Alicja Żebrowska creates graphics, sculptures, art objects, installations, photographs, art campaigns, videos, video installations and projections. She was born in Zakopane on 24th September, 1956.
Author of graphics, sculptures, art objects, installations, photographs, art campaigns, videos, video installations and projections.
Since 1997, Alicja Żebrowska and Jacek Lichoń have been involved in their version of Actionism called Inflitracja / Infiltration, implemented within the framework of the Infiltron project. In 2013, the artist founded the Alicja Żebrowska Film Foundation, which supports and broadens her multimedia activities. She lives and works in Kraków.
In 1978-81 Żebrowska studied at the Institute of Artistic Education at the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, obtaining a diploma in sculpture in 1981. She complemented her education at the Department of Sculpture of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (1990-92). In the years 1993-95 she was associated with the Zderzak Gallery in Kraków. Between 1996 and 2006 Żebrowska belonged to the Art Fort Association. She works with the Nova Gallery in Kraków, lokal_30 in Warsaw, and Siłownia in Poznań.
Alicja Żebrowska’s early works were anthropomorphic sculptures, such as Światowid / Zbruch Idol (1992) created between 1989 and 1992, as well as art objects and installations made of sandstone and neon (the cycle Obiekty / Objects, the installation Zjawisko Fizyczne / Physical Phenomenon, 1992/1990). She has also worked on projects related to land art (for example Zidentyfikowany obiekt plastyczny / Identified Object of Art, 1992-93 – an installation realised in the Strążyska Valley in the Tatra Mountains, a bright red tube connecting two ledges of rock) or combining land art and body art (Trans-Fero , 1992).
During the artistic experiment Kamienienie - obiekt w czaso-przestrzeni / Stonising – Object in Time-Space in the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko in 1993, the artist lay naked in an archaic stone sarcophagus, which was heated to the temperature of the human body. She was freed when the temperature of the stone dropped below 36 degrees Celsius.
Żebrowska defined this as:
a dialogue between the magical, religious, and scientific consciousness, achieved by bringing the living matter (the body) and the inanimate matter (stone) to the same energy level. The idea was to experience eschatological states through physical sensations in specially arranged conditions.
In the early 90s Żebrowska also began to create video installations, in which she combined visual elements, sounds and smells in an attempt to recreate the mood and feelings associated with different actions – bathing in the sea (Ach, jak przyjemnie / Oh, How Nice, 1993) or in the bath while listening to the radio (Lola – utwór słuchowo-wzrokowo-zapachowy / Lola – an Audio-Visual-Fragrant Track, 1993). The artist spoke about a ‘reconstruction of a particular mental state’.
Around 1993 Żebrowska’s activities became more radical, as she began to use a more controversial language of expression. She was quickly labelled a scandalist. This was also linked to the specific theme of her work – the issue of sexuality, androgyny, taboo body parts and forbidden sexuality, both repulsive and fascinating. Żebrowska paid particular attention to the issues of constructing one’s own identity, transsexuality in a mythical-symbolic sense, as well as in reality.
The motif of linking the birth of evil and female sexuality in culture appeared in the video installation Grzech Pierworodny - Domniemany Projekt Rzeczywistości Wirtualne / Original Sin – a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project (1993). Żebrowska not only deconstructed the biblical story, but also blurred the boundaries between art and pornography.
The use of the myth of the original sin is an expression of my cultural ties, and not a questioning of Christianity. I wanted to illustrate how societies must always operate within a virtual reality, which all political, social, religious or even scientific ideologies are.
– explains the artist.
