Born in Gdynia in 1972. The artist specializes in visual arts.
Joanna Malinowska’s interest in anthropology has been visible in a variety of her works created since she graduated from university. The artist takes on a scientific-artistic approach during the preparation process that she likes to call ‘field research’. She perceives her actions as a unique method of work, and sometimes even as an independent performative process, as a result of which, ideas for her next pieces crystalize. An example of this, is her piece In Practice (2003-2011) a compilation of short clips documenting the process of doing housework in exchange for private lessons or lectures (in one case, for music lessons). Most clips were made in response to an advertisement in The New York Review of Books in October 2002: ‘A responsible, trustworthy woman, who enjoys daily housework and will undertake any chores or similar duties, in exchange for academic lectures (especially in philosophy)’. Each clip presents Malinowska working on a prearranged task, while the lectures that she received as a reward for a job well done play in the background.
In such projects as Self-Portrait as Franz Boas Posing as a Kwakiutl Indian Demonstrating the Draping of a Blanket for the Group Exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in 1896 (2007), the anthropological ‘method’ is a given, in terms of both the topic and the meaning of the piece. The photograph presents the artist dressed up as Franz Boas. It is a reproduction of a document in the Smithsonian’s archives in Washington which presents the American anthropologist and linguist Franz Boas. He was a pioneer of the concept of life group and individual displays, commonly known as dioramas, that are shown at museum exhibitions and World Fairs.
The piece is a humorous, yet critical glance at anthropology. By posing as Boas, Malinowska presents the anthropologist as ‘a scientific or museum subject’ in a similar way to how Boas’ imitations of members of the Indian Kwiakiutl community objectify their culture for the purpose of a museum exhibit. By copying the father of anthropology very literally, the artist aims to emphasize that the methods of presenting ‘new findings about other cultures’ are anachronistic.
Malinowska is particularly interested in the relationship between so-called primitive cultures and avant garde from the beginning of the 20th century. Her sculpture From the Canyons to the Stars
that was prepared for the Whitney Biennale in New York in 2012 was made of faux walrus and mammoth tusks. It resembles Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Bottle Rack
Malinowska’s newest tapestries (made of feathers) entitled Ursus maritimus (2015) and Ursus arctos (2015) draw inspiration both from Jean Arp’s artwork and Amazon tribes. Avant-garde artists from the beginning of the 20th century were exceptionally keen on looking to primitive art and folk poetics for inspiration. References to a viewpoint, not yet been touched by modern civilization is a kind of retreat to the ‘source’ of culture. While creating the previously mentioned works, Malinowska pondered what would happen if the appropriation process of indigenous works by avant-garde artists were to be reversed – for example, Hop Indians or Inuits were to use elements of Dadaism or early abstract artists’ works in their culture.
A distinct motif present in Malinowska’s art is the concept of cosmology, understood as a system of multiple contexts and references. In Search of Primordial Matter (2010), a sculpture of a washing machine that has a wide variety of content and is constantly in motion, was a reference to the Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most powerful particle collider, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva. The list of ingredients placed inside includes 15 ounces of dirt from Chichen Itza, ‘a handful of nothing’ (collected in the dark after a performance by Zbigniew Warpechowski in 1973), ‘Cartesian doubt’, a dead hare passionate about art and a book entitled The Sexual Life of Savages by Bronisław Malinowski. ‘The cosmos’, encapsulated in a familiar object from everyday life, draws the audiences’ attention to the metaphysical, metaphorical and tangible references that are of interest and importance to Malinowska, as a person and as an artist.
Another example of this direction in her work is On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres (video, 2009) or Boli (sculpture, 2009). The video presents a group of drunk male friends, each a part of the Polish diaspora living in the United States. Each has been assigned a different planet of the Solar System. The video takes places on a basketball court in Brooklyn and the men spin in circles around their own axis and around orbits that have been marked. The orbits surround a static woman, who is playing on a piano and who sets the rhythm of the drunken dance of the celestial bodies, that are also physical bodies. Malinowska’s cosmological pursuit draws attention mainly to the fact, that the Polish Diaspora is one of the possible constellations in the culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse United States.
The first version of Boli (facing a replica of Malevich’s Black Square) with a mammoth tusk piercing its body from 2009 was presented at the artist’s solo exhibition, at the CANADA gallery in New York. It is made of wood, plaster, clay, scraps of Spinoza's Ethics, Evo Morales’ sweater (the president of Bolivia) and 1 litre of water from the Bering Strait. Malinowska’s Boli is similar to a traditional object of significance to the Bamana culture in West Mali of the same name, but usually much smaller. The zoomorphic form suggests some sort of stock animal, although it is not clear which. Traditional bolis represent the Bamanan cosmos and are responsible for keeping balance in the universe. They are most often held in a special location by village elders. They are usually made of soil, blood, manure, nuts and other materials that are associated with demonic rituals. Just like with traditional bolis, its whole is more than just the sum of its parts.
