Zuzanna Janin (born 1961) creates sculptures, photographic objects, drawings, and video and sound installations. In the years 1980-87, she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and she now lives and works in the city.
Visual artist creating sculptures, photographic objects, drawings, and video and sound installations.
Zuzanna Janin has received scholarships from the Polish Ministry of Culture, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in New York and the Kultur-Kontakt in Vienna. She was twice nominated to participate in the Venice Art Biennale. Janin was an Adi Prize for Art finalist in 2003, in 2006 she was awarded in the main competition at the ViennAfair (along with Agnieszka Rayzacher) and in the same year, she received an award for the most beautiful book of the year 2006 for the project Polish Art on the Covers of the Anthropological Series (State Publishing Institute).
In 2003, the artist founded an independent art space called lokal_30 as part of her studio on Foksal street, which she runs together with Agnieszka Rayzacher and Michał Suchora. Lokal_30 hosts exhibitions and artistic events, and its creators promote the successes of Polish art abroad.
Since 2004 Zuzanna Janin has been running a fictional television show about art called studio_telewiZyJne (television studio): she presents an Art_Talk_Show with artists in the lokal_30 gallery.
The main theme and the most important point of reference in the works of Zuzanna Janin is the artist herself. The artist draws inspiration from her emotional biography, memories transformed by time, body memory and its relationship to the environment. In this way, she builds ‘a gradually evolving image of human life and the human condition’. The image is variable, different for each time period, and it is precisely this variability, the elusive state of ‘in-between’ that the artist has turned into the central strategy of her art.
In the early 90s the artist created ‘covers’, three-dimensional objects made of pieces of raw, translucent silk sewn together. These objects were material representations of familiar things (Desk, Portal, Lamp Cover) and negatives of space (House, Gateway Roofs), recognisable by their shape. These were usually closed structures, inaccessible to the viewer from within, although some of them were open and their insides could be seen. These works were inspired by the artist’s memory of places, interiors and objects related to her personal history – it was an attempt to materialise afterimages of the past, to establish intimate contact with them. A little later came the Armour series of sandpaper, fitted to containers resembling armour.
Since the mid-90s Zuzanna Janin has created a cycle of images that consist of photo installations titled Follow Me, Change Me, It’s Time. These are pictures of body parts (hands, legs, torsos) of the artist and her close female relatives covered in transparent laminated material. Superimposed on one another, the photos created a blurred image, a self-portrait of the artist from the past, present and future. The layered photograph devoid of any background takes the form of a sculpture and a body figure. In other works Zuzanna Janin laminated physical, but ephemeral traces of the existence of her body: nails, hair, layers of the epidermis, blood.
In the second half of the 90s, the artist began to create openwork sculptures made of brass wire that resembled a three-dimensional net of a computer program. Some of the wire sculptures depict the artist’s silhouette, such as Sweet Girl (Zuzanna), zoomed parts of her body, and hips united in the sexual act (Is This Really What You Want – Virtual Sex?, 1998-99). Janin usually covered these sculptures with fluffy cotton candy, which turned into a hard, caramel, sweet ‘skin’ over time. She also combined openwork sculptures with video projection, as in the case of Skulls and Dancing, 1998.
Memory, one of the main topics of Zuzanna Janin’s works, often appears as a memory from a place or an object, genetic memory stored in the body, or as a source of information preserved in the mind. The installation My Memory (1993-99) was presented for the first time at the 1999 What a Hell, What a Paradise exhibition in the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. Over a thousand plexiglass plates engraved with the names of people the artist had met in her life hung on the walls of the gallery, the floor was covered with a soft sponge, and the interiors were filled with thick artificial fog. The works were accompanied by an online appendix: all those who found their name on the plates could go on Janin’s website and continue the game with their own memory using a specially created program, thus building a fragment of ‘interpersonal memory’.
In 2001 Zuzanna Janin presented the project ILoveYouToo (JaCiebieTeż) in the Zachęta Gallery. Its main element was a video installation called Fight. The artist, after nearly three months of training, fought a never-ending boxing match with the famous heavy-weight champion Przemysław Saleta. The recorded fight could be followed by the viewer from the boxing ring on five screens simultaneously. Zuzanna Janin used boxing as a metaphor for life, which is a constant duel, a game of strong emotions occurring in interpersonal relationships.