The installation Original Sin… is usually displayed in a circular or hexagonal room, in the centre of which there is a translucent, cylindrical structure made of foil. It is filled with the synthetic fragrance of green apple and green light. The loudspeaker on top emits sound from the video. The film itself is shown on the outside of the cylinder on a monitor hanging on the wall, together with the cycle of four photographs called Narodziny Barbie / The Birth of Barbie. Each photo is divided by shelves with green apples and quotes on pieces of paper attached to them. The quotes come from books that influenced the artist. Original texts by Żebrowska, such as mottoes and maxims, are projected onto the walls, the ceiling and the outer surface of the cylinder. The video presents different actions of the intimate parts of a female body: the vagina and the rectum; from children playing with a button, through masturbation and mud treatments to the naturalistic ‘birth’ of a Barbie doll. In its first version, presented only once, at the premiere of the work in the Zderzak Gallery in Kraków in 1993, the film consisted of scenes showing the eating of an apple and vaginal penetration by an artificial penis.
The cycle entitled Załatwianie / Relieve Oneself (Z matką / With My Mother; Z aniołami / With Angels; Z demonem / With a Demon) was created in 1995 by imposing images of the artist defecating on family photographs. The taboo problem associated with sexuality was explored in the film Czy możesz to wziąć do ręki / Can You Take It In Your Hands (1997). The artist recorded it in the street by approaching passers-by, asking them to hold accessories from sex-shops and watching their reactions.
Two of Żebrowska’s works from 1994 discuss the problem of the rejected, the Other, and especially the issue of revealing his or her differences and weaknesses. The first was presented at the Fort Art Festival Picnic for the Homeless.
In the series of photos and videos entitled Przypadki humanitarne / Humanitarian Cases a disabled person was compared with a beautiful, naked woman.
The cycles Onone – Świat Po Świecie / Onone – a World After the World (1995-1999) and Kiedy Inny Staje Się Swoim / When The Other Becomes One's Own (1998-2002) touch on the issue of sexual indifference. The lightboxes, the video and the sound installation (a recording of a regression session), which make up the Onone cycle, refer to the mythical figures of Androgyny and Hermaphrodite. They represent bisexual, fantastic creatures in their next reincarnations (for example Autoholos, Affirmatio, Continuo, Synchron). In the words of Paweł Leszkowicz:
This is a new Paradise, in which the original sin, expulsion and separation never happened and they do not have a reason to exist. A Paradise created by the imagination of an optimistic and controversial visionary who tries to transform the fear of an approaching apocalypse into a promise of eternal happiness.
The protagonist of a series of lightboxes, photographs and video films entitled Kiedy Inny Staje Się Swoim / When The Other Becomes One's Own is the transsexual Sara who was born with a male body, but feels like a woman. Żebrowska takes up the problem of the lack of social acceptance for transsexuals and the building of their identity on the basis of their bodies.
In the film Regresja / Regression (1997-2002), the artist used hypnosis as a tool to make art. It is a summarised record of a few hours of hypnosis and creates a narrative using changing images. It starts with a shot of the interior of a lift symbolising the departure of the physical body and the beginning of a journey to the inner self.
In recent projects Alicja Żebrowska has focused on how the individual functions in the system of capitalist economy. The video entitled Monitoring (2000) refers to assimilation into the corporate environment. The artist confronts the private and the public spheres – shots of a company’s employees during work and at home. She points to the differences in behaviour in spaces governed by certain rules (the office) and the personal spaces of freedom (the home). In the artistic experiment Exertising, which was carried out in Ljubljana in 2004, and which resulted in a video and a series of photographs, Żebrowska assisted city cleaners dressed as a cabaret diva. As Bożena Czubak wrote,
the project, which makes fun of didactic art and the patronising tone of various educational programmes, also mocks the practice of falsely identifying oneself with one’s own performance.
In 2008 Żebrowska created a para-documentary entitled Śmierć hodowcy motyli / The Death of the Butterfly Breeders, in which human death and the decomposition of the body are shown through the indifference of nearby flowers and plants.