Malinowska devoted herself to art, although she considered becoming a cultural anthropologist.
Eventually, I decided that what made me interested in anthropology was not so much the research that aspires to scientific objectivity, but rather the sense of relativity to a cosmic order of one’s own culture in comparison to other possible systems.
– the artist said.
A very prominent conceptual motif in Malinowska’s art is music.
Nova Benway in Ignorance, in four acts argues that "the artist often uses music – as a form of art that can both present and express the inexplicable in her work"’. In Benway’s opinion, ‘Malinowska often makes use of music in big projects, that explore the nature of knowing and also show how our perception of human knowledge, on one side undermines the attempt to understand the world and on the other hand, underlies it.
‘String Quintet for 2 Violas, 2 Cellos and a Corpse’ (2008) is a piece the artist commissioned from composer Masami Tomihisa. One of the guidelines for the piece (that revolves around death) was to use a human corpse or a body disguised as such as a musical instrument. Another musical piece that explored the nature of knowing is In Search of the Miraculous.
The motif of cultural heritage with a tint of politics can be recognized in many of the artists' pieces. Examples of this may be the performative sculpture Cane and Black Cube (2009) or Retro TV Set Playing America (2013), a video sculpture in conjunction with the poem America by Allen Ginsberg as performed by a Russian emigrant. The first – a two-part piece made of a cane and black cube – is a reference to the famous performance I like America and America Likes Me by Joseph Beuys in New York in 1974 and Galina Ustvolskaya’s percussion instrument. The cane and cube interact with each other and generate a monotone sound. The key to the piece is the ‘confrontation’ of two country identities (the USSR, Germany), of very sublime culture and art, that are called upon through the history of music and performance art.
The other work about the United States presents the conductor Semyon Vekshtein, a Russian emigrant living in the United States, reading a poem by the American poet Allen Ginsberg. The monotonous voice of the protagonist, deprived of emotion, is confronted by the pathos and significance of the legendary poem from 1956 in which the lyrical subject speaks to America. The composition of the film – shown on an old TV set – reflects the zeitgeist when the poem was written. The subject matter of the piece, along with context of the USSR – the second world power of the 60s – as read in the first person by a Russian emigrant and citizen of the United States, certainly complicates the matter of one’s national identity, observed through the lens of history and modern times.
Collaboration with C.T. Jasper
Malinowska has worked with C.T. Jasper on a few art projects so far, the most important of which are performance art pieces, such as Mother Earth Sister Moon (2009–2013), a piece dedicated to the Polish American Indian Friends Movement and an opera Halka/Haiti 18°48’05"N 72°23’01"W, that was presented at the Polish Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.
Since 2001, the artist has been collaborating with the New York-based gallery CANADA, in which she had her first important solo exhibitions.
At the core of Joanna Malinowska’s work, in almost all of her pieces, is the pursuit of understanding the complex reality we are faced with, and attempting to do that, based on both knowledge and experience, as well as the inheritance of the past revised here and now.
Author: Michał Jachuła, June 2015 Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska
Selected Solo/Two Person Exhibitions:
- Halka/Haiti 18°48’05”N 72°23’01”W – the Polish Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (in collaboration with C.T. Jasper, curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
- C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska: Relations Disrelations, ms1, Łódź, Poland (curated by Michał Jachuła)
- A Hawk from a Handsaw, Canada, New York
- Observations and Rehearsals, Analix Forever, Paris, France
- A Sudden Wave of Material Culture, Galerie Taiss, Paris, France
- Ode à la Baleine, Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland
- Time of Guerrilla Metaphysics, Canada, New York, NY
- Mother Earth, Sister Moon (in collaboration with Christian Tomaszewski), Performa’09, New York, NY
- Les aventures dans le code § 120.45 – Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY
- String Quintet for 2 cellos, 2 violas and a corpse – performance of a piece commisioned by Malinowska from composer Masami Tomihisa, organized by Venetia Kapernekas Gallery, NYC
- 20 Spojrzen (20 Gazes) , Dobra Witryna, Warsaw, Poland Umanaqtuaq, Venetia Kapernekas Gallery, New York, NY
- In Search of The Miraculous, Continued…, Galeria Okna, Contemporary Art Centre, Warsaw, Poland
- SHIT HAPPENS/In Search of The Miraculous, Continued…, Canada, New York, NY
Selected Group Exhibitions:
- La belle énchappée – Château des Adhémar, Montélimar, France
