Artist who works in video art, illustration, sculptures and installations, focusing on codes and hidden meanings of objects and memory. Born in 1974 in Warsaw.
Artist who works in video art, illustration, sculptures and installations, focusing on codes and hidden meanings of objects and memory. Born in 1974 in Warsaw...
Between 1995 and 2000 Niesterowicz studied at the studio of professor Grzegorz Kowalski at the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She creates videos, drawings, objects, installations and press illustrations, and is also a writer. Her pieces have been published in "Czereja" (a periodical published by Artur Żmijewski) and exhibitions' catalogues. Niesterowicz has kept a blog on commuting by public transport (autobus.blog.pl). Niesterowicz lives and works in Warsaw, collaborating with the Foksal Gallery Foundation.
In her early works, Anna Niesterowicz drew inspiration from her own life experiences, in particular her childhood. She often used the found-footage method in her videos. The montage of her first film Gierek (2000) was based on an archival material documenting Edward Gierek's visit to the artist's kindergarten. The film shows a propaganda scene - the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) meeting a small girl (Niesterowicz). As critic Łukasz Ronduda comments:
"This film, which constitutes a part of the artist's biography, allows Niesterowicz to analyse relationships between two intermingling spheres of human life: private and public".
The graduation project of Anna Niesterowicz was a video installation Ciemność i pleśń / Darkness and Mould (2000) whose title was derived from a short stories by Stanisław Lem. Its main motif is a mutated microorganism which puts the world in danger of annihilation (darkness and mould are necessary to launch this process). Niesterowicz's installation replayed a recording of the artist's conversation with her uncle, an alcohol addict and a "sot", who lived in the same house where she spent her childhood. Niesterowicz explained that she was transforming her shame and a taboo into her graduation project. Critic Stach Szabłowski has defined her work as
"a piece on the verge of a private mythology, social reportage and parable about a self-destruction germ lying in wait inside a human being".
At the "Sexxx" exhibition in 2000, Niesterowicz and Rafał Grabowski presented Do krwi ostatniej / Till the Last Drop of Blood, a recording of their sexual intercourse during which the artist got a noseblood. "It was a question of coincidence. When my nose started bleeding, we decided that the work was done on its own", said Niesterowicz at the time.
The artist's 2001 video triptych 07 zgłoś się / Calling 07 (Bierze mnie pan? / Will you take me?, Ja w ogóle nie mam prawa jazdy / I do not have a driving license at all and Zrób jej tak jak w kinie / Do her like in the movies) was based on scenes edited from a crime TV series about lieutenant Borewicz, a tough guy and a womaniser, popular in the times of the People's Republic of Poland. Today his adventures seem absurd. In her films, Niesterowicz deconstructs behaviour and language shown in the series.
In 2002, the artist filmed the back office of the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw (Nieprawdziwy zamek / Unreal Castle) which brings to mind a standard office and is far from the common idea of a life in a cultural institution. Niesterowicz highlighted the contrast between the part open to the public and the hidden one. At the exhibition entitled "Rzeczywiście, młodzi są realistami" / "Really, the Young are Realists" held the same year, the artists recorded two curators of the Centre (Ewa Gorządek and Stach Szabłowski) performing their paperwork duties.
Niesterowicz' interests have gradually evolved from disclosing the sphere of own privacy and related taboos to focusing on language, in its broadest sense. It is most evident in her drawings and simple stitch tapestries.
In her work Rosebud (2001) Niesterowicz left a trace of a nonexistent neon sign - a word uttered by the main protagonist of Orson Welles' film Citizen Kane, in which the word functions as a distant memory of the childhood (a sign on a sledge). HH video (2002) focuses on formation of new language codes. It shows the "alphabet" of a hip-hop culture, both spoken and body language. Whereas the "Logical Cooking" exhibition (2003) at the Foksal Gallery Foundation, which explored the hidden meaning of words and signs, was inspired by the Kabbalah and virology.
In 2005, the artist installed a neon sign that said Polska część Śląska / The Polish Part of Silesia at the tower by the entrance to the Cultural Centre in Bytom. This ambiguous sign offered various possibilities for interpretation. It referred to the complicated identity of the Silesia region and emphasized the complex relation between the cultural autonomy and national affinity, as well as between the history and present day.