In the spring of 2003 the artist began a project called I Have Seen My Death, for which she had been preparing for several years. This work, presented in the form of extensive multimedia installations, addressed the problem of death and absence in a very personal way. She stresses that at the heart of the project was the desire to achieve the impossible dream of seeing her own funeral, of experiencing the world after death. The first and key step in the project was an artistic event organised in secret, which involved crossing the cultural taboo linked to death and funerals. She published obituaries about her death in the press, including the date of the funeral at one of Warsaw’s cemeteries. The staged ceremony took place with the participation of unknown mourners, as well as the artist herself who was dressed up as an old woman. Janin used the recorded documentary material as a starting point to her work on the video presented later with a series of photo frames, objects and different forms of statements/comments about an event that sparked huge controversy in the media and the artistic and intellectual milieu.
Another work by Janin on the subject of death is a video called Seven Deaths (2003/2006), which presents hypothetical ways of dying experienced by the artist. It resembles a rather detailed catalogue of certain types of death. The images are accompanied by a dramatic dance macabre performed by a naked character. Janin also presents a selected series of photographs of the same name, which, similar to a police chronicle or scenes from a crime film, show, for example, a dead body in a bathtub, a person lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk or in the woods among the leaves.
Since 2003, the artist has been creating and developing the Pasigraphy cycle, which consists of three-dimensional sculptures and performances. Pasigraphy is the international language of symbols and codes, which can be susceptible to, for example, the changing trends in clothing, together with the meanings it contains.
Despite its democratisation, the symbolism of clothing is still legible, and Zuzanna used it by putting on various costumes on squashy armchairs (liberal-intellectual, mohair, business, clerical and military). By sitting on them, a person performs a symbolic choice, he determines his place in the social structure, but unlike in real life, he has the opportunity to quickly change. Pasigraphy also makes us reflect on the arbitrariness of these roles, the blurring of boundaries and location of the individual and his freedom within the social and state machinery.
– says Agnieszka Rayzacher.
The armchair sculpture covered with the clothes the artist used for her staged funeral, is one of the elements of the project I Have Seen My Death.
The Pasigraphy cycle includes works such as Security Service. Let’s Have a Rest (2005), consisting of sculptures/furniture/poufs made of the uniforms of municipal services workers and anonymous security guards. The soft seats were covered or literally ‘dressed’ in their clothes and placed in the gallery space, providing a comfortable place to rest and reflect on art. Our smooth functioning in the public space is dependent on the work of people wearing similar uniforms. In the work Pasigraphy. A Democratic Sculpture presented in 2008 at the editorial of Krytyka Polityczna, the artist used fragments of clothes and costumes which define our position in the social hierarchy.
Around the same time Janin made a series of videos in which she shows the complex emotional relationships between people (In-between), as well as the relationships between people and their dreams or fears (Dreams, My Favourite Work of Art, Invisible Collection, Synagogue).
In 2007, Janin completed a video project titled Just Before. Ideal Museum, in which she refers to the idea of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw widely discussed at the time. Right before the conclusion of the competition for the long-awaited facility, Janin visited many artists throughout the country, asking them to express their views on how they imagine the ideal museum. She created an interesting para-documentary joining in the discussion on the idea and shape of the place, and at the same time outlining the expectations of artists. The work consists of two parallel displays: the first one showed conversations with the artists and the second one presents their workshops.
Zuzanna Janin presented works from the Solaris series for the first time in May 2008 at the exhibition The Time of Cruel Miracles Is Not Over in Federico Bianchi Contemporary Art in Italy. They were inspired by Stanisław Lem’s novel of the same title. The artists gave this name to small sculptures made of concrete blocks and clothes: old stockings, sweaters, dresses, etc. The combination of two such different materials, for example elastic stockings and rough, raw concrete, created strong tension between what is public and anonymous, and what is personal and intimate. At the age of 15 Janin starred in the TV series by Stanisław Jędryka The Madness of Majka Skowron. Currently, she is planning to use parts of this film in her own artistic project. ‘I will refer to two threads from the film – says Janin – But the most interesting for me is the one about Majka’s conflict with her father. These are difficult matters. We have to talk about them.’