- Broadway Morey Boogie – outdoor installation, Columbus Circle, New York, NY – organized by Marlborough Chelsea
- this is what sculpture looks like – Postmasters, New York, NY
- L’OISEAU VOLÉ – Galerie Vanessa Quang, Paris, France
- In God We Trust, Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw, Poland
- Splendor Tkaniny, Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw, Poland
- Ennemi Public, Magda Danysz Galerie, Paris, France
- Whitney Biennial (curators: Elisabeth Sussman & Jay Sanders) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- ING Foundation-new works, BWA Sopot, Poland
- The King, Galerie Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland
- Unlimited Bodies, Plais d’Iena, Paris, France
- Five Thousand Generations of Birds, Fitjar Archipelago, Norway
- CineMarfa (curated by Trinie Dalton), Marfa, TX
- Beautiful Penis, Fluke Galerie, Paris
- Gridlock, A/C Institute, New York, NY
- All Things Equal (curated by Catharina Manchada), Hedreen Gallery, Seattle, WA
- Shape of Things To Come: New Sculpture Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
- Ailleurs, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
- Tabula rasa, Marta Cervera Gallery, Madrid, Spain
- Work and Leisure (curated by Aneta Szylak), Instytut Sztuki Wyspa, Gdansk, Poland
- Green Honey (curated by Andrea Cashman and Borden Capalino), Ramiken Crucible, New York, NY
- Knight’s Move (curated by Fionn Meade), Sculpture Center, New Yotk, NY
- To Believe (curated by Jeffrey Walkowiak), La Mama La Galeria, New York, NY
- Minimal Differences, White Box, New York, NY
- Star City: the future under communism vv ( curated by Alex Farquharson, Lukasz Ronduda and Jim Waters), Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK
- Incarnational Aesthetics, New York Center for Art and Media Studies, New York, NY
- Levity, Hendershot Gallery, New York, NY
- Mike Smith at the Building, Berlin, Germany
- Tactical Support: Curator’s Choice (curated by Trevor Smith), Tracy Williams, LTD, New York, NY
- Practice, practice, practice, (curated by Mike Smith and Jay Sanders), Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX
- Towards Confluence (curated by Kamila Wielebska & Remco de Blaaij), HISK, Gent, Belgium
- Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau, Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland
- Old News 4 – organized by Jacob Fabricius, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN
- Kraj, Galeria Sztuki Wspolczesnej, Opole, Poland
- Working Title, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY
- Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows (curated by José Luis Blondet),
- Boston Center For The Arts, Boston, MA
- Sway (curated by Olga Britschgi and Gianni Motti) Galerie Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland
- Frei Räume, Kunstgemeinschaft, Hallein, Austria
- Come On Pilgrim (curated by Laura Mott), CCS Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
- Videoevenings, Citric Gallery, Brescia, Italy
- Manipulacje. O ekonomii klamstwa (curated by Adam Budak), Contemporary Art Centre
- Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw, Poland
- Poza,(curated by Marek Bartelik), Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT
- Manipulacje. O ekonomii klamstwa (curated by Adam Budak), Laznia Contemporary Art Centre, Gdansk, Poland
- Polyphony of Images, The Consulate General of Poland, New York, NY
- 3 Windows 4 You, Gandy Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia
- Audio in the elevator, Art in General, New York, NY.
- Pale Ramon, Galerie Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland
- Manipulations. On Economies of Deceit (curated by Adam Budak), International Biennale of Contemporary Art.
- National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
- At the Mercy of Others – the Politics of Care, Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program Exhibition – CUNY Art Gallery of the Graduate Center. New York, NY
- E-Flux Video Rental, Kunst Werke, Berlin, Germany
- Post-Diasporas: Voyages and Missions (curated by Olga Kopenkina), 1st Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.
- Moscow, Russia
- New New Yorkers, Contemporary Art Centre - Zamek Ujazdowki. Warsaw, Poland
- Symposium Geography of Changes, Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland
- E-Flux Video Rental, New York, NY
- Ladyfest Vien 2004, Vienna, Austria
- Self (Por) Traits. Video Marathon (curated by Jeffery Walkowiak), Art in General, New York, NY
- d.u.m.b.o. Art Under the Bridge Festival, Water Art. Brooklyn, New York, NY
- 2003 Brewster Project, Brewster, NY
- Cinemania(c) 2003, HDLU Istre/mmc Luka. Pula, Croatia
- In Practice, Sculpture Center. Long Island City, NY
- Disciplines, McGrath Galleries. New York, NY
- Video Rodeo, Canada. New York, NY
- Tuckernecker, Canada. New York, NY
Her works have been displayed at the Museum of Art in Łódź, Zachęta National Art Gallery in Warsaw, the ING Polish Art Foundation Collection, Zachęta Podlasie Society of Art, the Saatchi Gallery in London, Takashi Murakami in Tokyo, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, amongst others