed in Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montréal. The artist focuses on observing the local residents that form a diverse cultural mosaic. The work combines performance actions, interviews, video clips, and archival photographs, building up to an audiovisual tale set along the route of a 55 bus line. It reflects the hybrid, heterogeneous nature of an urban space.
In the same year, Araya realised another project targeted at local communities: Tell Me a Joke, about immigrants living in Granby, Québec. Jokes told by newcomers from various cultures were broadcast in public space (through speakers in the Daniel Johnson Park or a CD player mounted onto a bicycle travelling down the main streets of the city), making it resonate with foreign languages and laughter.
Kinga Araya's work Paroxysm (2006), comprising five large format photographic diptychs is a documentation of the artist's performative actions in her own apartment. Each diptych shows a woman in quite absurd, and surely uncomfortable positions, e.g. hung from the door like a jumper or crammed into a cupboard. The other photo in each diptych presents the same place, but with the artist absent from it. The seemingly neutral, domestic surrounding is a site of events that encourage a psychological interpretation of these disturbing photograms.
The video triptych How to Kill the Love in the Shortest Time (2007) is an elaborate form of a message expressing emotions that are hard to communicate. The first part, Writing (4') offers a reflection on the impossibility to decipher a told story in one way, as emotions escape the semantic sphere. The second part, Drawing (40') shows a performance from 2004, accompanied by music composed by Francesco De Gregori. Drawings on the walls of a long corridor constitute a specific type of self-portraits of the artist. The third part, Thinking (3') includes loose fragments of a private phone conversation conducted in Italian.
Araya has received numerous honorable mentions and awards for her academic and artistic accomplishments, among others, the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada national grant for the completion of her PhD dissertation (2001) and the Conseil des Arts et des Letters du Québec art stipend (2002-2003). In 2008-2010, she worked as a professor of History of Art at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.
Kinga Araya's video works have been presented at numerous international festivals, such as WRO'99 International Media Art Biennale in Wrocław, Poland), Videomedia-Fifth International Video Summit in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (2000), Sixth Crossing Over Digital Film Festival in Liverpool, England (2001); Eleventh Evenement Interuniversitaire de Création Vidéo in Montréal (First Prize for the video Tahoka, 2001); Images Festival of Independent Film and Video in Toronto (2002); InterAzioni-XV – International Performing Arts Festival in Cagliari, Sardigna, Italy (2002); Video de Manosque – Rencontre Internationales de la Création Vidéo et de la Poésie Eléctronique in Manosque, France (2002).
Artist's website: www.kingaaraya.com
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art – Ujazdowski Castle, May 2004; update: November 2009, May 2015, transl. Ania Micińska, August 2015
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