In Traces, Weronika Gęsicka deconstructs evocative images of American life taken during the post-war economic boom period.
The artist grew up in Poland in the 1990s and admits that, back then, she was greatly influenced by American television series. They had often been produced years before, but were still alluring when they appeared on the image-starved Polish market. Episodes of Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210 and The Bold and the Beautiful fired the collective imagination for many years, providing an image of ideal families and lifestyles.
For her book Traces (2017), Gęsicka took stock photos from the 1950s and 1960s, then altered them digitally. The above photograph depicts a family scene. At first glance, it is the American dream fulfilled – a husband returning from work is greeted by his wife and two children, who are waiting for him. But Gęsicka fractures this social utopia – the father is cut off from the rest of the family by a trench or moat. We see the final seconds before the children tumble into it.
Gęsicka’s work depicts the ideal family portrayed in the ubiquitous American iconography, then deconstructs that patriarchal vision, revealing the cracks in its flawless world. The kitschy scenes inspire an air of mystery, then the artist’s intervention transports us directly from 7th Heaven to Twin Peaks, offering us surrealistic horror rather than a Sunday soap opera. The idyllic image evolves into a farce permeated with an eerie atmosphere. Gęsicka wakes us from the dreams of a better world, to which Poland also began to subscribe in the 1990s.
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.