Liliana Piskorska is a multidisciplinary artist who is involved in drawing, photography, and creating objects, performances, and videos. She was born on 17th December 1988 in Toruń.
She attended the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. In 2011 she transferred to the University of Warsaw for one year. In 2017 she defended her Ph.D. at the Faculty of Drawing at her home university under the academic supervision of Elżbieta Jabłońska. Since 2013 she has been a member of Grupa nad Wisłą. In 2010 she received the Talens Company Award at the 3rd Polish Drawing Exhibition in Toruń; a year later, at the next edition, she also earned an honourable mention. In 2017 she won the Visible White Photo Award granted by the Fondazione Studio Marangoni Firenze in Florence.
On her website she writes that she grew up in the countryside, is a baptised atheist, a vegan because of moral issues, and a nonheteronormative lesbian. This is why one can find feminist, anarchist, and posthumanist motifs in her art. Some of the topics that she touches on are identity, corporeality, animalism and the relationships of power. She also brings up current social issues. A common property of them is the critical and subversive affirmation of that which is outside of the norm.
One of her first works was the installation Dead Animals (2011-12). The artist built a narrow space and covered it with the furs of rabbits, foxes, chinchillas, sheep, and coypu. She also used natural animal hair and skin in her sculpture Bitches: Self-portrait with a Lover (2013), covering her own body and the body of her partner with them. This piece can be perceived, as the artist suggests, as a story about animalistic lust, symbiosis, and womanhood, and also as an attempt to eliminate the negative connotations associated with the word ‘bestiality’. Piskorska works with furs which were discarded, unused, or old, while at the same time she criticises the industry for the sake of which animals are being killed.
In 2013, Piskorska, together with Martyna Tokarska, took a trip around Poland. Disguised in wedding dresses, they photographed themselves in the urban space. As a result, photo documentation and the film A Journey were created, in which they recorded conversations with passers-by about the restricted rights of homosexual people. They wrote of their project: ‘It’s a nonheterosexual story about the affirmation of love, a story about the need to have equal rights’. They have shown the film in Poznań, Toruń, Kraków, Bydgoszcz, and in the El Art Gallery Centre in Elbląg, where, after the mayor’s intervention, the exhibition was closed just a few days after the opening. As the artist commented in an interview conducted for Gazeta Wyborcza:
Before Elbląg there was controversy in Toruń as well, where a discussion to summarise our project was held. A few days before the planned meeting a group of people in balaclavas smashed window panes using stones in a private gallery, screamed homophobic slogans, threatened to set the building on fire, and to return on the day of the discussion.
Piskorska also uses characters and the art of other artists as material for her work. Her video-performance Playing With Myself With a Piece of Art (Precisely a Piece of Watermelon) is a nod to Imponderabilia (1977), the iconic piece by Marina Abramović and Ulay. During the action conducted by them in Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna in Bologne, they stood stark naked in the entrance, forcing the viewers to touch their bodies when entering the building. In her video, Piskorska sits in front of the screening of the Bolognese performance, while holding and caressing a half-piece of a watermelon between her legs. For the photos from the series I Was Always with You (2013), the artist invokes Józef Robakowski’s Wymiana Gallery and his Fetishes series. She creates a private collection of artists inspiring her, which includes Elżbieta Jabłońska, Jacek Licheń, Wiesław Smużny, and Alicja Żebrowska.
The artist says:
The gestures proposed by me to artists allude to their most important works – I wanted the scenarios created by us to be the most recognisable ones. I proposed them to grant me themselves for the realisation of my project. These are works that change or maybe blur the relationships of power which exist between them, the celebrated names of the art world and myself, who in this world is just a small fry, a tadpole.
In 2016 Piskorska created her most renowned project to date: Methods of Camouflage in Contemporary Poland, in which she tries to retrieve national symbols appropriated by right-wing Polish politicians. This series, consisting of photography and video-performance, originated as a response to the escalating activity of the right wing and more and more frequent appearances of the national symbols and colours in the public space.
In an interview conducted by Grzegorz Giedrys for Gazeta Wyborcza, the artist says:
As I’m observing this tendency, it terrifies me how much the national symbols are being used to stress xenophobic nationalism. It’s no longer only patriotism, but something more: pride resulting from the feeling of superiority constructed by nationality.
One of the photos in this series – Self-portrait with a Borrowed Man – became an internet meme. In the photo, Piskorska lies on a bed with a man underneath a sheet decorated with patriotic motifs. A few hours after she posted this photo on her private Facebook profile, several thousand users had shared it and the work divided Polish viewers. Because it is visually ambiguous, some of them did not treat it as a critique of nationalist movements, but as an advertisement of red-and-white linens.
Sources: lilianapiskorska.com, magazynszum.pl, wyborcza.pl, magazyn-menazeria.blogspot.com.
Originally written in Polish by Agnieszka Sural, 5.09.2017, translated by Patryk Grabowski, October 2017.
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