In 2009 the artist shot her first short film named Avunculus:
According to the press kit of the Silesia-Film label:
By trying to turn a real event into a myth (the pacification of the Wujek coal mine in 1981), Żebrowska asks about memory. She transfers the personal (the death of nine miners), to the realm of the general (mythologisation). She translates the fate of individual characters into a universal story through cultural transgression. By turning into deities, the miners become actors in a mythical order, representing different values. They pay for the restoration of equilibrium, in this case, with their life, for the price of future freedom. Incorporated in the cyclic process of death and rebirth they will continue to exist in another timeless order. Among all the ambiguities, the accumulation of references draws the attention to the autotelic side of the ritual. The important thing is not only what is said, but, most of all, how.
Since 1997 Żebrowska has been involved in the Infiltron project together with Jacek Lichoń. The essence of this long-term project is the participation of artists in rituals and ritualised social activities with the possibility of introducing modifications. Their first performances were related to civil and religious marriage ceremonies and divorces. Since then, the scope has broadened to include issues linked to politics, sports, entertainment, science, history, and others. They also created their own ritual entitled Infiltracja / Infiltration (Poszukiwanie źródeł / Searching for Sources).
The project is open, because – as the artists say – ‘the presentation of a work is its creation’. Subsequent editions of Infiltron took different shapes and were called by the creators Upłynnienia / Liquidations. They experiment with the form of a video presentation by arranging it in unusual places (on graves – Upłynnianie Infiltronu Jako Zaduszki / The Liquidation of Infiltron As All Souls’ Day at the Rakowice Cemetery in Kraków in 2007, or in the woods at night – Upłynnianie Infiltronu Jako Grzybobranie / The Liquidation of Infiltron As Mushroom Picking on Turbacz in 2005), creating entangled projection systems (Królikarnia 2006 ) or using the Internet for multiple, simultaneous and intertwined transmissions (Transmisje Zwrotne / Crucial Transmissions, WRO 2011). They turn video fragments into multiple synchronous projections (the series Droga Krzyżowa / The Way of the Cross 2012-2014).
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2006, update: May 2015, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, May 2015
Selected individual and collective exhibitions:
- Woodcuts from the years 1981-86, Bel Etage Gallery, Vienna, Austria
- Physical Phenomenon, installation. Oranżeria Gallery, Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko
- Ah, How Nice, video installation, Co-ordinates 19°57,6 ‘Ε + 50 º 3,9 ºΝ exhibition, Mikołajska 1, Kraków, curator: Krzysztof Klimek, catalogue
- Original Sin – a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, video installation. Zderzak Gallery, Kraków, catalogue
- Lola – an Audio-Visual-Fragrant Track, video installation. Bucklein Theatre, Kraków
- Original Sin - a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, photograph, video, Antyciała exhibition, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, curator: Robert Rumas
- Body, photograph, video installation, +raum exhibition, Parochialkirche, Berlin, curator: Marcel Hager, catalogue
- Original Sin – a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, video installation. Forum Ost-West, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany
- Close Contact, interactive public performance. Wnętrze Zewnętrze International Symposium, Zakopane, curator: Grażyna Bielska; Art Fort Festival, Kraków, curator: Artur Tajber
- Close Contact, interactive public performance. Kraków, TVPKraków documentary
- Onone – a World After the World, colour photograph, video, sound installation. Centre of Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, catalogue
- Metatrauma, video. Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków
- Nekroinfanaticus. Onone – a World After the World. Contemporary Polish Photography, Polish Institute, Paris, Format Gallery, Kraków, curator: Małgorzata Gawin, catalogue.