The ghosts from the past returned at the exhibition "Hańba" / "Shame" hosted by the Foksal Gallery Foundation in 2006. The artists created a room filled with propaganda and radical right-wing periodicals of the 1920s and 1930s which she juxtaposed with anti-Semitic commentaries from the contemporary internet forums.
In her most recent film Minstrel Show, produced together with Łukasz Gutt, Niesterowicz explores the stigmatisation theme again, this time in reference to the postcolonial discourse. The film follows the style of a video clip. It depicts a band, assembled for this occasion, performing a popular song by Frank Sinatra Fly Me to the Moon. The scene takes place in a modernist scenery of the Polish Radio concert studio. The film would have merely remained an aesthetically seducing recording of a concert if it wasn't for the fact that the musicians' faces were painted black. Seeing the musicians as the followers of the Hansen's Open Form tradition, Łukasz Ronduda observed that
"this event (...) is meant to be ambiguous. It serves as a useful tool in the artist's attempt to describe the contemporary Polish society: seemingly reasonable and modern but still best defined by the archaic categories of 'blood ties' and religious community".
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2006; updated: November 2009. Translated by Katarzyna Różańska, October 2010.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2000 - "Ciemność i pleśń" / "Darkness and Mould", Foksal Gallery, Warsaw;
- 2001 - "07 zgłoś się" / "Calling 07", Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, United Kingdom;
- 2002 - "Nieprawdziwy zamek" / "Unreal Castle", Laboratorium Gallery, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw;
- 2003 - "Logical Cooking", Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw;
- 2005 - "Polska część Śląska" / "The Polish Part of Silesia", Kronika Gallery, Bytom Cultural Centre, Bytom;
- 2006 - "Hańba" / "Shame", Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw; BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra;
- 2009 - "Minstrel Show", Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw (jointly with Łukasz Gutt).
Selected collective exhibitions:
- 1999 - "Parteitag", BWA Gallery, Katowice; "What You See is What You Get", Medium Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia;
- 2000 - "Sexxx", Academia Theatre, Warsaw; a.r.t. Gallery, Płock (2001); "Forum galerii i innych miejsc sztuki" / "Forum of Galleries and Other Art Venues", Centre for Contemporary Art Łaźnia, Gdańsk;
- 2001 - "Relaks" / "Relax", Arsenał Gallery, Białystok; "Biurokracja" / "Bureaucracy", Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Tirana Biennale, Tirana, Albania; "Co widzi trupa wyszklona źrenica" / "What Does the Deadman's Glassy Pupil See", Academia Theatre, Warsaw; Zachęta State Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2002); Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum, Bydgoszcz (2003);
- 2002 - "Władza ludu" / "Power of the People", Arsenał Gallery, Białystok; "Rzeczywiście, młodzi są realistami" / "Really, the Young are Realists", Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw;
- 2003 - "Öffentliche Rituale. Kunst/Videos aus Polen" / "Public Rituals. Art/Videos from Poland", Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria; "Ukryte w słońcu" / "Hidden in the Sun", Cieszyn; "Najnowsza polska sztuka wideo" / "Contemporary Polish Video Art", Atelier Nord, Oslo, Norway;
- 2004 - "Prym" / "Superiority", BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra; "New Video, New Europe", The Renaissance Society, Chicago, United States; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, United States; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom;
- 2005 - "Instant Europe", Villa Manin Centre for Contemporary Art, Codroipo, Italy;
- 2006 - "Czytelnie" / "Reading Rooms", University Library, Warsaw; "Władza ludu (II)" / "Power of the People (II)", Klima Bocheńska Gallery, Warsaw; "Policja" / "Police", Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, Kraków; "Koniec egzotycznej podróży" / "Final Destination of the Exotic Trip", Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw; "Sztuka w służbie lewaków?" / "Art at the Service of the Leftists?", Kronika Gallery, Bytom Cultural Centre, Bytom;
- 2007 - "Manual CC", Kronika Gallery, Bytom Cultural Centre, Bytom; "Gra" / "Game", Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; "Demos Kratos", BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra;
- 2008 - "Wybrańcy" / "Chosen", Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdańsk; Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, Israel; "Videozone 4", Tel Aviv, Israel; "Re-construction", The Young Artists' Biennial, Bucharest, Romania; "Manual CC", Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; "Inne miasto, inne życie" / "Other City, Other Life", Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw;
- 2009 - "Report on Probability", Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland; MOYA Annuale 09, Museum of Young Art, Vienna, Austria.