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, June 2004; updated: July 2009, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, March 2015
Artist's website: zuzannajanin.blogspot.com
Selected Individual Exhibitions:
2014 - A TRIP TO FEAR, MAM Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro
- A TRAVEL TO UKNOWN, Gallery ASAB Univertidad, Bogota, Colombia
- SEVEN FATHERS, WGW, lokal_30 Gallery, Warsa
- THE TIME OF CRUEL MIRACLES IS NOT OVER, National Museum, Kraków
- THE TIME OF CRUEL MIRACLES IS NOT OVER, Sculpture Muzeum Królikarnia, National Museum, Warsaw
2012 - Im Diolog IV. UVIA. Rethinking Uthopia. Preformance and panel discussion with artist, Sammlung Hoffmann, Berlin
- The WAY. Majka From The Movie, MOMENTUM, Berlin Momentum, Berlin
- ZEJDZIEMY Z MURÓW GDY WEJDZIEMY DO TV 1982-2012. Part1, Part2, Part3, Part4, Part5 action in the public space, Warsaw, Poznań
2011 - Swinging Poland in the 1970’s (Madness of Majka Skowron), THING, New York
- Dreaming of Speed & Adventure, CCA, Łaźnia, Gdańsk
- Majka from The Movie, Kunstahalle Wien, Project Space, Wien
- Obviously Cases of Madness Do Happen in Asylums This Isolated, Federico Bianchi Contemporary, Milan
- ALL THAT MUSIC!, Temporary Gallery, Cologne,
2009 - ALL THAT MUSIC!, Galeria Miejska / City Gallery Arsenał, Poznań,
Fortuneteller (Fish&Bird), (performance) lokal_30, Warszawa in cooperation with Bac!festiwal, Barcelona
The Time of Cruel Miracles Is Not Over, Federico Bianchi Gallery, Gorgonzola/Milano
- Pasygraphy. Democratic Sculpture / Krytyka Polityczna, Warsaw
2007 - JUST BEFORE. Ideal Muzeum, Art Museum, Łódź; Warsaw MOMA, Warsaw
- televiZJon_studio, ART TALK_SHOW, (action performative), Entropia Gallery,Wrocław; Muzeum Sztuki, Lódź
2006 - televiZJon_studio, ART TALK_SHOW, (action performative), lokal_30 Warsaw
2005 - Intervention (Corners & Dreams), Lehnin Kloster, Lehnin
- I’ve Seen My Death, festival traskOFF, Racibórz
ILoveYouToo, Centre d’ Art Contemporain, Confluence, Paris
PATIO Gallery, Łódź
Galeria ZOR / Smolna, Warsaw
- I’ve Seen My Death, Manhattan Gallery, Łódź; Entropia Gallery, Wrocław; Sektor Gallery/ GCK, Katowice; Bunkier Sztuki Gallery,
I’ve Seen My Death, (under the name Zuzanna JaninA
Foksal Gallry, Warsaw + artist studio Foksal 17b (later lokal_30),
Interviews and Quotations, ZOR Gallery, Warsaw + artist studio Foksal 17b (later lokal_30)
BWA, Jelenia Góra, ; Polish Institute, Paris, (Mois de la photo 2002)
- My Memory,
Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Słupsk
Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Kronika Gallery, Bytom; Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, Kraków
2000 - Homefuckingiskillingprostitution, A.v. Scholz Galerie, Berlin
- Eat Me, Starmach Gallery, Kraków
What a Hell, What a Heaven, cont’t,
CCA, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- UNTITLED, Synagoga, Center for Contemporary Art, Trnava
- Love Me / Miluj Me, Galeria Priestor / Space for Contemporary Art, Bratislava,
1998 - Matricide (Savage Me), Manhattan Gallery, Łódź
- What a Hell, What a Heaven,
Foksal Gallry, Warsaw
1997 - Touch Me, A.v.Scholz Galerie, Berlin
1995 - UNTITLED, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg
- Area, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
1991 - Works, Wschodnia Gallery, Łódź
1990 - Works, Dziekanka Gallery, Warsaw
Most Recent Group Exhibitions:
2015 - The Vertical Reach: Political Protest and the Militant Aesthetic Now, Artspace Gallery, New Haven, USA
2014 - The Day is to Short. Autobiographical relationships in the Polish art scene, Arsenał City Gallery, Poznań, BWA Sokół, Nowy Sącz
For Encouragement to Museum. Collection of the Łódź Association of Encouragement of Fine Arts, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
2013 - For Encouragement to Museum. Collection of the Łódź Association of Encouragement of Fine Arts, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
Catalogue of Entropia Art, Entropia Gallery, Wrocław
- Memory, Registers, Territories, International Cultural Centre, Kraków
- VIII Festival of Philosophical Film, Manggha Museum, Kraków