- When the Other Becomes One's Own, bilboard, sound installation. Art Negotiators. In the Face of Reality, Łaźnia Centre of Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, curator: Bożena Czubak, catalogue
- Films from the years 1992-1998. 21st Cracow Reminiscences. Rotunda cinema, curator: Krzysztof Lipski, catalogue
- Monitoring, Theatrical Reminiscences, Alternative Europe, Rotunda cinema, curator: Krzysztof Lipski, catalogue
- Onone – a World After the World, colour photograph. Anteprima Bovisa, Milano Europa 2000, PAC Triennale, Milan, curator: Olga Mala, catalogue
- Monitoring, video. WRO 9th International Media Art Festival, Wrocław, curator: Piotr Krajewski
- The Mystery Looks, video. VIPER Film Festival, Basel, Switzerland, curator Marc Siegel, catalogue
- Homus, black and white photograph, video, Dangerous Liaisons exhibition, Arsenał City Gallery, Poznań, curator: Izabela Kowalczyk, book
- When the Other Becomes One's Own, ilfochrome. Łaźnia Centre of Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, curator: Bożena Czubak
- The Mystery Looks, video. Neighbour exhibition, WUK, Vienna, gallery
- Original Sin – a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, video, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- When the Other Becomes One's Own, ilfochrome, Integration exhibition, Program Gallery, Warsaw, curator: Kazimierz Piotrowski, catalogue
- Exertising, artistic performance in the public space, object, Onone – a World After the World, photograph. Galeria Kapelica Gallery, 10th City of Women Festival, Ljubljana, Slovenia, curators: Bettina Knaup, Sabina Potocki, catalogue
- Type / Relieve Oneself / The Mystery Looks, Autoconsummtio, Onone – a World After the World, colour photograph, video. From Repression to Promotion exhibition, Arsenał gallery, curator: Tomasz Szczuka
- Exertising, video, photograph, Egocentric, Immoral, Old-Fashioned, Zachęta Gallery, Warsaw, curator: Bożena Czubak
- Humanitarian Cases, xerolasers, video. Towards the Other, Observations and Intervention exhibition, BWA Katowice, curator Stanisław Ruksza, book
- Lola – an Audio-Visual- Fragrant Track, video installation. Come into My World exhibition at the Biennale, Łódź, curators: Hanna Kuśmirek, Roman Bromboszcz, catalogue
- The Liquidation of Infiltron as Exhibition, The Liquidation of Infiltron as May Devotion, Welcome to the Media exhibition, Królikarnia, Warsaw, curator: Agnieszka Żechowska, bulletin
- The Mystery Looks, photographs, Wit and the Power of Judgement, Atheism in Poland, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, curator: Kazimierz Piotrowski, catalogue
- The Mystery Looks, video. VertexList Gallery, New York, curators: Małgorzata Gołębiewska and Marcin Gołębiewski
- The Death of the Butterfly Breeders, video. Until do Us Part Foto-Medium-Art Gallery, curators: Agnieska Kwiecień, Krzysztof Siatka
- Original Sin – a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, Schizma / Schism exhibition, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, curator: Adam Mazur
- Avunculus, film. Wystawa Katolicy w Kronice / Catholics in Kronika, Kronika Gallery, Bytom, curator: Stanisław Ruksza
- The Mystery Looks, Gender check exhibition, Femininity and Masculinity in Eastern European Art, MUMOK Museum Modern Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria, curator: Bojana Pejić
- Replay of the Theory of Vision, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, curators: Andrzej Turowski, Zofia Machnicka
- Liquidation of Infiltron In the Form of Crucial Transmissions, simultaneous projections, internet transmissions, WRO-Alternative Now Wrocław, Spiż7 Gallery Gdańsk, Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych and BWA Lublin, Copernicus University in Toruń, Jagiellońian University in Kraków, curators: A. Żebrowska, J. Lichoń, K. Rzęsiewicz, M. Rogulski, P. Krajewski
- Avunculus, film. Thymos exhibition. Art of Anger, CSW Znaki Czasu Toruń, curator: Kazimierz Piotrowski, catalogue
- Avunculus, film. Myth and Melancholy exhibition, Contemporary Museum, Wrocław, curator Jolanta Ciesielska
