Three colour photographs in original frames and single channel video projection (colour), loop, 4:3 PAL, duration: 12’40”, audio, language: Polish, subtitles: English, photographs sizes: 120,5 x 180 x 2 cm; „white” – 180 x 230,5 x 2 cm, property of Barbara Kabala-Bonarska and Andrzej Bonarski, deposit in the National Museum in Cracow
“Olympia” consists of three large scale photographs and a video several minutes long. The first photograph features the artist posed like Olympia from Manet’s painting, the second one shows the same model in sterile white, on a hospital bed, accompanied by a nurse holding an IV drip, and the third one – an older, solitary woman in a contemporary flat. The symbol which allows to identify Olympia is a narrow black velvet ribbon tied around the neck of each woman. The video which is a part of the installation is the footage from a visit to a nurses’ treatment room, where the woman suffering from cancer (Olympia) is being put on a drip.
Alluding to the canon of once avant-garde painting, maintaining the full décor of the original and expanding the scene to additional two frames and a film, instead of a lovely young woman, Kozyra presents herself during chemotherapy, with shaved head and without makeup.
“I allowed to photograph myself naked on a drip to prove that sick body has just as much dignity and is just as normal as the healthy one. When you look nice, you don’t think about how you function. Looking at a sick body, you are thinking about its mortality. All the healthy people ale OK, because they don’t wear their physicality on the outside. And they walk around as their perfect selves.”
Kozyra, just like Jo Spence or Hannah Wilke, makes an abrupt turn using a kind of self-portrait: she presents illness not as something shameful, which according to the established patterns of behaviour should not be displayed, as it is in conflict with the beauty of female body. Manet used to be shocking once, since he pictured nudity without unnecessary assemblage; now those artists shock us with the truth of naked and sick body.
Kozyra became the model for this project by accident. Originally it was supposed to be her friend from the same hospital room, suffering from the same illness – Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Unfortunately, Magda passed away before the photoshoot started.
The video “Olympia” (usually accompanying the installation) was shown on its own, during the screening entitled “Caught on Tape: Myths and Revisions” which accompanied the exhibition “Millennial Myths: Paintings by Lynn Randolph”, at the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe, near Phoenix. The curator of the screening Vikki Dempsey divided participating films into 5 programmes; Kozyra’s was placed in programme III: “Under the Skin” devoted to technology’s mental, emotional and physical influence on humanity.
A decade later, setting out to execute her multi-phase project “In Art Dreams Come True“, Kozyra decided to use Olympia’s aria from Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” as one of the main musical pieces used throughout the project.
“Olympia” and the illness with which the artist struggled constitute the starting point for Kozyra’s new project – the feature film “Project X”, laureate of the 4th annual award presented by the Polish Film Institute, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the Wajda School at the 39th Film Festival in Gdynia.
The piece uses the cat from “Pyramid of Animals”.
The work exists in two versions: Three colour photographs in original frames and single channel video projection (colour), loop, 4:3 PAL, duration: 7’27”14, audio, language: Polish, subtitles: English; size of the photograph with frame: 200 x 260 x 40 cm each
The work is on permanent exhibition in the Gallery of Polish 20th century art in the National Museum in Cracow.
- “Katarzyna Kozyra, Casting”, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw 2010.
- “Katarzyna Kozyra”, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento 2004.
- Katarzyna Kozyra, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb 2001.
- „Katarzyna Kozyra, The Men’s Bathhouse, 48. International Biennial of Visual Arts, Venice, Polish Pavilion”, published by Zachęta Gallery of Art, Warszawa 1999.
- “Katarzyna Kozyra. Works 1993-1998”, Polish Institute Leipzig, 1999.
“And they walk around as their perfect selves. Katarzyna Kozyra in conversation with Artur Żmijewski”, Warsaw, 6 October 1996, [in:] Galeria a.r.t 1992-1997, ed. Adam Szymczyk, Płock 1999, pp. 69 – 77.
The Artist would like to thank all her collaborators and people who helped in the realisation of the project, in particular:
Paweł Althamer, Vikki Dempsey, Marek Goździewski, Katarzyna Górna, Sylwek Łuczak, Jędrzej Niestrój, Aleksandra Semenowicz, Magda.
The piece was created with the support of Kozyra’s mother, Alicja.