- The Day is to Short. Autobiographical relationships in the Polish art scene, Contemporary Museum, Wrocław, BWA Jelenia Góra
- What are you working on?, Husby Konsthall, Stockholm
- Subjects of Gender and Desire, Galeria Sztuki BWA Olsztyn
- Open Strages Study Storage of Sculpture XX and XXI Centuries, Królikarnia, National Museum, Warsaw
- MAJKA FROM THE MOVIE / KINOMUZEUM, (presentation and panel), MSN / MoMA Warsaw
- I HAVE A DREAM, Manhattan Gallery, Łódź; Center for Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki
- Twisted Entities, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen,
- New Opening New Beginning,
lokal_transfer / lokal_30, Warsaw
- I HAVE A DREAM, Thessaloniki Art Center, Thessaloniki
- Twisted Identities,
Museum Morsbroich Leverkusen
- NOWE OTWARCIE. NOWY POCZATEK,
lokal_30 Warsaw (Wilcza street new location)
2012 - lokal_30 video at Warsaw Gallery Weekend, lokal_30 Warsaw
- Ceremony, Krasnoye Znamya, Sankt-Petersburg
- It isn’t important, it’s only art, Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- I HAVE A DREAM,
Contemporary Museum, Wrocław
- Seek Art, Jerozolima, Warsaw
- CULTURAL LUGGAGE,
National Museum, Kiev
- Life Flesh, Starmach Gallery, Kraków
- SKONTRUM. Evolutions, Królikarnia, National Museum, Warsaw
- Sport in Art,
MOCAK, Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków
- Filmoteka, MOMA Warsaw
- Last Analogue Revolution. MEMORY BOX, Make a Point – Postavaria Romana, Bucharest
- WINTER, (Academy of Fine Art, Warsaw), Sen Pszczoly, Warsaw
2011 - Collection, Museum of Art, Łódź
- Lost Stories, BWA Sokol, Nowy Sacz
- Warszawa Singera / Próżna Project on Chłodna Street, Chłodna 29 Gallery, Warsaw
- Memory Box / The Last Analog Revolution / ROMANIAN CULTURAL RESOLUTION, 54th Venice Biennale of Art 2011 Venice,
(Official Romanian Representation), New Gallery of the Romanian Institute, Palazzo Correr, Venice
- Bartana Baumgart, Janin, Wilczyk, special video programme at KinoKawiarnia Station Falenica, Warsaw
- Colliding Discourses, VII Shiryaevo Biennale, Shiryaevo (RU)
- Particolare, Signum Foundation, Palazzo Dona, Venice
- THINGS EVOKES FEELINGS. Selected Narrations from Collection of CCA, Ujazdowski Castel, Warsaw
- L'art est un sport de combat. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Calais (curator Jean-Marc Huitorel)
Fictional television studio (studio_telewiZyJne):
_studio_telewiZyJne_, ART TALK_SHOW, ZOR, Warsaw
_televiZJon_studio_, PROGR, Bern; ECAV, Sierre; Geneva
_studio_telewiZyJne_, ART TALK_SHOW, ZOR, Art Poznań 2004, Stara Rzeźnia, Poznań
_studio_telewiZyJne_, ART TALK_SHOW, lokal_30, Warsaw
Scholarships, awards, nominations:
- Ministry of Culture, Poland, 1991
- Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York, 1992
- KulturKontakt, Vienna, 1995
- KulturKontakt, Vienna, 1997
- Artistic Personality of the Year 1999, Centre for Contemporary Art, 1999
- Paszport Polityki nomination in 1998, 1999, 2002
- Nomination for the Venice Biennale Polish Pavilion, (state competition II finalist), 2001
- Nomination for the Venice Biennale Polish Pavilion, (state competition III finalist), 2002
- AdiPrize for Art 2003, finalist 2003
- ProHelvetia Artist in Residence, Switzerland, 2004
- viennAfair Prize for the Best Gallery Presentation, participated in the awarded exhibition, 2006
- Best Artist Prize at 7th International Art Fair ArtVilnius ‘16, 2016
Works in collections:
Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Museum of Art in Łódź; Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Foksal Gallery Collection, Warsaw; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Museum KrŒller-Mıller, Otterlo; Hoffman Samlung, Berlin; Nordenhake Samlung, Stockholm/Berlin; Schenk-Sorge Samlung, Berlin; Camille von Scholz Collection, Brussels/Paris; Murbach Collection, Zurich; Wanäs Collection, Wanäs / Sweden; PKO Bank Art Collection, Warsaw; ING Art Collection; Centre of Polish Sculpture, Orońsko; Upper Silesia Museum, Bytom; Musée Géo Charles, Enchirolles/France; Raanan Agnus Collection, New York; lokal_30 collection, Warsaw; École de Beaux Art, Sierre (CH), Zachęta Signs of Time; private collection in Poland and abroad.