- Liquidation of Infiltron As The Way of the Cross, Station 1 - Lipika Magnetic Sensual Centres, Kraków Could Have Been Another Venice, synchronised video projection. Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, Kraków, curator: Krzysztof Siatka
- Liquidation of Infiltron As The Way of the Cross, Station 2 – Anti-mission, synchronised video projection. BWA Gallery of Art, Olsztyn
- Liquidation of Infiltron As The Way of the Cross, Station 3 – Proto-relations. BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Screening of films from the years 1992-2013. 3rd Video Art Festival/ Points of View, curator: Paula Strugińska
- Liquidation of Infiltron As The Way of the Cross, Station 4 – The Unreality of Observation, synchronised video projection. BWA City Gallery, Bydgoszcz
- Liquidation of Infiltron As The Way of the Cross, Station 5 – MESZ, synchronised video projection. Bielska Gallery BWA, Bielsko-Biała
- The Death of Butterfly Breeders, video. Dead Meat exhibition, Futura Centre for Contemporary Art/Karlin Studios, Prague, curator: Ania Batko
- 1992, Trans-Fero, art experiment, art object, video, 3’30’’, VHS
- 1993, Kamienienie / Stonising, art experiment – art object, documentary, 3’20’’, VHS
- 1993, Wnętrzność / Interiority, video, 25’, VHS
- 1993, Odkażanie Uczuć / Disinfection of Feelings, art experiment, video, 3’50’’, VHS
- 1993, Grzech Pierworodny – Domniemany Projekt Rzeczywistości Wirtualnej / Original Sin - a Hypothetical Virtual Reality Project, video, 3’20’’, SVHS, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1994, Homus, film, 4’, SVHS, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1994, Przypadki Humanitarne / Humanitarian Cases, film with a photographic session, 15’10’’, SVHS
- 1995, Tajemnica Patrzy / The Mystery Looks, video, !’50’’, SVHS, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1995, Arkadia, film, 3’15’’, SVHS
- 1996, Assimilatio from the cycle Onone – świat po świecie / Onone – a World After the World, film, 3’10’’, SVHS, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1996, Bliski Kontakt / Close Contact, interactive public performance, reportage, documentary, 14’20’’, SVHS
- 1997, Czy możesz to wziąć do ręki / Can You Hold This In Your Hands, art experiment, film, 6’, SVHS, muzyka Dariusz Baster
- 1997, Jesteśmy chorzy na samych siebie / We Are Sick of Ourselves, actions in the public transport, London, Kraków, film, 8’, SVHS, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1997 beginning of the Infiltron project, with Jacek Lichoń
- 1998, Metatrauma, art experiment, film, 3’20’’, DV, music: Dariusz Baster
- 1999/2002, Kiedy Inny Staje Się Swoim / When the Other Becomes One's Own, documentary, film, 17’20’’, DV
- 2000, Monitoring, art experiment, film, 10’, DV, music: Dariusz Baster
- 2002, Regresja / Regression, wideo collage illustrating a recording of a regressive hypnosis session, 15’07’’, DV
- 2004, Zatrudzanie / Exertising, 23’15’’ i 11’50’’, DV
- 2008, Śmierć hodowcy motyli / The Death of Butterfly Breeders, 9’19’’, DV
- 2009, Avunculus, 22’’, HDV
- 2010, Infiltron-Lipika Magnetycznych Centrów Zmysłowych / Infiltron – Lipika Magnetic Sensual Centres, 20’49’’, DV, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2011, Infiltron – Protofabuła / Infiltron – Proto-story, DV, HDV, 43’20’’, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2012, Infiltron – Kraków mógł być drugą Wenecją / Infiltron – Kraków Could Have Been Another Venice, DV, HDV, 23’09’’, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2012, Infiltron – Antymisyjność / Infiltron – Anti-mission, DV, HDV, 43’50’’, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2012, Infiltron – Protozwiązki / Infiltron – Proto-Relations HDV, 40’35’’, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2013, Infiltron – Nierzeczywistość Obserwacji / Infiltron – The Unreality of Observation, DV, HDV, 38’40’’, with Jacek Lichoń
- 2014, Infiltron – MESZ / Infiltron - MESZ, HDV
- 2014, Infiltron, Andrzej Marcinkian, documentary
- 2014, Infiltron, Pionierzy zielonogórskiej archeologii / Archeology Pioneers in Zielona Góra, documentary