Magda Buczek perceives the world as a multilayered structure made up of physical and virtual objects, as well as stories. She selects its dispersed fragments in order to conjure vivid personas, which are ambiguous and incomplete. ‘Only the world of fiction is accomplished. The real world is a constant flux of the unfinished’, the artist explains.
In the famous scene from Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up, we see a photographer working with models on the set. He is aggressive, dominating, and active. He is the creator. The models are apathetic, still, devoid of characteristics. They assume identical poses, and at one point the camera captures them in a way that makes them look as if they were layers of the same person. At the end of the day, however, the photographer turns out to be helpless – he is not able to create the picture he imagined with the live bodies.
Magda Buczek makes a reference to this scene in her project Justina is (2010), however, she also somewhat changes the relationship between the photographer and the photographee. Unlike in Antonioni's scene, there is only one model, however multiplied by mirror reflections and the plethora of photographs, poses, and outfits which the titular Justina puts on (or takes off). Justina is a real person – she is the author's cousin, however, a major part of her life is filled by self-creation. She is a dancer and performer at gay clubs in Ibiza and London. Buczek also reconstructs her personas and life as communicated via Facebook.
The title of the project reflects my fascination with social media, how we create our own avatars in the virtual reality and how this translates to our image in the real world. Facebook used to suggest writing status updates in the third person: Magda is…, Justina is… We were therefore creating our own virtual personas, who even for us were a different person. – says the artist.
This early project (deliberately left incomplete) includes themes which the artist will later touch on in majority of her subsequent works: questions about the possibility of crossing over to somebody else's consciousness, (re)constructing a character, female sexuality, obliteration of the distinction between the author and model/protagonist of the works, references to popular culture, social media inspirations. With time, the artist has also started introducing more and more narrative and textual elements into her works. For instance, in her piece Random Selection (Bunkier Sztuki, November, 2015), she used hundreds of her own Facebook statuses, private web correspondence, and appropriated pop cultural texts. She then deconstructed their self-narrativity by projecting texts onto the body of a Japanese male performer.
Magda Buczek comes from Skoczów (b. 1979), she has graduated from journalism at the Jagiellonian University (2005), as well as the departments of Photography and Intermedia (2008) and Design (2006) of the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. In 2007, she was on a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where she attended lectures by Dr. Hugo Heyrman.
It is actually hard to describe them as lectures. They were rather extended meetings. He enabled me to understand what I would like to achieve in art and how.
Whilst on the scholarship in Belgium, Buczek, inspired by Heyrman, started works on the project Girls (2008-2009), for which she received the Audience Award and Young Talent Award at Łódź Fotofestiwal in 2009. In it, the artist juxtaposes excerpts from private Youtube videos showing pre-adolescent girls, completely absorbed by a variety of activities. When describing this project, Buczek brings up Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's theory of flow. According to it, the state of flow is a type of elevation experienced when one is fully immersed in a given action.
Flow is that state in which one's consciousness is completely inaccessible for others. A person is by him- or herself – fully focused on oneself. – the artist says.
The tension between the external and internal, between the material and the mental, between how we present ourselves and what we really think about ourselves, is also reflected in Buczek's approach to the media she uses – especially photography. She transforms the ephemerality of photography into very material objects. This is especially tangible in the project Nail Varnish (2014), in which the titular substance becomes the means of expression (as paint), but is also used for destroying found photographs (by painting over faces), or as glue and adhesive for merging individual images. The artist designs her exhibitions as if they were treasure maps or reconstructions of crime scenes. They are turned into something that could be called a museum of everyday life. She allows the viewers to perform a reconstruction of 'real life events' of the shows' protagonists, based on scant fragments and selected objects.
Buczek approaches reality like a fantasizing reporter. She is preoccupied with reality as a source of poetic and cultural tropes. This approach and its consequences are exemplified in the project A Mermaid of South Dakota. During an artistic residency in Quintana Roo in Yucatan, Mexico, Buczek met Christie Sandvik, a young scientist from South Dakota. Christie is passionate about ocean diving (paradoxically, South Dakota is one of the most inland States in the US). During the conversations with Buczek, Chrstie also confessed that she is a siren. She dives in the Caribbean dressed in a bikini and a fish tail. The artist followed that trope and created a multidimensional journey into the unknowable (a recurring theme in Buczek's output) – towards consciousness, sexuality, and identity.
The Internet is also a natural environment for Magda Buczek, as she not only draws inspiration from it (net art and social media), but also treats it as a medium allowing to implement the idea of an incomplete and unfinished exhibition. She has ran a Tumblr since 2013.
Author: Krzysztof Miękus, transl. AM, June 2016
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