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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Katarzyna Kozyra

Warszawa,
Poland

Katarzyna Kozyra – Polish sculptor, creator of installations and video art, perfromer. Born February 1, 1963, in Warsaw; resides in Warsaw, Berlin and Trento. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1988–1993). The Animal Pyramide her thesis project, touched upon the issue of death. The work gained her significant renown and was the subject of broad discussions, and effectively initiated the phenomenon of ‘critical art’ in Poland. In 1998 she won an honorary distinction at the Art Biennial in Venice for the videoinstallation ‘Men’s Bathhouse’.

Feminist Artist Statement

I’m a woman. I make art.

<p>Cheerleader</p>

Cheerleader

The Cheerleader is conceived as a pop video to the music and words of the Gwen Stefani song “What You Waiting For?” but it does not make reference to the themes of the original video. The scenes unfold in a typical men’s changing room. In the beginning the young, fit men do not pay the slightest attention to the activities of the singing and attractive, dancing cheerleader acted by Kozyra. The video explores, amongst others, the problems of the body as a costume and of one’s own identity that have frequently been the artist’s preoccupation. It is not without significance that in the work Cheerleader the artist makes use of images she had created of herself in previous works: the fat woman from Diva. Reincarnation — a performance that took place last year in the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle and herself dressed as a man from the work Men’s Bathhouse that won an award at Venice Biennale. In the film also appears a choir comprising two of the directors and curator from Zachêta Gallery.

Cheerleader

The Cheerleader is conceived as a pop video to the music and words of the Gwen Stefani song “What You Waiting For?” but it does not make reference to the themes of the original video. The scenes unfold in a typical men’s changing room. In the beginning the young, fit men do not pay the slightest attention to the activities of the singing and attractive, dancing cheerleader acted by Kozyra. The video explores, amongst others, the problems of the body as a costume and of one’s own identity that have frequently been the artist’s preoccupation. It is not without significance that in the work Cheerleader the artist makes use of images she had created of herself in previous works: the fat woman from Diva. Reincarnation — a performance that took place last year in the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle and herself dressed as a man from the work Men’s Bathhouse that won an award at Venice Biennale. In the film also appears a choir comprising two of the directors and curator from Zachêta Gallery.

Women’s Bathhouse

The first in a series of works made using a hidden camera, shot at the public bathhouse in Budapest. The installation consists of a main screen showing a four minute looped projection, and five monitors showing unedited footage. These present scenes from the bathhouse, recording the prevailing atmosphere. Reproductions of classical works of art have been edited into the footage shown on the main screen: Rembrandt’s “Suzanna and the Elders” and Ingres’s “The Turkish Bath.”

Il Castrato

The Gender Bender Gay Culture Festival co-produced the twenty-odd minute long performance titled “Il Castrato,” which took the all but theatrical form of a one-act Baroque opera. In the opera’s finale, the Maestro and Gloria Viagra plucked the Drag Queen (Kozyra) from the audience and castrated her. Stripped of dresses and wig, the Drag Queen ‘recovered’ her androgynous appearance with an artificial little body and genitals that granted her all the characteristics of a young boy. Following this scene, ‘accomplished’ by those who were to teach her ‘femininity,’ the artist sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria” before riding off on a white steed upon whose back she assumed an unnaturally rigid pose. While in the previous projects of this series Kozyra sought to become, transform into, dress up as a woman/princess/star, in this episode she reverted to her boyish looks in order to undergo nearly literal castration. Thus, her gender once again proved to be a costume. The shooting of the film “Il Castrato” coincided with preparations for the performance in the altogether different space of the Teatro Settecentesco di Villa Mazzacorati, a Baroque theatre with illusionist scenery from the period.

The Blood Ties

Four photographs (200 x 200 cm) arranged in a square. In 1999, the bottom two pictures came to form the basis of a billboard for an outdoor exhibition organized by Galeria Zewnêtrzna AMS in the streets of Polish cities. The billboard was subjected to censorship; the nudity of the figures, along with the cross and the moon (being religious symbols) were blocked out.

Punishment and Crime

The work is presented on one big screen and seven video monitors. It explores the other side of men’s/boys’ behaviour and fascinations and shows a group of men engaged in paramilitary activities. For them, the weapons and explosives are not simply a hobby but a deep passion. Free of any ideals or ideological goals, their obsession appears primal and atavistic. The artist documents the actions and activities of this group. On one level, these resemble innocent childhood war games, while on another, due to the genuine danger and violent force of real weapons, bullets and explosives, they are closer to actual military operations. The faces of the participants are camouflaged with masks representing faces of pin-up girls or Playboy models. This softens the effect of danger and fear without depleting the authenticity and documentary character of the footage.

The Fasçade Concert

Held on July 7, 2005, Fassadenconcerto (“Façade Concert” or “The Concert on the Façade”) was part of the opening of the “Impossible Theatre” exhibition at Vienna’s Kunsthalle, located in Museum Square of the city’s Museumsqartier district. Every hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with an intermission from 2 to 4 p.m.), a blue-striped booth emerged from the portico of the former royal stables at the height of the first floor. The Maestro would lead Kozyra out of the booth, and the artist, wearing a different dress almost every time (designs inspired by the geometric patterns of Oskar Schlemmer), would perform the “Queen of the Night” aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Despite being conducted by the Maestro, Kozyra’s performances varied widely in quality. The concerts were “attended” by tourists either on their way to visit nearby museums or relaxing in the cafes located on the square. The intentional imprecision of the performances at once emphasized and subverted the event’s mechanical, cuckoo clock logic. The aria sounded different each time, the costumes seemed intentionally “imperfect” and the “cuckoo” never emerged from the building on the hour. In this project, the artist freely sampled and mingled elements from various poetics and realities.

Men’s bathhouse

Produced for and first shown at the Venice Biennale, where the work received an Honorable Mention. Men’s Bathhouse consists of four simultaneous projections (each lasting 8 min.) onto four 105 x 140 cm screens mounted within an octagonal architectural structure, suggesting the interior of a bathhouse. The projections are visible both within and outside of the construction. The screens show scenes from the footage shot at the Budapest bathhouse, and show men’s behavior at the bath while being filmed with a hidden camera. The artist is disguised as a man and appears among the other men being filmed in the bathhouse. A three minute film of the artist disguising herself is screened on the small monitor situated at the entrance of the installation.

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