FROWST is a series of staged photographs depicting family interdependencies. The artist was inspired by the psychotherapist Bert Hellinger’s method of Family Constellations.
Joanna Piotrowska’s book FROWST focuses on oppressive situations. Her photographs are carefully staged, catching the models in sculpturesque poses. Piotrowska has reconstructed scenes from her childhood using adult models. Private snapshots of family life, rendered awkward by bizarre, interlaced bodies and discreet, unnatural gestures. The work’s title (meaning ‘stuffiness’) alludes to the kind of world she has constructed – seemingly safe and snug, but air is actually in short supply.
In form, Piotrowska’s works resemble classic black-and-white documentary photos. This connotation allows the artist to disrupt her viewers’ cognitive routine, making them wonder whether what they are seeing really occurred or if it was orchestrated for the camera. The result is a series of incredible images which are familiar yet alien, and can trigger unpleasant feelings or even disgust.
Following the hints left by the artist (the title, her models’ impassivity, the fake intimacy), one might think she is portraying a dysfunctional family – hermetic; unable to communicate; content to maintain the status quo rather than develop. Her ambivalent works evoke children’s games and stressful situations. Piotrowska’s story combines a fear of losing oneself with a yearning for intimacy.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.